Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  The Little Fair Soul

Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Menella Bute Smedley 1820–77

The Little Fair Soul

A LITTLE fair soul that knew no sin

Look’d over the edge of Paradise,

And saw one striving to come in,

With fear and tumult in his eyes.

“Oh, brother, is it you?” he cried;

“Your face is like a breath from home;

Why do you stay so long outside?

I am athirst for you to come!

“Tell me first how our mother fares,

And has she wept too much for me?”

“White are her cheeks and white her hairs,

But not from gentle tears for thee.”

“Tell me, where are our sisters gone?”

“Alas, I left them weary and wan.”

“And tell me is the baby grown?”

“Alas! he is almost a man.

“Cannot you break the gathering days,

And let the light of death come through,

Ere his feet stumble in the maze

Cross’d safely by so few, so few?

“For like a crowd upon the sea

That darkens till you find no shore,

So was that face of life to me,

Until I sank for evermore;

“And like an army in the snow

My days went by, a treacherous train,

Each smiling as he struck his blow,

Until I lay among them slain.”

“Oh, brother, there was a path so clear!”

“There might be, but I never sought.”

“Oh, brother, there was a sword so near!”

“There might be, but I never fought.”

“Yet sweep this needless gloom aside,

For you are come to the gate at last!”

Then in despair that soul replied,

“The gate is fast, the gate is fast!”

“I cannot move this mighty weight,

I cannot find this golden key,

But hosts of heaven around us wait,

And none has ever said ‘No’ to me.

“Sweet Saint, put by thy palm and scroll,

And come and undo the door for me!”

“Rest thee still, thou little pure heart,

It is not mine to keep the key.”

“Kind Angel, strike these doors apart!

The air without is dark and cold.”

“Rest thee still, thou little pure heart,

Not for my word will they unfold.”

Up all the shining heights he pray’d

For that poor Shadow in the cold!

Still came the word, “Not ours to aid;

We cannot make the doors unfold.”

But that poor Shadow, still outside,

Wrung all the sacred air with pain;

And all the souls went up and cried

Where never cry was heard in vain.

No eye beheld the pitying Face,

The answer none might understand,

But dimly through the silent space

And seen the stretching of a Hand.