Home  »  library  »  poem  »  The Cry of the Human

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Cry of the Human

By Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861)

“THERE is no God,” the foolish saith,

But none, “There is no sorrow;”

And nature oft the cry of faith

In bitter need will borrow:

Eyes which the preacher could not school

By wayside graves are raised;

And lips say, “God be pitiful,”

Who ne’er said, “God be praised.”

Be pitiful, O God.

The tempest stretches from the steep

The shadow of its coming;

The beasts grow tame, and near us creep,

As help were in the human:

Yet while the cloud-wheels roll and grind,

We spirits tremble under!

The hills have echoes; but we find

No answer for the thunder.

Be pitiful, O God!

The battle hurtles on the plains—

Earth feels new scythes upon her:

We reap our brothers for the wains,

And call the harvest—honor.

Draw face to face, front line to line,

One image all inherit:

Then kill, curse on, by that same sign,

Clay, clay,—and spirit, spirit.

Be pitiful, O God!

We meet together at the feast—

To private mirth betake us—

We stare down in the winecup, lest

Some vacant chair should shake us!

We name delight, and pledge it round—

“It shall be ours to-morrow!”

God’s seraphs! do your voices sound

As sad in naming sorrow?

Be pitiful, O God!

We sit together, with the skies,

The steadfast skies, above us;

We look into each other’s eyes,

“And how long will you love us?”

The eyes grow dim with prophecy,

The voices, low and breathless—

“Till death us part!”—O words, to be

Our best for love the deathless!

Be pitiful, dear God!

We tremble by the harmless bed

Of one loved and departed—

Our tears drop on the lips that said

Last night, “Be stronger-hearted!”

O God,—to clasp those fingers close,

And yet to feel so lonely!—

To see a light upon such brows,

Which is the daylight only!

Be pitiful, O God!

The happy children come to us,

And look up in our faces;

They ask us—Was it thus, and thus,

When we were in their places?

We cannot speak—we see anew

The hills we used to live in,

And feel our mother’s smile press through

The kisses she is giving.

Be pitiful, O God!

We pray together at the kirk,

For mercy, mercy, solely—

Hands weary with the evil work,

We lift them to the Holy!

The corpse is calm below our knee—

Its spirit bright before Thee—

Between them, worse than either, we

Without the rest of glory!

Be pitiful, O God!

And soon all vision waxeth dull—

Men whisper, “He is dying;”

We cry no more, “Be pitiful!”—

We have no strength for crying:

No strength, no need! Then, Soul of mine,

Look up and triumph rather—

Lo! in the depth of God’s Divine,

The Son adjures the Father—