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

Emily Pauline Johnson (1861–1913)



’TIS morning now, yet silently I stand,

Uplift the curtain with a weary hand,

Look out while darkness overspreads the way,

And long for day.

Calm peace is frighted with my mood to-night,

Nor visits my dull chamber with her light,

To guide my senses into her sweet rest

And leave me blest.

Long hours since the city rocked and sung

Itself to slumber: only the stars swung

Aloft their torches in the midnight skies

With watchful eyes.

No sound awakes; I, even, breathe no sigh,

Nor hear a single footstep passing by;

Yet I am not alone, for now I feel

A presence steal

Within my chamber walls: I turn to see

The sweetest guest that courts humanity;

With subtle, slow enchantment draws she near,

And Sleep is here.

What care I for the olive branch of Peace?

Kind Sleep will bring a thrice-distilled release,—

Nepenthes that alone her mystic hand

Can understand.

And so she bends, this welcome sorceress,

To crown my fasting with her light caress.

Ah, sure my pain will vanish at the bliss

Of her warm kiss.

But still my duty lies in self-denial;

I must refuse sweet Sleep, although the trial

Will reawaken all my depth of pain.

So once again

I lift the curtain with a weary hand;

With more than sorrow, silently I stand,

Look out while darkness overspreads the way,

And long for day.

“Go, Sleep,” I say, “before the darkness die,

To one who needs you even more than I;

For I can bear my part alone, but he

Has need of thee.

“His poor tired eyes in vain have sought relief,

His heart more tired still, with all its grief;

His pain is deep, while mine is vague and dim—

Go thou to him.

“When thou hast fanned him with thy drowsy wings,

And laid thy lips upon the pulsing strings

That in his soul with fret and fever burn,

To me return.”

She goes. The air within the quiet street

Reverberates to the passing of her feet;

I watch her take her passage through the gloom

To your dear home.

Belovèd, would you knew how sweet to me

Is this denial, and how fervently

I pray that Sleep may lift you to her breast,

And give you rest—

A privilege that she alone can claim.

Would that my heart could comfort you the same;

But in the censer Sleep is swinging high,

All sorrows die.

She comes not back, yet all my miseries

Wane at the thought of your calm sleeping eyes—

Wane, as I hear the early matin bell

The dawn foretell.

And so, dear heart, still silently I stand,

Uplift the curtain with a weary hand;

The long, long night has bitter been and lone,

But now ’tis gone.

Dawn lights her candles in the East once more,

And darkness flees her chariot before;

The Lenten morning breaks with holy ray,

And it is day!


Good Friday
BECAUSE, dear Christ, your tender, wounded arm

Bends back the brier that edges life’s long way,

That no hurt comes to heart, to soul no harm,

I do not feel the thorns so much to-day.

Because I never knew your care to tire,

Your hand to weary guiding me aright,

Because you walk before and crush the brier,

It does not pierce my feet so much to-night.

Because so often you have hearkened to

My selfish prayers, I ask but one thing now:

That these harsh hands of mine add not unto

The crown of thorns upon your bleeding brow.