Repentance And Faith

William Alexander

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There was a ship, one eve autumnal, onward
Steer'd o'er an ocean lake,
Steer'd by some strong hand ever as if sunward:
Behind, an angry wake;
Before there stretch'd a sea that grew intenser
With silver fire far spread
Up to a hill mist-gloried, like a censer
With smoke encompassèd:
It seem'd as if two seas were brink to brink,
A silver flood beyond a lake of ink.
There was a soul that eve autumnal sailing
Beyond the earth's dark bars,
Toward the land of sunsets never paling,
Toward Heaven's sea of stars;
Behind there was a wake of billows tossing,
Before, a glory lay.
O happy soul! with all sail set just crossing
Into the Far-away,
The gloom and gleam, the calmness and the strife,
Were death behind thee, and before thee life.

And as that ship went up the waters stately,
Upon her topmasts tall
I saw two sails, whereof the one was greatly
Dark as a funeral pall.
But oh, the next's pure whiteness who shall utter?
Like a shell-snowy strand,
Or when a sunbeam falleth through the shutter
On a dead baby's hand;
But both alike across the surging sea
Help'd to the haven where the bark would be.
And as that soul went onward, sweetly speeding
Unto its home and light,
Repentance made it sorrowful exceeding,
Faith made it wondrous bright;—
Repentance dark with shadowy recollections
And longings unsufficed,
Faith white and pure with sunniest affections
Full from the Face of Christ.
But both across the sun-besilver'd tide
Help'd to the heaven where the heart would ride.

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