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Dora Sigerson Shorter (Дора Сигерсон Шортер)


An Imperfect Revolution


They crowded weeping from the teacher’s house,
Crying aloud their fear at what he taught,
Old men and young men, wives and maids unwed,
And children screaming in the crowds unsought:
Some to their temples with accustomed feet
Bent—as the oxen go beneath the rod,
To fling themselves before some pictured saint,
“Alas!  God help us if there is no God.”

Some to the bed-side of their dying kind
To clasp with arms afraid to loose their hold;
Some to a church-yard falling on a grave
To kiss the carven name with lips as cold.
Some watched from break of day into the night.
The flash of birds, the bloom of flower and tree,
The whirling worlds that glimmer in the dark,
All said: “God help us if no God there be.”

Some hid in caves and chattered mad with fear
At the uprising of the patient poor.
“He suffers with you,” no more could they say,
Thus lock with keys of Heaven their bonds secure,
Some called their dead, and then remembering fell
Abusing death and cursed the wormy grave,
And wept for their long hoped-for Paradise,
“God help us if there be no God to save!”

And others sought for right and found it not,
And, seeking duty, found that it was dead,
Blamed their long blameless lives and vowed no more
To sacrifice, for “Might is right” they said.
And pleasure, leaping in the streets with sin,
Caroused through many days till wearily
She tired and met with death in bitter pain.
“Alas!  God help us if no God we gain.”

A few rose up and speaking, “O be strong,”
Were answered, “There’s no reason for your right,”
But many crept in thankfulness for rest
Into the river’s darkness out of sight;
And others with their limbs deformed, or sore
Seared flesh, shrieked out their patient years of pain.
Crying to Death for their lost plains of Heaven.
“Alas!  God help us if no God we gain.”



Dora Sigerson Shorter's other poems:
  1. I Prayed So Eagerly
  2. My Neighbour’s Garden
  3. For Ever
  4. The Blow Returned
  5. The Wreckage


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