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Poem by Paul Hamilton Hayne


On the Decline of Faith


I

AS in some half-burned forest, one by one,
We catch far echoes on the doleful breeze,
Born of the downfall of its ruined trees;
While even through those which stand, slow shudderings run,
As if Fate's ruthless hand were laid thereon;
So, in a world sore-smitten by foul disease,
--That Pest, called Doubt--we mark by slow degrees
The fall of many a faith that wooed the sun:
Some, with low sigh of parting bough, or leaf,
Strain, quivering downward to the abhorred ground;
Some totter feebly, groaning toward their doom;
While some broad-centuried growths of old Belief,
Sapped as by fire, defeatured, charred, discrowned,
Fall with a loud crash, and long reverberant boom!

II

Thus, fated hour by hour, more gaunt and bare
Gloom the wan spaces, whence a power to bless
Up burgeoned once, in grace or stateliness,
Some creed divine, offspring of light and air;
What then? and must we yield to blank despair,
Beholding God Himself wax less and less,
Paled in the skeptical storm-cloud's whirl and stress,
Till all is lost--love, reverence, hope, and prayer?
O man! when faith succumbs, and reason reels,
Before some impious, bold iconoclast,
Turn to thy heart that reasons not, but feels;
Creeds change! shrines perish! Still (her instinct saith),
Still the soul lives, the soul must conquer Death.
Hold fast to God, and God will hold thee fast!



Paul Hamilton Hayne


Paul Hamilton Hayne's other poems:
  1. A Morning after Storm
  2. The Old Man of the Sea
  3. A New Version of Why the Robins Breast Is Red
  4. In Harbor
  5. A Mountain Fantasy


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