Paul Hamilton Hayne

On the Decline of Faith


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!


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!

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