Fate and a Heart.

It was midnight when I listened,1
And I heard two voices speak ;2
One was harsh, and stern, and cruel,3
And the other soft and weak :4
Yet I saw no vision enter,5
And I heard no steps depart6
Of this Tyrant and his Captive ;—7
Fate it might be and a Heart.8
Thus the stern voice spake in triumph :9
I have shut your life away10
From the radiant world of nature11
And the perfumed light of day.12
You, who loved to steep your spirit13
In the charm of earth’s delight,14
See no glory of the day-time,15
And no sweetness of the night.”16
But the soft voice answered calmly :17
Nay : for when the March winds bring18
Just a whisper to my window,19
I can dream the rest of spring ;20
And to-day I saw a swallow21
Flitting past my prison bars,22
And my cell has just one corner,23
Whence at night I see the stars.”24
But its bitter taunt repeating,25
Cried the harsh voice : “ Where are they26
All the friends of former hours27
Who forget your name to-day ?28
All the links of love are shattered,29
Which you thought so strong before,30
And your life is doubly lonely31
And alone, since loved no more.”32
But the low voice spake still lower :33
Nay : I know the golden chain34
Of my love is purer, stronger,35
For the cruel fire of pain :36
They remember me no longer,37
But I, grieving here alone,38
Bind their souls to me for ever,39
By the love within my own.”40
But the voice cried : “Once, remember,41
You devoted soul and mind42
To the welfare of your brethren,43
To the service of your kind :44
Now, what sorrow can you comfort,45
You, who lie in helpless pain,46
With an impotent compassion,47
Fretting out your life in vain ?”48
Nay;” and then the gentle answer49
Rose more loud and full and clear :50
For the sake of all my brethren,51
I thank God that I am here !52
Poor had been my life’s best efforts,53
Now I waste no thought or breath ;54
For the prayer of those who suffer55
Has the strength of love and death.”56