Pictures in the Fire.

Old Winter blows, and whistles hard1
To keep his fingers warm ;  while I2
Shut out the cold night, frosty-starred,3
Bleak earth and bitter sky ;4
And to the Fireplace nestle nigher,5
And gaze on pictures in the Fire.6
It has a soft, blithe, murmering glow,7
As if it crooned a cradle-song ;8
Yet whispers of some awful woe9
Are on each flaming tongue10
That may have licked up human life,11
Quick, ruddy as a murderer’s knife !12
I see the Dead Men underground,13
Just as they found them rank on rank ;14
Old Mothers—Young Wives—red-eyed round15
The Corpses brought to bank ;16
I see the mournful phantoms flit17
From out the mouth of Hartley Pit ;18
And that poor Widow above the rest19
So eminent in Suffering’s crown,20
Who wearing sorrow’s loftiest crest21
Is bowed the lowliest down ;22
Poor Widow with her Coffins seven,23
Look down on Her, dear God in Heaven !24
I hear that crash with sinking heart25
Eternity has broken through !26
I see him play His Hero part,27
That leader tried and true,28
Who faithful stood to his last breath29
And fell betwixt them and their death.30
I see the strong man’s agony,31
That seeks to rend his ghastly shroud ;32
The touch of solemn radiancy33
That kindles in the cloud ;34
The trust that earned a nobler doom35
Than such a death in such a tomb ;36
The valour that invisibly37
Lifted the bosom like a targe ;38
The hidden forces that did lie39
Ready for Life’s last charge !40
And all the bravery brave in vain,41
And all the majesty of pain :42
Visions of the old Home that flash43
With all the mind’s last mortal power ;44
The tears that burn their way, to wash45
A soul white in an hour,46
When thoughts of God go deeper than47
The Devil at His utmost can.48
I hear the poor faint heart’s low cry49
That sickens at the sight of Doom ;50
The prayer of those that feel it nigh51
And groping through the gloom !52
They cower together hand-in-hand,53
At the dark door of the dark land.54
Ghostly and far-away life seems55
To one returning from a swound ;56
And sharp the sorrow comes in dreams57
When we are helpless bound ;58
But deathliest swoons, or ghastliest nights,59
Have no such sounds, or spirit-sights60
The waiting human world is near,61
Yet farther off than Heaven for them62
Who bow the doomèd head, to bear63
Death’s cruel diadem,64
With farewell words of solemn cheer65
And love for those who cannot hear :66
Old heads with hair like spray above67
A tossed and troubled sea of life ;68
Young hearts, just kissed to the quick by Love69
That leave a one-day wife !70
O pathos of a hopeless fate !71
O pain of those left desolate !72
’Tis brave to die in Battle’s flash73
For the dear country we adore74
Struck breathless ’mid the glorious crash,75
When banners wave before76
The fading eyes, and at the ears77
We are caught by following Victory’s cheers !78
And sailor-blood that on the waves79
Can feel the Mother’s heaving breast80
True sailor-blood no wailing craves81
Over its place of rest,82
When souls first taste eternity83
In those last kisses of the Sea :84
And Death oft comes with kind release85
To win a smile from those who lie86
Where they may feel the blessed breeze,87
And look up at the sky,88
And drink in , with their latest sigh,89
A little air for strength to die :90
But, ’tis a fearful thing to be91
Instantly buried alive, fast-bound92
In cold arms of eternity93
That clasp the breathing round,94
And hold them, though their Comrades call95
And dig with efforts useless all.96
A tear for those who, in that night,97
Went down so unavailingly ;98
A cheer for those who fought our fight,99
And missed the victory !100
Peace to the good true hearts that gave101
A moral glory to that grave !102
We know not how amid the gloom103
Some jewel of the just outshone ;104
With precious sparkle lit the tomb105
And led the hopeless on106
To hope, and showed the only way107
To find God’s hand and reach his day.108
We know not how in that quick hour109
Some poor uncultured human clod110
May have put forth its one sweet flower,111
Acceptable to God ;112
Or how the touch of Death revealed113
Some inner beauty life concealed :114
We know not how the Dove of peace115
Came brooding on the fluttering breast,116
To make the fond life-yearnings cease,117
And fold them up for rest :118
And into shining shape the soul119
Burst, like the flame from out the coal :120
We only know the watchfires burned121
Long in their eyes for human aid,122
And failed, and that to God they turned,123
And all together prayed,124
And that the deepest Mine may be,125
For Prayer, God’s whispering Gallery !126
That Christ still hangs upon the tree127
To smile beneath His thorns, and say128
This night, Soul, thou shalt sup with me,”129
In His old loving way :130
And suffering men get back to God131
By that same path the Saviour trod.132
A group of trapped coal miners huddle together in an enclosed space. Some of the men embrace while other men pray and bow their heads. There are pick axes scattered around the men. The illustration is dark but an unknown light source emits from behind some of the men. 1/2 page illustration contained within a single-ruled square border.
Deep, dark the deathly River is,133
But on before still walketh Christ !134
His Brightness over that abyss135
Is moving in the mist.136
If they who pass the Bridge of Dread137
Look up, He goeth overhead.138
Dear God, be very pitiful139
To these poor toiling slaves of men :140
Be gracious if their hearts be dull141
With darkness of their den.142
’Tis hard for flowers of heaven to grow143
Down where the earth-flowers cannot blow !144
Their lives are as the candle-snuff,145
Black in the midst of its own light !146
Let hard hands plead for spirits rough147
They work so much in night.148
Be merciful, they breathe their breath149
So close to danger, pain, and death.150
The love-mist in a Father’s eye151
Will rise, and soften much that’s rude152
In his poor Children—magnify153
The least faint gleam of good !154
O find some place for human worth155
In Heaven, when it has failed on Earth.156