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Marjorie Lowry Christie Pickthall 1883 (Gunnersbury, London) – 1922 (Vancouver)
MOSES, JOSHUA, THE THREE ANGELS OF THE UNIVERSE
Evening: a slope of Pisgah
Moses –Our span of life is lessening with the years,
Our little sun rolls swiftlier to its end
Among the eternal stars. It is a feather
Blown from a careless lip into the dark,
A fallen feather, the lily of a day,
Brimming with blood and tears instead of dew,
And dying with its sleep. Having known life,
Having known day, I pass into the night;
Having long spoken with God, I hold my peace;
Having long held the sword, I lay it down,
And the new watch believes me. Is all well ?
Joshua –O father of my soul, I cannot tell.
The burden of the Lord is heavy on me,
And I am broken beneath it.
Moses – Since I knew,
All my desires and cares have gone from me.
Rather I think on old forgotten things–
A song within the temple-court, to her,
Isis, the Lady of Love. How white she sat
Above the crowded gate ! I was a boy:
I ran and laid a lotus on her knees,
Dreaming she smiled in answer. Ah, those dreams
Far on the shining level of the sands,–
Thebes and old Tanis builded of a cloud !
The reeds beside the river, those sweet trees
Full of warm buds that ripen and unclose
At eve; the barges passing on the Nile
Like golden water-fowl with ivory wings;
The gardens and the great pomegranate flowers,
And she, my gentle mother in Mizraim,
Calling me, 'Mesu, Mesu.'
Joshua – I cannot think.
My sorrow stays me and my grief prevents.
Yet there are heathen foes and wars to come.
I take thy sword. I cannot take thy soul,
Master of Law, unshaken friend of God,
But I can fight for Israel.
Moses – Fight, and stand
Firmly for God. Jehovah is salvation.
And now, beloved son in all but blood,
Go, get you down again.
Joshua – A little longer,
Leave me a little longer with you, lord !
Moses –No longer, for the gates of life are lonely.
Out of the dark man cometh to his life,
Into the dark he goeth.
Down, look down,
Down to the clustered tents, each with its lives
Of foolish children, vexed with many fears,
Agonies, hopes, beliefs inherited,
Dark hates, fond dreams, divine humilities.
Shall they go leaderless from stream to stream,
Following the far-flung visions of despair,
These that have been my sheep ?
Joshua – I cannot, father..
I am a man of war and not of wisdom.
They will not know my voice nor follow me.
Moses –Man, is it thy faint voice shall be uplifted,
To soothe the fearful and uphold the strong.
To lead the unshaken tribes to victory
Against the men of Amalek and Ai,
Lords of the plain and coast ? Is it thy strength ?
Nay, but Jehovah's in thee. As the cloud
Filling the empty valley of the hills,
As the white flood along the water courses
That once were barren, so His strength will pass
Into the pits and runnels of thy soul.
Fight, for the Lord is with thee. Stand thou firm.
Joshua –Lo, I would rather stay and die with thee
Than pass with shining banners and with song
Of silver shawms and trumpets, in thy place
Over the river Jordan.
Moses – Nay, I pass
Over a deeper river, with no songs,
No mighty trumpetings, no pride of banners.
Toil have I borne but triumph is not mine.
Once, once mine eyes shall see the Promised Land,
Her forts and towers, cities and pleasant fields,
Her palms and cedars, vines and olive trees,
And then be darkened. Here's my heritage,
Here by these mighty chasms, these Godward peaks,
My last resort, my lone abiding place.
See, the night comes. How is it with thee, son?
Joshua –A cloud has drawn between us and the plain,
A darkness moves between us and the sky,
Full of vague voices, mighty whisperings,
Wings, and the sound of them.
O, never man
Has breathed such chilling air as this which blows
Out of the dark. O, never man has heard
Such sounds as these which beat upon my soul,
Known, yet unknown; familiar, yet most dread !
Lord, must I go ?
Moses – This is the wind of death,
And this the cold that lies without the world,
And these the sounds that thrill the untrodden void
Beyond the lonelier stars. Go down, go down
To darknened Israel mourning in his tents.
I can no longer see thee. Stand thou firm.
(Joshua goes; the cloud surrounds Moses.)
O ye celestial presences, great shapes
With terrible fair faces, towering wings,–
Wings with the wine-deep glow of amethyst,
Sheath over sheath like folded waterbuds
Lit with an inward flame; wings pale as foam,
Faint plumes showered with silver; wings s
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