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The Vision (Poem)

Men wandered long in desolate lands:
They strode along in anger fiercely shown
In deeds of bloody vengeance by their hands,
Which brought to eyes the tear, to lips the moan
Of undiluted anguish, harsh and great;
To child the loss of Father, Wife, the state
Of widowhood. And all for naught the feud
Raged high; and long the battle’s fearful mood;
For naught but man's most selfish, base desire.
There on the battle field in mud and mire
Were bodies flung athwart the barbed wire;
There was Christ crucified in every shot
And on man’s book of life a blacker blot
Was scorched by liquid fire and poison gas
And every hateful thing which could surpass
His former ingenuity: While high
Aloft there flew planes only meant for peace,
Which dropped their awful death. Children did cry
In tearful anguish—seem’d ’twould never cease.
Wives lost to tears, unutterably sad,
Nor did sweet-faced hope make their hearts glad
For minutest space, because their sons were there
Slaught’ring their brother men; and deeds of shame,
Unhallowed, did their purity defame.
Poets prostitute their art so fair
In patriot name; while sin rides rampant
And is, in spite of mournful protestant,
Held cheap by loud shrill-voiced modernity,
Which is so careless of eternity.

* * *

A soldier on the stormy battle field
Lay wounded in the open without shield:
His face was gory, lips were parched with thirst;
He had been "o’er the top" among the first,
And mortal shot had hit him in the thigh.
On went his comrades leaving him to die
Alone in fearful anguish, soaked with rain,
His voice now sounding loud, now weak with pain.
Alone? Nay not alone there did he lie
For ’cross the field came, softly borne, a sigh,
On gentle breeze, like one who pity knows
Had breathed it for man’s awful woes.
Then looking up he fancied he did see
A vision of the Christ who stood near by,
The Christ whom men did once more crucify.
"Oh, Christ," he cried, "I would from pain be free."
"Thou shalt," came answer, "as thy faith is great,"
And from that moment did the pain abate.
He looked again and saw the face of Him
With pity show, the while the eyes were dim
With unshed tears, and from the lips there breathed
Sweet music, as it were great love were wreathed
With tenderest compassion: patience long
Dwelt in that voice in loveliest song.
Then flung he forth a challenge far and wide,
O'er hills it swept, on air it sighed.
It seemed the angel bands took up the strain,
And singing, let it fall to earth again:
"Let peace be on the earth, goodwill ’mong men,"
It rang out clear. The denizen
Of nation after nation gladly sang;
The highest hallelujahs loudly rang.
Men, women, children eager gather round
To hear the choir's celestial sound.
High heaven touched earth's lovelier mood
With thousand graces. The dawn of sweeter life
Was imminent: In place of awful strife,
Founded on sin, men's hearts did melt and stay,
For love, the hands that had been raised to slay,
For love of fellowmen whom they of late
Had cursed aloud in tones of fiercest hate.
They lifted then those bloody hands in peace;
They blessed the curs’d, nor did they early cease
To minister to wounded comrades need—
Comrades of nations now for ever freed
From heavy yoke of militant misrule.
Inhabitants of earth whose hearts grow clean
Sounded the glad cry that no more the tool
Of unassuaged sin, no more of mean
And angry thoughts and actions would they be;
No more the slaves of thin—lipp’d misery.
The fearful anguish of the strife had been
In men's hearts working, though they had not seen
Its power to change their thought of sinful strife
To aspirations for a new-born life
Of sweeter peace, and suffering for men,
Holy in lifting up before their eyes
The olden sin-scorch'd cross of Christ as prize.
The children, late so filled with sorrow, then
Laughed joyfully in unabated glee.
The soldier did this vision clearly see
Whilst near him did the Christ, the Healer, stay.
Then, with a look more sweet and tender yet
Than ere was seen since that from Olivet,
He went. In peace the soldier passed away.

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John A. Palmer

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