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Marshalled in ranks and led by moving lips.
But once she saw a sight more strange than all :
A crowd of people sitting charmed and still
Around a little company of men
Who touched their hands in measured, rhythmic time
To curious instruments ; a woman stood
Among them, with bright eyes and heaving breast,
And lifted up her face and moved her lips.
Then Vera wondered at the idle play,
But when she looked around, she saw the glow
Of deep delight on every face, and tears
Of tender joy in many eyes, as if
Some visitor from a celestial world
Had brought glad tidings. But to her alone
No angel entered, for the choir of sound
Was vacant in the temple of her soul.
And none could pass the gates called Beautiful.
So when, by vision baffled and perplexed,
She saw that all the world could not be seen, And knew she could not know the whole of life Unless the hidden gates should be unsealed, She felt imprisoned. In her heart there grew
The bitter creeping plant of discontent,
The plant that only grows in prison soil,
Whose root is hunger and whose fruit is pain.
The springs of still delight and tranquil joy
Were drained as dry as desert dust to feed
That never-flowering vine, whose tendrils clung
With strangling touch round every bloom of life
And made it wither. Vera could not rest
Within the limits of her silent world ;
Along its spoiled and desolate paths she roamed
A captive, looking everywhere for rescue.
In those long distant days, and in that land
And ever as he walked the city streets,
Or sat in quietude beside the sea,
Or trod the hillsides and the harvest fields,
The multitude passed by and knew him not.
But there were some who knew, and turned to him
For help; and unto all who asked, he gave.
Thus Vera came, and found him in the field,
And knew him by the pity in his face.
She knelt to him and held him by one hand,
And laid the other hand upon her lips
In mute entreaty. Then she lifted up
The coils of hair that hung about her neck
And bared the beauty of the gates of sound, —
Those virgin gates through which no voice had passed, —
She made them bare before the Master’s sight,
And looked into the kindness of his face
With eyes that spoke of all her prisoned pain,
And told her great desire without a word.
The Master waited long in silent thought,
Not for the sake of holding back the thing
Of something better that he fain would give
If only she would ask it. Then he stooped
“ Open, fair gates, and you, reluctant doors,
Within the ivory labyrinth of the ear,
Let fall the bar of silence and unfold !
Enter, you voices of all living things,
Enter the garden sealed, —but softly, slowly,
Not with a noise confused and broken tumult,—
Come in an order sweet as I command you,
And bring the double gift of speech and hearing."
Vera began to hear. And first the wind
Breathed a low prelude of the birth of sound,
As if an organ far away were touched
By unseen fingers ; then the little stream
That hurried down the hillside, swept the harp
Of music into merry, tinkling notes:
And then the lark that poised above her head
On wings a-quiver, overflowed the air
With showers of song. Thus, one by one, the tones
Of all things living, in an order sweet,
Without confusion and with deepening power,
Entered the garden sealed. And last of all
The Master’s voice, the human voice divine,
Passed through the gates and called her by her name,
And Vera heard.
What rapture of new life Must come to one for whom a silent world Is suddenly made vocal, and whose heart By the same magic is awaked at once, Without the learner’s toil and long delay, Out of a night of dumbly moving dreams, Into a day that overflows with music! This joy was Vera’s ; and to her it seemed As if a new creative morn had risen Upon the earth, and after the full week When living things unfolded silently, And after the long, quiet Sabbath day When all was still, another week had dawned, And through the calm expectancy of heaven A secret voice had said, “ Let all things speak.” The world responded with an instant joy; And the untrodden avenues of sound Were thronged with varying forms of viewless life.
To every living thing a voice was given
Were not more diverse in their shades of green