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That nested in their branches had a song
Unknown to other birds and all his own.
The waters spoke a hundred dialects
Of one great language ; now with pattering fall
Of raindrops on the glistening leaves, and now
With steady roar of rivers rushing down
To meet the sea, and now with rhythmic throb
And measured tumult of tempestuous waves,
And now with lingering lisp of creeping tides, -
The manifold discourse of many waters.
But most of all the human voice was full
Of infinite variety, and ranged
Along the scale of life's experience
With changing tones, and notes both sweet and
All fitted to express some unseen thought,
Some vital motion of the hidden heart.
So Vera listened with her new-born sense,
To all the messengers that passed the gates,
In measureless delight and utter trust,
Believing that they brought a true report
From every living thing of its true life,
And hoping that at last they would make clear
The meaning and the mystery of the world.
But soon there came a trouble in her joy,
A cloud of doubt across her sky of trust,
A note discordant that dissolved the chord
And broke the bliss of hearing into pain.
Not from the harsher sounds and voices wild
Of anger and of anguish, that reveal
The secret strife in nature, and confess
The touch of sorrow on the heart of life,-
From these her trouble came not. For in these,
However sad, she felt the note of truth,
And truth, though sad, is always musical.
The raging of the tempest-ridden sea,
The crash of thunder, and the hollow moan
Of winds complaining round the mountain-
The shrill and quavering cry of birds of prey,
The fiercer voice of conflict-loving beasts,
All these wild sounds are potent in their place
Within life's mighty symphony; the charm
Of truth attunes them, and the hearing ear
Finds pleasure in their rude sincerity.
Even the broken and tumultuous noise
That rises from great cities, where the heart
Of human toil is beating heavily
With ceaseless murmurs of the labouring pulse,
Is not a discord; for it speaks to life
Of life unfeigned, and full of hopes and fears,
And touched through all the trouble of its notes
With something real and therefore glorious.
Only one voice of all that sound on earth, -
One voice alone is utterly discordant,
And hateful to the soul, and full of pain,
The voice of falsehood. And when Vera heard
This mocking voice, and knew that it was false;
When first she learned that human lips can
The thing that is not, and betray the ear
Of simple trust with treachery of words;
The joy of hearing withered in her heart.
For now she felt that faithless messengers
Could pass the open and unguarded gates
Of sound, and bring a message
Or half a truth that makes the deadliest lie,
Or idle babble, neither false nor true,
But hollow to the heart, and meaningless.
She heard the flattering voices of deceit,
That mask the hidden purposes of men
With fair attire of favourable words,
And hide the evil in the guise of good.
The voices vain and decorous and smooth,
That fill the world with empty-hearted talk
And pass a worthless coin for gold, she heard.
The foolish voices, wandering and confused,
That cannot clearly speak the thing they would,
But ramble blindly round their true intent
And tangle sense in hopeless coils of sound,-
All these she heard, and with a sad mistrust
Began to doubt the value of her gift.
It seemed as if the world, the living world,
Sincere, and deep, and real, were still concealed,
Shut out by secret gates not yet unclosed,
And she, within the prison of her soul,
Still waiting silently to hear the voice
Of perfect knowledge and of perfect peace.
So with the burden of her discontent
She turned to seek the Master once again,
And found him sitting in the market-place,
Alone among the careless crowds of men,
Half-hidden in the shadow of a porch
And looking out with patient peaceful eyes
On the confusions of the noisy throng,
As one who sits beside a whirling stream
And watches it serenely: for he knows
The meaning of the tide, and whence it comes, And where it flows.
Then Vera spoke to him: “Thy gift was great, dear Master, and my
heart Has thanked thee many times for that first
touch That made the bar of silence fall, and let The voices of all living things pass through The gates of hearing to my prisoned soul. But I have learned that hearing is not all I need to make me understand the world. For underneath the speech of men, there flows Another current of their hidden thoughts. The messengers of sound have not revealed Life's secret to my heart; for oftentimes They bring a false report, in treachery; And oftentimes with vague and empty words They mock my longing to receive the truth. Behind the mask of language I perceive The eyes of things unuttered; and I feel The throbbing of the real heart of the world Beneath the robe of words. Touch me again, Dear Master, with thy liberating hand, And free me from the bondage of deceit.