On the Last Leaf*

Finished at last!
Yet for five years past

Finished at last!
Yet for five years past
My book on the dusty shelf hath lain,
And I hardly thought that ever again
My thoughts would follow the pleasant chime
Of musical measure and ringing rhyme.


I remember well when I laid it by,
Closed with a sort of requiem sigh.
Spring in her beauty had swept along,
And left my spirit all full of song;
The wakening depths of my heart were stirred,
Voices within and without I heard,
Whispering me
That I might be
A messenger of peace and pleasure;
That in my careless minstrelsy
Lay something of poetic treasure;
Which, wrought with care, I yet some day
At all my loved ones' feet might lay.


Perhaps 't was a vain and foolish dream,
A fancy-lit, illusive gleam!
And yet I cannot quite believe
That such bright impulse could deceive.
I felt I had so much to say,
Such pleasant thoughts from day to day,
Sang, lark-like, with each morning ray,
Or murmured low in twilight gray,
Like distant curfew pealing,
And then, for each, fair Fancy brought
A robe of language ready wrought,
The smile of every winged thought
Half veiling, half revealing.
And I only waited, with longing gaze,
For the golden leisure of summer days,
Which I thought to crown with happiest lays.


God thought not so!  Ah no, He knew
There was other work for me to do,
There were other lessons for me to learn;
Another voice fell, low and stern,
Upon the too-reluctant ear.
Before the solemn voice of Pain
My visions fled, nor came again,
With all their glad and lovely train,
My summer-tide to cheer.


Well is it when, at high command
Of wisest Love, she takes her stand
At the heart's busy portal,
And warns away each noisy guest
Whose presence chases calm and rest,
Our powers, the brightest and the best.
Proclaiming weak and mortal.
That so the way may be more clear
For Him, the Prince of Peace, to come,
That which is left all void and drear
To make His palace and His home.


And so the song of my heart was hushed,
And the chiming thoughts were stilled:
Summer flew by, but the hope was crushed
Swiftly onward my life-tide rushed,
But my book remained unfilled.
For an aching head and a weary frame,
Poetry is but an empty name.
Yet I am sure it was better so,
I trusted then, and now I know.


Forever, I think, the gift is fled
Which once I fancied mine:
So be it!  A "name" is not for me;
Loving and loved I would rather be,
With power to cheer and sympathize,
Bearing new light for tear-dimmed eyes;
But I do not care to shine.


So if aught I write may tend to this,
My fairest hope of earthly bliss,
Content with humblest rhyme I'll be;
And, striving less and trusting more,
All simple, earnest thoughts outpour,  
Such as my God may give to me.

~ Frances Ridley Havergal

*Written at the close of a manuscript volume.