The Turned Lesson

"I thought I knew it!" she said;
          "I thought I had learnt it quite!"

"I thought I knew it!" she said;
          "I thought I had learnt it quite!"
But the gentle teacher shook her head,
          With a grave, yet loving light
In the eyes that fell on the upturned face,
          As she gave the book
With the mark still set in the self-same place.
 
     "I thought I knew it!" she said;
          And a heavy tear fell down
As she turned away with bending head;
          Yet not for reproof or frown,
And not for the lesson to learn again,
          Or the play-hour lost;
It was something else that gave the pain.
 
     She could not have put it in words,
          But her teacher understood,
As God understands the chirp of the birds
          In the depth of an autumn wood;
And a quiet touch on the reddening cheek
          Was quite enough;
No need to question, no need to speak.
 
     Then the gentle voice was heard,
          "Now I will try you again,"
And the lesson was mastered, every word;
          Was it not worth the pain?
Was it not kinder the task to turn
          Than to let it pass
As a lost, lost leaf that she did not learn?
 
     Is it not often so,
          That we only learn in part,
And the Master's testing-time may show
          That it was not quite "by heart?"
Then he gives, in his wise and patient grace
          The lesson again,
With the mark still set in the self-same place.
 
     Only stay by his side
          Till the page is really known;
It may be we failed because we tried
          To learn it all alone.
And now that he would not let us lose
          One lesson of love
(For he knows the loss), can we refuse?
 
     But oh! how could we dream
          That we knew it all so well,
Reading so fluently, as we deem,
          What we could not even spell?
And oh! how could we grieve once more
          That patient One
Who has turned so many a task before!
 
     That waiting One, who now
          Is letting us try again;
Watching us with the patient brow
          That bore the wreath of pain;
Thoroughly teaching what he would teach
          Line upon line,
Thoroughly doing his work in each.
 
     Then let our hearts be still,
          Though our task be turned to-day.
Oh! let him teach us what he will,
     In his own most gracious way,
Till, sitting only at Jesu's feet,
     As we learn each line,
The hardest is found all clear and sweet.

~ Frances Ridley Havergal