Sickness

THE toughest carcass in the town
Fell sick at last and took to bed,
And on that bed God waited him
With cool, cool hands for his frantic head,
And while the fever did its dance
They talked, and a good thing was said:
'See, I am not that Scriptural!
A lesser, kinder God instead.'


Fever must run its course, and God
Could not do much for the countryman.
At least he saved him certain dreams:
'I die! O save me if you can,
I am a bruised, a beaten slave,
I march in a blistering caravan,
They dash a stone upon my head--
Ah no, but that is God's white hand.'


God plucked him back, and plucked him back,
And did his best to smoothe the pain.
The sick man said it was good to know
That God was true, if prayer was vain.


'O God, I weary of this night,
When will you bring the dawn again?'
The night must run its course, but God
Was weary too with watching-strain.


A cluck of tuneless silly birds,
A guilty gray, and it was dawn.
The sick man thumped across the floor
And slid the curtain that was drawn:
'O pale wet dawn! O let it shine
Lustrous and gold on the good green lawn!
The lustre, Lord!' Alas, God knows
When sad conclusions are foregone.


The sick man leant upon his Lord,
On that imperfect break of day,
'Now, Lord, I die: is there no word,
No countervail that God can say?'
No word. But tight upon his arm,
Was God, and drew not once away
Until his punctual destiny.
To whom could God repair to pray?


Now God be thanked by dying men
Who comrades them in times like these,
Who dreads to see the doom come down
On these black midnight canopies
And on this poisonous glare of dawns.
The whole world crumples in disease,
But God is pitying to the end,
And gives an office to my knees.

by John Crowe Ransom

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