The Reward

While looking through my poetry I pulled down a two volume edition of poems by John Greenleaf Whittier. It’s a lovely little edition bound in a rusty orange cloth with gold embossing, published by Henry Altemus in 1895. There between the leaves I found the three cyanotypes above.

The Reward

Who, looking backward from his manhood’s prime,
Sees not the spectre of his misspent time?
And, through the shade
Of funeral cypress planted thick behind,
Hears no reproachful whisper on the wind
From his loved dead?

Who bears no trace of passion’s evil force?
Who shuns thy sting, O terrible Remorse?
Who does not cast
On the thronged pages of his memory’s book,
At times, a sad and half-reluctant look,
Regretful of the past?

Alas! the evil which we fain would shun
We do, and leave the wished-for good undone
Our strength to-day
Is but to-morrow’s weakness, prone to fall;
Poor, blind, unprofitable servants all
Are we alway.

Yet who, thus looking backward o’er his years,
Feels not his eyelids wet with grateful tears,
If he hath been
Permitted, weak and sinful as he was,
To cheer and aid, in some ennobling cause,
His fellow-men?

If he hath hidden the outcast, or let in
A ray of sunshine to the cell of sin;
If he hath lent
Strength to the weak, and, in an hour of need,
Over the suffering, mindless of his creed
Or home, hath bent;

He has not lived in vain, and while he gives
The praise to Him, in whom he moves and lives,
With thankful heart;
He gazes backward, and with hope before,
Knowing that from his works he nevermore
Can henceforth part.

John Greenleaf Whittier

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