The Vision of Echard

John Greenleaf Whittier

THE Benedictine Echard
    Sat by the wayside well,
Where Marsberg sees the bridal
    Of the Sarre and the Moselle.

Fair with its sloping vineyards
    And tawny chestnut bloom,
The happy vale Ausonius sunk
    For holy Treves made room.

On the shrine Helena builded
    To keep the Christ coat well,
On minster tower and kloster cross,
    The westering sunshine fell.

There, where the rock-hewn circles
    O’erlooked the Roman’s game,
The veil of sleep fell on him,
    And his thought a dream became.

He felt the heart of silence
    Throb with a soundless word,
And by the inward ear alone
    A spirit’s voice he heard.

And the spoken word seemed written
    On air and wave and sod,
And the bending walls of sapphire
    Blazed with the thought of God.

“What lack I, O my children?
    All things are in my band;
The vast earth and the awful stars
    I hold as grains of sand.

“Need I your alms? The silver
    And gold are mine alone;
The gifts ye bring before me
    Were evermore my own.

“Heed I the noise of viols,
    Your pomp of masque and show?
Have I not dawns and sunsets
    Have I not winds that blow?

“Do I smell your gums of incense?
    Is my ear with chantings fed?
Taste I your wine of worship,
    Or eat your holy bread?

“Of rank and name and honors
    Am I vain as ye are vain?
What can Eternal Fulness
    From your lip-service gain?

“Ye make me not your debtor
    Who serve yourselves alone;
Ye boast to me of homage
    Whose gain is all your own.

“For you I gave the prophets,
    For you the Psalmist’s lay
For you the law’s stone tables,
    And holy book and day.

“Ye change to weary burdens
    The helps that should uplift;
Ye lose in form the spirit,
    The Giver in the gift.

“Who called ye to self-torment,
    To fast and penance vain?
Dream ye Eternal Goodness
    Has joy in mortal pain?

“For the death in life of Nitria,
    For your Chartreuse ever dumb,
What better is the neighbor,
    Or happier the home?

“Who counts his brother’s welfare
    As sacred as his own,
And loves, forgives, and pities,
    He serveth me alone.

“I note each gracious purpose,
    Each kindly word and deed;
Are ye not all my children?
    Shall not the Father heed?

“No prayer for light and guidance
    Is lost upon mine ear
The child’s cry in the darkness
    Shall not the Father hear?

“I loathe your wrangling councils,
    I tread upon your creeds;
Who made ye mine avengers,
    Or told ye of my needs;

“I bless men and ye curse them,
    I love them and ye hate;
Ye bite and tear each other,
    I suffer long and wait.

“Ye bow to ghastly symbols,
    To cross and scourge and thorn;
Ye seek his Syrian manger
    Who in the heart is born.

“For the dead Christ, not the living,
    Ye watch His empty grave,
Whose life alone within you
    Has power to bless and save.

“O blind ones, outward groping,
    The idle quest forego;
Who listens to His inward voice
    Alone of Him shall know.

“His love all love exceeding
    The heart must needs recall,
Its self-surrendering freedom,
    Its loss that gaineth all.

“Climb not the holy mountains,
    Their eagles know not me;
Seek not the Blessed Islands,
    I dwell not in the sea.

“Gone is the mount of Meru,
    The triple gods are gone,
And, deaf to all the lama’s prayers,
    The Buddha slumbers on.

“No more from rocky Horeb
    The smitten waters gush;
Fallen is Bethel’s ladder,
    Quenched is the burning bush.

“The jewels of the Urim
    And Thurnmim all are dim;
The fire has left the altar,
    The sign the teraphim.

“No more in ark or hill grove
    The Holiest abides;
Not in the scroll’s dead letter
    The eternal secret hides.

“The eye shall fail that searches
    For me the hollow sky;
The far is even as the near,
    The low is as the high.

“What if the earth is hiding
    Her old faiths, long outworn?
What is it to the changeless truth
    That yours shall fail in turn?

“What if the o’erturned altar
    Lays bare the ancient lie?
What if the dreams and legends
    Of the world’s childhood die?

“Have ye not still my witness
    Within yourselves alway,
My hand that on the keys of life
    For bliss or bale I lay?

“Still, in perpetual judgment,
    I hold assize within,
With sure reward of holiness,
    And dread rebuke of sin.

“A light, a guide, a warning,
    A presence ever near,
Through the deep silence of the flesh
    I reach the inward ear.

“My Gerizim and Ebal
    Are in each human soul,
The still, small voice of blessing,
    And Sinai’s thunder-roll.

“The stern behest of duty,
    The doom-book open thrown,
The heaven ye seek, the hell ye fear,
    Are with yourselves alone.”

.     .     .     .     .

A gold and purple sunset
    Flowed down the broad Moselle;
On hills of vine and meadow lands
    The peace of twilight fell.

A slow, cool wind of evening
    Blew over leaf and bloom;
And, faint and far, the Angelus
    Rang from Saint Matthew’s tomb.

Then up rose Master Echard,
    And marvelled: “Can it be
That here, in dream and vision,
    The Lord hath talked with me?”

He went his way; behind him
    The shrines of saintly dead,
The holy coat and nail of cross,
    He left unvisited.

He sought the vale of Eltzbach
    His burdened soul to free,
Where the foot-hills of the Eifel
    Are glassed in Laachersee.

And, in his Order’s kloster,
    He sat, in night-long parle,
With Tauler of the Friends of God,
    And Nicolas of Basle.

And lo! the twain made answer
    “Yea, brother, even thus
The Voice above all voices
    Hath spoken unto us.

“The world will have its idols,
    And flesh and sense their sign
But the blinded eyes shall open,
    And the gross ear be fine.

“What if the vision tarry?
    God’s time is always best;
The true Light shall be witnessed,
    The Christ within confessed.

“In mercy or in judgment
    He shall turn and overturn,
Till the heart shall be His temple
    Where all of Him shall learn.”

Back    |    Words Home    |    John Greenleaf Whittier    |    Site Info.    |    Feedback