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Poems About Compassion

Table of Contents

  1. King Solomon and the Ants by John Greenleaf Whittier
  2. Flowers by F.J. Schwab
  3. Charity by Eliza and Sarah Wolcott
  4. Two Pictures by John Charles McNeill
  5. The Angel of Marye's Heights by Walter A. Clark

  1. King Solomon and the Ants

    "Nay," Solomon replied,
    "The wise and strong should seek
    The welfare of the weak;"

    – John Greenleaf Whittier
    King Solomon and the Ants
    by John Greenleaf Whittier

    Out from Jerusalem
    The king rode with his great
    War chiefs and lords of state,
    And Sheba's queen with them.

    Proud in the Syrian sun,
    In gold and purple sheen,
    The dusky Ethiop queen
    Smiled on King Solomon.

    Wisest of men, he knew
    The languages of all
    The creatures great or small
    That trod the earth or flew.

    Across an ant-hill led
    The king's path, and he heard
    Its small folk, and their word
    He thus interpreted:

    "Here comes the king men greet
    As wise and good and just,
    To crush us in the dust
    Under his heedless feet."

    The great king bowed his head,
    And saw the wide surprise
    Of the Queen of Sheba's eyes
    As he told her what they said.

    "O king!" she whispered sweet,
    "Too happy fate have they
    Who perish in thy way
    Beneath thy gracious feet!

    "Thou of the God-lent crown,
    Shall these vile creatures dare
    Murmur against thee where
    The knees of kings kneel down?"

    "Nay," Solomon replied,
    "The wise and strong should seek
    The welfare of the weak;"
    And turned his horse aside.

    His train, with quick alarm,
    Curved with their leader round
    The ant-hill's peopled mound,
    And left it free from harm.

    The jeweled head bent low;
    "O king!" she said, "henceforth
    The secret of thy worth
    And wisdom well I know.

    "Happy must be the State
    Whose ruler heedeth more
    The murmurs of the poor
    Than flatteries of the great."

  2. Flowers

    Oh, let us pity—aid, if we can—
    The flowers of human kind
    Who, like the flowers of the field,
    Are too weak to weather through
    The evils that encompass them.

    – F.J. Schwab
    Flowers
    by F. J. Schwab

    When a flower is exposed
    To the chill night air and dies,
    Is this the flower's fault?
    "Of course not," is the quick reply;
    It could not help itself,
    And so it had to wilt and die.

    But when a woman, like a flower,
    In the path of harm is thrown,
    And to its evil strength succumbs,
    All the world looks down on her;
    While another who was not tempted
    Gets praise for virtuousness,
    When she was but the flower
    That had been kept inside.

    Oh, let us pity—aid, if we can—
    The flowers of human kind
    Who, like the flowers of the field,
    Are too weak to weather through
    The evils that encompass them.

  3. Charity

    by Eliza and Sarah Wolcott

    Recorded in the book of life—blest name;
    And blest the soul that feels another's wo;
    Who when the houseless stranger weary came,
    Welcom'd his guest, a favor to bestow.

    Blest soul! who wipes the tears from weeping eyes,
    Who hastens to the widow's lonely shade,
    There mingling in the hapless orphan's sighs,
    Leads them to spring's perennial fountain head.

    There speak of all those mansions well prepar'd,
    Where Jesus smiles and blesses all that mourn,
    The father of the fatherless, the widow's guard,
    To comfort all the comfortless, and forlorn.

    Blest soul! who visits oft the prisoner's cell,
    Who cheers that dark, that dreaded damp abode,
    Where often pale and wan in chains they dwell,
    Forgotten, lie beneath oppression's load.

    Blest soul! whose prayers and alms are freely given
    To all affliction's sons and daughters here;
    Such incense bears a sweet perfume to heaven,
    And angels lend a listening ear to hear.

  4. Two Pictures

    by John Charles McNeill

    One sits in soft light, where the hearth is warm,
    A halo, like an angel's, on her hair.
    She clasps a sleeping infant in her arm.
    A holy presence hovers round her there,
    And she, for all her mother-pains more fair,
    Is happy, seeing that all sweet thoughts that stir
    The hearts of men bear worship unto her.

    Another wanders where the cold wind blows,
    Wet-haired, with eyes that sting one like a knife.
    Homeless forever, at her bosom close
    She holds the purchase of her love and life,
    Of motherhood, unglorified as wife;
    And bitterer than the world's relentless scorn
    The knowing her child were happier never born.

    Whence are the halo and the fiery shame
    That fashion thus a crown and curse of love?
    Have roted words such power to bless and blame?
    Ay, men have stained a raven from many a dove,
    And all the grace and all the grief hereof
    Are the two words which bore one's lips apart
    And which the other hoarded in her heart.

    He who stooped down and wrote upon the sand,
    The God-heart in him touched to tenderness,
    Saw deep, saw what we cannot understand,—
    We, who draw near the shrine of one to bless
    The while we scourge another's sore distress,
    And judge like gods between the ill and good,
    The glory and the guilt of womanhood.

  5. The Angel of Marye's Heights

    by Walter A. Clark

    A sunken road and a wall of stone
    And Cobb's grim line of grey
    Lay still at the base of Marye's hill
    On the morn of a winter's day.

    And crowning the frowning crest above
    Sleep Alexander's guns,
    While gleaming fair in the sunlit air
    The Rappahannock runs.

    On the plains below, the blue lines glow,
    And the bugle rings out clear,
    As with bated breath they march to death
    And a soldier's honored bier.

    For the slumbering guns awake to life
    And the screaming shell and ball
    From the front and flanks crash through the ranks
    And leave them where they fall.

    And the grey stone wall is ringed with fire
    And the pitiless leaden hail
    Drives back the foe to the plains below,
    Shattered and crippled and frail.

    Again and again a new line forms
    And the gallant charge is made,
    And again and again they fall like grain
    In the sweep of the reaper's blade.

    And then from out of the battle smoke,
    There falls on the lead swept air,
    From the whitening lips that are ready to die
    The piteous moan and the plaintive cry
    For "Water" everywhere.

    And into the presence of Kershaw brave,
    There comes a fair faced lad,
    With quivering lips, as his cap he tips,
    "I can't stand this," he said.

    "Stand what?" the general sternly said,
    As he looked on the field of slaughter;
    "To see those poor boys dying out there,
    With no one to help them, no one to care
    And crying for 'Water! Water!'

    "If you'll let me go, I'll give them some."
    "Why, boy, you're simply mad;
    They'll kill you as soon as you scale the wall
    In this terrible storm of shell and ball,"
    The general kindly said.

    "Please let me go," the lad replied.
    "May the Lord protect you, then,"
    And over the wall in the hissing air,
    He carried comfort to grim despair,
    And balm to the stricken men.

    And as he straightened the mangled limbs
    On their earthen bed of pain,
    The whitening lips all eagerly quaffed
    From the canteen's mouth the cooling draught
    And blessed him again and again.

    Like Daniel of old in the lions' den,
    He walked through the murderous air,
    With never a breath of the leaden storm
    To touch or to tear his grey clad form,
    For the hand of God was there.

    And I am sure in the Book of Gold,
    Where the blessèd Angel writes
    The names that are blest of God and men,
    He wrote that day with his shining pen,
    Then smiled and lovingly wrote again
    "The Angel of Marye's Heights."

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