Thomas Wingfold, Curate - vol.2

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As Wingfold walked home that afternoon, he thought much of what he had heard and seen. "If there be a God," he said to himself, "then all is well, for certainly he would not give being to such a woman, and then throw her aside as a failure, and forget her. It is strange to see, though, how he permits his work to be thwarted. To be the perfect God notwithstanding, he must be able to turn the very thwarting to higher furtherance. Don't we see something of the sort in life--the vigorous nursed by the arduous? Is it presumptuous to imagine God saying to Rachel: 'Trust me, and bear, and I will do better for thee than thou canst think?' Certainly the one who most needs the comfort of such a faith, in this case HAS it. I wish I could be as sure of him as Rachel Polwarth!--But then," he added, smiling to himself, "she has had her crooked spine to help her! It seems as if nothing less than the spiritual beholding of the Eternal will produce at least absolute belief. And till then what better or indeed other proof can the less receive of the presence of the greater than the expansion of its own being under the influences of that greater? But my plague now is that the ideas of religion are so grand, and the things all around it in life so common-place, that they give the lie to each other from morning to night--in my mind, I mean. Which is the true? a loving, caring father, or the grinding of cruel poverty and the naked exposure to heedless chance? How is it that, while the former seems the only right, reasonable, and all-sufficing thing, it should yet come more naturally to believe in the latter? And yet, when I think of it, I never did come closer to believing in the latter than is indicated by terror of its possible truth--so many things looked like it.--Then, what has nature in common with the Bible and its metaphysics?--There I am wrong--she has a thousand things. The very wind on my face seems to rouse me to fresh effort after a pure healthy life! Then there is the sunrise! There is the snowdrop in the snow! There is the butterfly! There is the rain of summer, and the clearing of the sky after a storm! There is the hen gathering her chickens under her wing!--I begin to doubt whether there be the common-place anywhere except in our own mistrusting nature, that will cast no care upon the Unseen. It is with me, in regard to my better life, as it was with the disciples in regard to their bodily life, when they were for the time rendered incapable of understanding the words of our Lord by having forgotten to take bread in the boat: they were so afraid of being hungry that they could think of nothing but bread."

Such were some of the curate's thoughts as he walked home, and they drove him to prayer, in which came more thoughts. When he reached his room he sat down at his table, and wove and knotted and pieced together the following verses, venturing that easy yet perilous thing, a sonnet. I give here its final shape, not its first or second:

Methought I floated sightless, nor did know That I had ears until I heard the cry As of a mighty man in agony: "How long, Lord, shall I lie thus foul and slow? The arrows of thy lightning through me go, And sting and torture me--yet here I lie A shapeless mass that scarce can mould a sigh." The darkness thinned; I saw a thing below, Like sheeted corpse, a knot at head and feet. Slow clomb the sun the mountains of the dead, And looked upon the world: the silence broke! A blinding struggle! then the thunderous beat Of great exulting pinions stroke on stroke! And from that world a mighty angel fled.

But upon the heels of the sonnet came, as was natural, according to the law of reaction, a fresh and more appalling, because more self-assertive and verisimilous invasion of the commonplace. What a foolish, unreal thing he had written! He caught up his hat and stick and hurried out, thinking to combat the demon better in the open air.

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