The Hermit of the Thebaid

An extract from “The Hermit of the Thebaid”
by John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)
“O STRONG, upwelling prayers of faith,
From inmost founts of life ye start,—
The spirit’s pulse, the vital breath
Of soul and heart!

From pastoral toil, from traffic’s din,
Alone, in crowds, at home, abroad,
Unheard of man, ye enter in
The ear of God.

Ye brook no forced and measured tasks,
Nor weary rote, nor formal chains;
The simple heart, that freely asks
In love, obtains.

For man the living temple is:
The mercy-seat and cherubim,
And all the holy mysteries,
He bears with him.

And most avails the prayer of love,
Which, wordless, shapes itself in deeds,
And wearies heaven for naught above
Our common needs.

Which brings to God’s all-perfect will
That trust of his undoubting child,
Whereby all seeming good and ill
Are reconciled.

And, seeking not for special signs
Of favor, is content to fall
Within the providence which shines
And rains on all.

Alone, the Thebaid hermit leaned
At noontime o’er the sacred word.
Was it an angel or a fiend
Whose voice he heard?

It broke the desert’s hush of awe,
A human utterance, sweet and mild;
And, looking up, the hermit saw
A little child.

A child, with wonder-widened eyes,
O’erawed and troubled by the sight
Of hot, red sands, and brazen skies,
And anchorite.

“What dost thou here, poor man? No shade
Of cool, green doums, nor grass, nor well,
Nor corn, nor vines.” The hermit said:
“With God I dwell.

“Alone with Him in this great calm,
I live not by the outward sense;
My Nile his love, my sheltering palm
His providence.”

For the full text see: and
“John Greenleaf Whittier (December 17, 1807 – September 7, 1892) was an influential American Quaker poet and ardent advocate of the abolition of slavery in the United States. He is usually listed as one of the Fireside Poets. Whittier was strongly influenced by the Scottish poet Robert Burns. Highly regarded in his lifetime and for a period thereafter, he is now remembered for his poem “Snow-Bound”, and the words of the hymn “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind”, from his poem “The Brewing of Soma”, frequently sung to the tune “Repton” by Hubert Parry.”
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