Rose Terry Cooke



My Cup

by Rose Terry Cooke

I sat beside a darkened sea,
The blood-red sunset over me,
And heard the tides roll heavily.
Then from a cloud of purple slid the moon,
And flooded that wide sea with silver noon,
Whereat the surf grew white, as in a swoon.

And on the path of rippled shine
Came unto me a shape divine,
Bearing a chalice of clear wine,
And saying, Drink! thy life is past and gone,
But God returns it, for he hath not done
His use of thee nor heard thy coward moan.

Drink, and arise! thy lips shall speak
Low words of comfort to the meek,
And strength to souls afraid and weak.
Thou shalt not suffer idly or in vain;
Array thee from the armory of pain,
And do brave battle with the world again.

But I, dismayed as snows in Spring,
Cried out, The lips that drink must sing;
Ask thou from me some other thing!
If I see sorrow, and interpret it,
The rude world crieth shame that I should quit
The grief I feel and speak to ears unfit.

If I speak pain, then I must be
Like her who rode through Coventry,
But shamed by eyes that peer and see.
I breathe the thoughts I gather in my soul,
And scorn and curious eyes the leaf unroll,
To find my life hid in that traitorous scroll.

Better to die and pass away
From the wide eyes of mortal day,
Than be a lute for all to play.
Better to hide my lips in grass and mold,
Where the wild blossoms pour their cups of gold,
Than sing of tropics to this wintry cold.

But tranquilly the angel said:
Thou livest not to die of dread
For any words the world hath said.
Thou art a cup held in another hand,
And if He pour thy life out on the sand,
Shall it not waste, if so He give command?

What if thy heart be bared to see --
If thy pain serves one misery
To patient hope, why let it be!
One whom thou darest not liken to thy dust
Groaned in his death with anguish and mistrust
For the whole world to hear; art thou more just?

He made his soul a sacrifice
To human pangs, and paid their price
In open day; art thou more nice?
If, from the millions born and dead in pain,
Thine inmost sacred sorrow wept one stain,
Couldst thou dare veil it, suffer it in vain?

If this were Fame's immortal drink,
What instant wouldst thou pause and think
Before thy lips assailed the brink?
But thy poor service is no longer thine,
If He shall use it for his ends divine
Who turned mere water into festal wine.

Arise, and put thy fears aside,
Obey, and let the end abide,
Thou hast a legion on thy side!

So from the sand I rose and took the draught,
And while my lips the bitter bubbles quaffed,
Low at my feet the soft gray billows laughed.


Copyright 1888
William S. Gottsberger
11 Murray Street
New York