Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

NPM: #7–life is a mystery


Henrietta Cordelia Ray (1849-1917)

Life! Ay, what is it? E’en a moment spun
    From cycles of eternity. And yet,
    What wrestling ’mid the fever and the fret
Of tangled purposes and hopes undone!
What affluence of love! What vict’ries won
    In agonies of silence, ere trust met
    A manifold fulfillment, and the wet,
Beseeching eyes saw splendors past the sun!
What struggle in the web of circumstance,
    And yearning in the wingèd music! All,
        One restless strife from fetters to be free;
Till, gathered to eternity’s expanse,
    Is that brief moment at the Father’s call.
        Life! Ay, at best, ’tis but a mystery!

I usually shy away from poems exclaiming exclamation marks. Yet, I am caught up in the imagery of the lines “tangled purposes”, “splendors past the sun”, “web of circumstance”. Plus, this type of poetry fits the time period, because as a future songwriter trebled out the “times they were a changing.”

In the poet notes I saw that in 1876 Ray’s poem “Lincoln” was read at the unveiling of the Emancipation Memorial in Washington, which indicates a tribute and an honor to both Ray and Lincoln.


image: Savanne/Morguefile

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