The Woman in the Temple / George MacDonald

A still dark joy. A sudden face,
Cold daylight, footsteps, cries;
The temple's naked, shining space,
Aglare with judging eyes.

With all thy wild abandoned hair,
And terror-pallid lips,
Thy blame unclouded to the air,
Thy honour in eclipse;

Thy head, thine eyes droop to the ground,
Thy shrinking soul to hide;
Lest, at its naked windows found,
Its shame be all descried.

Another shuts the world apart,
Low bending to the ground;
And in the silence of his heart,
Her Father's voice will sound.

He stoops, He writes upon the ground,
From all those eyes withdrawn;
The awful silence spreads around
In that averted dawn.

With guilty eyes bent downward still,
With guilty, listless hands,
All idle to the hopeless will,
She, scorn-bewildered, stands.

Slow rising to his manly height,
Fronting the eager eyes,
The righteous Judge lifts up his might,
The solemn voice replies:

(What, woman! does He speak for thee?
For thee the silence stir?)
"Let him who from this sin is free,
Cast the first stone at her!"

Upon the death-stained, ashy face,
The kindling blushes glow:
No greater wonder sure had place
When Lazarus forth did go!

Astonished, hopeful, growing sad,
The wide-fixed eyes arose;
She saw the one true friend she had,
Who loves her though He knows.

Sick womanhood awakes and cries,
With voiceless wail replete.
She looks no more; her softening eyes
Drop big drops at her feet.

He stoops. In every charnel breast
Dead conscience rises slow.
They, dumb before the awful guest,
Turn one by one, and go.

They are alone. The silence dread
Closes and deepens round.
Her heart is full, her pride is dead;
No place for fear is found.

Hath He not spoken on her side?
Those cruel men withstood?
Even her shame she would not hide--
Ah! now she will be good.

He rises. They are gone. But, lo!
She standeth as before.
"Neither do I condemn thee; go,
And sin not any more."

She turned and went. The veil of tears
Fell over what had been;
Her childhood's dawning heaven appears,
And kindness makes her clean.

And all the way, the veil of tears
Flows from each drooping lid;
No face she sees, no voice she hears,
Till in her chamber hid.

And then returns one voice, one face,
A presence henceforth sure;
The living glory of the place,
To keep that chamber pure.

Ah, Lord! with all our faults we come,--
With love that fails to ill;
With Thee are our accusers dumb,
With Thee our passions still.

Ah! more than father's holy grace
Thy lips and brow afford;
For more than mother's tender face
We come to Thee, O Lord!

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