The Vale of Tears
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 20 January 2022
In visions which are not of night, a shadowy vale I see,
The path of pilgrim tribes who are, who have been, or shall be;
At either end are lowering clouds impervious to the sight,
And frequent shadows veil, throughout, each gleam of passing light;
A path it is of joys and griefs, of many hopes and fears;
Gladden’d at times by sunny smiles, but oftener dimm’d by tears.
Green leaves are there, they quickly fade, bright flowers,
but soon they die;
Its banks are lav’d by pleasant streams, but soon their bed is dry;
And some that roll on to the last with undiminish’d force,
Have lost that limpid purity which graced their early source,
They seem to borrow in their flow the tinge of dark’ning years,
And e’en their mournful murmuring sound befits the vale of tears.
Pleasant that valley's opening scenes appear to childhood's view,
The flowers are bright, the turf is green, the sky above is blue;
A blast may blight, a beam may scorch, a cloud may intervene,
But lightly mark’d, and soon forgot, they mar not such a scene;
Fancy still paints the future bright, and hope the present cheers,
Nor can we deem the path we tread leads through a vale of tears.
But soon, too soon the flowers that deck’d our early pathway-side
Have drooped and wither’d on their stalks, and one by one have died;
The turf by noon's fierce heat is sear’d, the sky is overcast,
There's thunder in the torrent's tone, and tempest in the blast;
Fancy is but a phantom found, and hope a dream appears,
And more and more our hearts confess this life a vale of tears.
Darker and darker seems the path! how sad to journey on,
When hands and hearts which gladden’d our's appear for ever gone,
Some cold in death, and some, alas! we fancied could not chill,
Living to self, and to the world, to us seem colder still;
With mournful retrospective glance we look to brighter years,
And tread with solitary steps the thorny vale of tears.
- Selected Poems of Bernard Barton, the 'Quaker Poet' , pp. 173 - 174Publisher: Anthem PressPrint publication year: 2020