HOW very hard it is to be
A Christian! Hard for you and me,
-Not the mere task of making real
That duty up to its ideal,
Effecting thus complete and whole,
A purpose or the human soul-
For that is always hard to do;
But hard, I mean, for me and you
To realise it, more or less,
With even the moderate success
Which commonly repays our strife
To carry out the aims of life.
-This aim is greater,� you may say,
-And so more arduous every way.�
-But the importance of the fruits
Still proves to man, in all pursuits,
Proportional encouragement.
-Then, what if it be God-s intent
-That labour to this one result
-Shall seem unduly difficult?�
-Ah, that-s a question in the dark-
And the sole thing that I remark
Upon the difficulty, this;
We do not see it where it is,
At the beginning of the race:
As we proceed, it shifts its place,
And where we looked for palms to fall,
We find the tug-s to come,-that-s all.

At first you say, -The whole, or chief
-Of difficulties, is Belief.
-Could I believe once thoroughly,
-The rest were simple. What? Am I
-An idiot, do you think? A beast?
-Prove to me only that the least
-Command of God is God-s indeed,
-And what injunction shall I need
-To pay obedience? Death so nigh
-When time must end, eternity
-Begin,-and cannot I compute?
-Weigh loss and gain together? suit
-My actions to the balance drawn,
-And give my body to be sawn
-Asunder, hacked in pieces, tied
-To horses, stoned, burned, crucified,
-Like any martyr of the list?
-How gladly,-if I made acquist,
-Through the brief minutes- fierce annoy,
-Of God-s eternity of joy.�

-And certainly you name the point
Whereon all turns: for could you joint
This flexile finite life once tight
Into the fixed and infinite,
You, safe inside, would spurn what-s out,
With carelessness enough, no doubt-
Would spurn mere life: but where time brings
To their next stage your reasonings,
Your eyes, late wide, begin to wink
Nor see the path so well, I think.

You say, -Faith may be, one agrees,
-A touchstone for God-s purposes,
-Even as ourselves conceive of them.
-Could He acquit us or condemn
-For holding what no hand can loose,
-Rejecting when we can-t but choose?
-As well award the victor-s wreath
-To whosoever should take breath
-Duly each minute while he lived-
-Grant Heaven, because a man contrived
-To see the sunlight every day
-He walked forth on the public way.
-You must mix some uncertainty
-With faith, if you would have faith be.
-Why, what but faith, do we abhor
-And idolize each other for-
--Faith in our evil, or our good,
-Which is or is not understood
-Aright by those we love or those
-We hate, thence called our friends or foes?
-Your mistress saw your spirit-s grace,
-When, turning from the ugly face,
-I found belief in it too hard;
-And both of us have our reward.
--Yet here a doubt peeps: well for us
-Weak beings, to go using thus
-A touchstone for our little ends,
-And try with faith the foes and friends;
--But God, bethink you! I would fain
-Conceive of the Creator-s reign
-As based upon exacter laws
-Than creatures build by with applause.
-In all God-s acts-(as Plato cries
-He doth)-He should geometrise.
-Whence, I desiderate . . .

I see!
You would grow smoothly as a tree.
Soar heavenward, straightly up like fire-
God bless you-there-s your world entire
Needing no faith, if you think fit;
Go there, walk up and down in it!
The whole creation travails, groans-
Contrive your music from its moans,
Without or let or hindrance, friend!
That-s an old story, and its end
As old-you come back (be sincere)
With every question you put here
(Here where there once was, and is still,
We think, a living oracle,
Whose answers you stood carping at)
This time flung back unanswered flat,-
Besides, perhaps, as many more
As those that drove you out before,
Now added, where was little need!
Questions impossible, indeed,
To us who sate still, all and each
Persuaded that our earth had speech
Of God-s, writ down, no matter if
In cursive type or hieroglyph,-
Which one fact frees us from the yoke
Of guessing why He never spoke.
You come back in no better plight
Than when you left us,-am I right?

So the old process, I conclude,
Goes on, the reasoning-s pursued
Further. You own. --Tis well averred,
-A scientific faith-s absurd,
--Frustrates the very end -twas meant
-To serve: so I would rest content
-With a mere probability,
-But, probable; the chance must lie
-Clear on one side,-lie all in rough,
-So long as there is just enough
-To pin my faith to, though it hap
-Only at points: from gap to gap
-One hangs up a huge curtain so,
-Grandly, nor seeks to have it go
-Foldless and flat along the wall:
--What care I that some interval
-Of life less plainly might depend
-On God? I-d hang there to the end;
-And thus I should not find it hard
-To be a Christian and debarred
-From trailing on the earth, till furled
-Away by death!-Renounce the world?
-Were that a mighty hardship? Plan
-A pleasant life, and straight some man
-Beside you, with, if he thought fit,
-Abundant means to compass it,
-Shall turn deliberate aside
-To try and live as, if you tried
-You clearly might, yet most despise.
-One friend of mine wears out his eyes,
-Slighting the stupid joys of sense,
-In patient hope that, ten years hence,
-Somewhat completer he may see
-His list of lepidopteræ:
-While just the other who most laughs
-At him, above all epitaphs
-Aspires to have his tomb describe
-Himself as Sole among the tribe
-Of snuffbox-fanciers, who possessed
-A Grignon with the Regent-s crest.
-So that, subduing as you want,
-Whatever stands predominant
-Among my earthly appetites
-For tastes, and smells, and sounds, and sights,
-I shall be doing that alone,
-To gain a palm-branch and a throne,
-Which fifty people undertake
-To do, and gladly, for the sake
-Of giving a Semitic guess,
-Or playing pawns at blindfold chess.�

Good! and the next thing is,-look round
For evidence enough. -Tis found,
No doubt: as is your sort of mind,
So is your sort of search-you-ll find
What you desire, and that-s to be
A Christian: what says History?
How comforting a point it were
To find some mummy-scrap declare
There lived a Moses! Better still,
Prove Jonah-s whale translatable
Into some quicksand of the seas,
Isle, cavern, rock, or what you please,
That Faith might clap her wings and crow
From such an eminence! Or, no-
The Human Heart-s best; you prefer
Making that prove the minister
To truth; you probe its wants and needs
And hopes and fears, then try what creeds
Meet these most aptly,-resolute
That Faith plucks such substantial fruit
Wherever these two correspond,
She little needs to look beyond,
To puzzle out what Orpheus was,
Or Dionysius Zagrias.
You-ll find sufficient, as I say,
To satisfy you either way.
You wanted to believe; your pains
Are crowned-you do: and what remains?
Renounce the world!-Ah, were it done
By merely cutting one by one
Your limbs off, with your wise head last,
How easy were it!-how soon past,
If once in the believing mood!
Such is man-s usual gratitude,
Such thanks to God do we return,
For not exacting that we spurn
A single gift of life, forego
One real gain,-only taste them so
With gravity and temperance,
That those mild virtues may enhance
Such pleasures, rather than abstract-
Last spice of which, will be the fact
Of love discerned in every gift;
While, when the scene of life shall shift,
And the gay heart be taught to