June 05, 2007

Prayer of the Trail

Margo Metegrano, editor of CowboyPoetry.com contacted me a while ago about collaborating on a feature for her website. This got me digging around in the papers and books I have in my possession that belonged to my grandfather, Alfred Kern. Among other treasures that I had previously overlooked was this poem, hand copied on two small sheets of yellowed paper - in Grandpa's handwriting. This is a somewhat melancholy poem written by a woman who puts herself into the skin of a Mormon handcart pioneer, though I have no substantial information on Alberta H. Christensen, she was a western contemporary poet who published occasional poetry as recently as 1985. More than anything I think, this poem illustrates the trial of faith in the face of overwhelming physical and social adversity. The fruits of faith have never come easy to anyone and come only after having been put to the test. The Mormon handcart pioneers were no exception. But, after the test and trial of their faith during the crossing of the high plains of Wyoming, none ever abandoned it.

Prayer of the Trail
By Alberta H. Christensen

It is not for these weary hands I pray,
Although the handcart makes them callous worn,
And not for balm, the hurting to allay,
Of bruised and bandaged feet, is this prayer born.

The lantern of my faith tonight burns low,
Unless it be renewed I cannot go,
The endless miles that lie beyond our sight,
But if rekindled Lord, oh, then I know,
I can file on and never count the cost,
Of all the things for conscience sake I lost.

I can forget how friends entreating cried,
Even forget our parting – his low voice,
His words that spoke the scorn, his kiss denied.
If I but feel the wisdom of my choice,
And so for that to keep my faith alight,
And that alone dear Lord, I pray tonight.

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