We do not ask to fold the linen cloth once more
Nor that it should again upon the shelf be placed,
We do not ask that mem’ry’s creases be effaced,
To leave this heavy cloak smooth as it was before.
O Mistress of the way and the reunion,
Mirror of justice and the spirit’s honesty,
Alone you understand, O lovely Majesty,
The meaning of this halt and this communion.
O Mistress of the race and its divisions,
Temple of wisdom, heavenly rectitude,
Alone you understand, divine exactitude,
The judge, his hesitations and decisions.
When we came to sit at the partying of two ways
And had to choose remorse or else regret,
When before a double fate our feet were set,
When forced upon the crossing of two vaults to gaze,
Mistress of the secret, alone you understand
That one of these two paths led fatally below,
You know the way our steps expressly chose to go
As a craftsman chooses wood for the work on hand.
And not at all from virtue, where we have no part,
And not at all from duty which has never charmed,
But like the steady builder with his compass armed,
We needs must take our stand at sorrow’s very heart,
And be firmly placed at the axis of distress,
And by that sacred need to bear a heavier load,
And to feel more deeply and go the hardest road,
And receive the evil at its greatest stress.
By that old craftsman’s skill, that capability,
Which will no longer serve us happiness to gain,
May we at least be able honour to maintain
And keep for it alone our poor fidelity.
– Charles Péguy