Panic is rising now like bile in his gut;
he feels its acid measure within him
as he stumbles on through the waste of bracken and bramble.
The vegetation is sodden from the rain that has soaked through his clothes,
while thunder continues to rumble along the far horizon,
and the day's light is failing. There are no
landmarks to be found, no signs to direct his path,
no safe ground on which to stand. Behind him the trees are black,
and echo already with the screech of owls.
Now he pushes between unruly clumps of tall rushes, and
beneath his feet the hungry mud is
sucking and pulling at his boots, and it soaks between the seams.
He no longer has the breath for calling out, all his effort must go
to keep moving, best he can. And yet he finds he is singing now
as he walks, singing against the demons of the dark, singing
to time and encourage his steps, that old song from his childhood,
from those dusty Sunday afternoons in chapel: "Lead, kindly light,
amid the encircling gloom." Oh, if only he had not strayed
from the well-trod and waymarked path, if only he had listened
to the instructions given for the long day's journey.
If only he could have swallowed his pride. Already
it is so very dark, so fearfully dark;
and yet as he presses forward
in that dark a light has appeared, small but clear,
and he hears singing to match his own, that
somewhere up ahead carries the promise of help and warmth of welcome,
of a known way and companions for the journey on; and of a certain
rejoicing in heaven.