Abou Ben Adhem
By Leigh Hunt
Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
"What writest thou?" The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, "The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerily still; and said, "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men."
The angel wrote and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And shower the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.
This poem, one I learned in grade school, has been rattling around my head. Yes, it's old-fashioned, sentimental sing-song (one reason I still remember it) and a real poet would dismiss it out of hand.
But I (a non- believer) still like the point it makes and wish we had more Abou ben Adhems around. I suspect that it's a lot harder to love one's ornery, sweaty, troubled and often irrational fellow men than it is to love the idea of God.