Verse > Anthologies > The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse > 207. ‘The Greatest of these is Charity’
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Nicholson & Lee, eds.  The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. 1917.
  
207. ‘The Greatest of these is Charity’
By Emily Henrietta Hickey  (b. 1845)
  
I

THERE came one day a leper to my door:
  I shrank from him in loathing and in dread,
But yet, remembering how old legends said
That Jesus Christ so often heretofore
Came in such guise to try His saints of yore,        5
I brought him in, and clothed, and warmed, and fed;
Yea, brake my box of precious nard, to pour
Its costly fragrancy upon his feet.
And when the house was filled with odour sweet,
I looked to see the loveliest face,—but o’er       10
The leper came no change divine to greet
My eager soul, which did such change entreat.
And then I bowed my head, and wept full sore—
Ah! the times change; such visions come no more!
 
II

With tear-dimmed eyes I went upon my way,
       15
Passed from the city to the April wood,
Where the young trees in trembling gladness stood;
And once again my grievèd heart grew gay.
Then did I see a little child at play;
All the sweet April fountain of his blood       20
Tossed out in joy, that brake in laughter-spray;
And all my heart it loved him; so I bent
To kiss his sunny mouth. Then through me went
That which I may not tell, nor can, to-day.
When was such healing with such wounding blent?       25
Such pain supreme with such supreme content?
The fires of God comfort as well as slay,
Else had I surely died, who am but clay.

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