Verse > Anthologies > The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse > 381. Crucifixion on the Mountain
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Nicholson & Lee, eds.  The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. 1917.
  
381. Crucifixion on the Mountain
By C. M. Verschoyle
  
The soul would endure splendid martyrdoms, but her Lord lays upon her the ultimate reward of failure and of death.


I FOUND full many a hindrance on the road
  That led up to the summit of desire,
  Sharp rocks and wounding thorns; and in the mire
    I fell, and soiled the garment I had care
    To keep so fair        5
For the great rites awaiting me in Love’s abode.
  Yet on I pressed,
  Dreaming of rest
That should be sweeter for toil undergone,
  When on my Saviour’s breast       10
Divine and human should be one.
 
Deep ran the chasms across the way,
  Chasms my wilfulness had made,
But Love had cast a bridge above the spray
    Flung by the roaring waters far below;       15
And with the cross my strength, the cross my guide,
My worser self for ever crucified,
  I climbed toward the line of snow
  That Love had laid
Far up, to mark the final stage       20
  Of chill forlorn desertion, that should close
My pilgrimage.
 
High on the summit shone the mystic cross
Beside which life is death, and riches dross;
  Not such the cross that companies my way,       25
  A harsh rude copy meet for every day,
Beauty it lacks, untrimmed and harsh the wood.
And bitter as Christ’s rood;
Heavy as death, no staff to life is this,
  But such a weight       30
  As leaves the soul unsoothed, disconsolate,
And drags the body down to the abyss.
 
Upward I crawl, the dream of joy is past,
  I, that would share the sorrow of my Lord
  And feel the piercing sword       35
Divide my flesh and spirit, now at last,
  Discern the failure I am forced to share,
  And see the garment I would keep so fair,
Foul from the dirt of many a foolish fall
  The world might mock at. When I set my feet       40
    Upon the path I said—
  A martyrdom were sweet;
Come sword, come fire,
All tortures are less sharp than my desire.
  Let me have flints for bed,       45
And thorns, such as once wove my Master’s crown,
Spurring me on to share in His renown.
  And lo! I faint
Beneath a common cross I cannot raise.
Mankind might jeer, but on celestial praise       50
  Free from all envious taint
I counted; wherefore then this loneliness
  Weighted with death?
Give me the nails, the spear, oppress
  My soul with every pang till my last breath,       55
  And then, the victor’s wreath.
 
Yet I climbed still, the bitter words I spoke
Fell into silence and no echoes woke;
  But in my heart a small voice murmuring
  Whispered,—thy King       60
Humbly exchanged celestial gain for loss,
  Requiring no place to lay Him down,
  No victor’s crown,
But only wood enough to make a cross.
 
I bowed my head in shame, and upward went       65
Slowly, beneath my burden bent;
  Deep in the snow my bleeding feet
  Sank at each step, and on the sheet
Of dazzling white left scarlet stains.
My eyes grew blind, my trembling knees gave way,       70
My body was a mass of fiery pains:
  And still I rose and fell,
  And struggled on a space,
Half dreaming broken words from far away,
The heavenward way,—       75
    The pains of hell,—
  And murmuring, weeping, falling,
  Upon my Master calling,
Unconscious now of all save agony,
I still endured, until I lay       80
  On the appointed place
Upon the summit, faint and like to die.
 
So, I thought, heaven is won,
  Gone is the burden that so long I carried;
  Yet still the summoning angels tarried.       85
I lay alone,
Almost desiring back the fardel gone,
  That was my bliss and bale;
And so methought a thousand years
  Of silence passed.       90
  At last
    I raised my eyes to see
Some angel that should bind my wounds and wipe my tears.
  But there was Calvary,
And black and gaunt three crosses rose       95
Untenanted, among the snows.
 
Then, deep within, the silence spoke,—
  Now thou hast left Gethsemane,
  Stretch thy rebellious limbs upon the tree,
  Giving thy body up for Me.      100
And I obeyed,
And laid
  My feet and hands to bear the stroke
Of piercing nails.
  And so I hung another thousand years.      105
The wind arose, and far below me tossed
  A sea of sombre-crested pines; the cloudy skies
Burst with the gale, and showed an orange rent,
And heavy clouds, like boats with tattered sails,
  Flapped low, and dipped and raced about the height      110
  Until they sank in mist that swathed my sight.
Then I closed my eyes,
  And tore my way from the poor earthly tent,
  And free, I knew my labours all well spent,
And no pang lost.      115
 
Abandoned hung the earthly form
While round it swayed and shrieked the storm;
  But my soul, being free,
  Rejoiced most thankfully,
Until a voice cried,—nay,      120
Still must thou lay
  Thy soul upon the rood.
So my stripped soul was fastened there,
  And that cross stood
Beside the centre, towering gaunt and bare      125
  While other thousand years went by;
Till my purged spirit burst its sheath,
And free of soul and body knelt beneath
The triple emblem of a conquered death.
 
Now let my spirit rise to God who gave—      130
Not through the grave,
  But upward into light.
Aye, chanted seraphs with their dulcimers,
The ladder it prefers
  Is the great midmost cross.      135
My spirit trembled, but I clomb—
  Ah, then fell night;
This, this is not my home.
  And in a horror far too deep to tell
  I knew the pains of hell,      140
And for a thousand years I drank this bitter cup,
Until my spirit yielded itself up,
  And hands of love
  Stretched from above
Upraised me in a most delicious rest,      145
  Upon that cross and ladder of delight,
Which now I knew was but my Master’s breast

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