Verse > Anthologies > The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse > 74. From ‘The Dream of Gerontius’
Nicholson & Lee, eds.  The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. 1917.
74. From ‘The Dream of Gerontius’
By John Henry, Cardinal Newman  (1801–1890)
Choir of Angelicals.

A DOUBLE debt he has to pay—
  The forfeit of his sins:
The chill of death is past, and now
  The penance-fire begins.
Glory to Him, who evermore        5
  By truth and justice reigns;
Who tears the soul from out its case,
  And burns away its stains!

They sing of thy approaching agony,
Which thou so eagerly didst question of:       10
It is the face of the Incarnate God
Shall smite thee with that keen and subtle pain;
And yet the memory which it leaves will be
A sovereign febrifuge to heal the wound;
And yet withal it will the wound provoke,       15
And aggravate and widen it the more.

Thou speakest mysteries: still methinks I know
To disengage the tangle of thy words:
Yet rather would I hear thy angel voice,
Than for myself be thy interpreter.       20

When then—if such thy lot—thou seest thy Judge,
The sight of Him will kindle in thy heart
All tender, gracious, reverential thoughts.
Thou wilt be sick with love, and yearn for Him,
And feel as though thou couldst but pity Him,       25
That one so sweet should e’er have placed Himself
At disadvantage such, as to be used
So vilely by a being so vile as thee.
There is a pleading in His pensive eyes
Will pierce thee to the quick, and trouble thee.       30
And thou wilt hate and loathe thyself; for, though
Now sinless, thou wilt feel that thou hast sinn’d,
As never thou didst feel; and wilt desire
To slink away, and hide thee from His sight:
And yet wilt have a longing ay to dwell       35
Within the beauty of His countenance.
And these two pains, so counter and so keen,—
The longing for Him, when thou seest Him not;
The shame of self at thought of seeing Him,—
Will be thy veriest, sharpest purgatory.       40



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