Verse > Anthologies > W. Garrett Horder, ed. > The Poets’ Bible: New Testament
W. Garrett Horder, comp.  The Poets’ Bible: New Testament.  1895.
Christ on the Cross
John Keble (1792–1866)
‘He is despised and rejected of men.’—ISAIAH LIII. 3.

IS it not strange, the darkest hour
  That ever dawn’d on sinful earth
Should touch the heart with softer power
  For comfort, than an Angel’s mirth?
That on the Cross the mourner’s eye should turn        5
Sooner than where the stars of Christmas burn?
Sooner than where the Easter sun
  Shines glorious on yon open grave,
And to and fro the tidings run,
  “Who died to heal, is ris’n to save.”        10
Sooner than where upon the Saviour’s friends
The very Comforter in light and love descends.
Yet so it is: for duly there
  The bitter herbs of earth are set,
Till temper’d by the Saviour’s prayer,        15
  And with the Saviour’s life-blood wet,
They turn to sweetness, and drop holy balm,
Soft as imprison’d martyr’s death-bed calm.
All turn to sweet—but most of all
  That bitterest to the lip of pride,        20
When hopes presumptuous fade and fall,
  Or Friendship scorns us, duly tried,
Or Love, the flower that closes up for fear
When rude and selfish spirits breathe too near.
Then like a long-forgotten strain        25
  Comes sweeping o’er the heart forlorn
What sunshine hours had taught in vain.
  Of Jesus suffering shame and scorn,
As in all lowly hearts He suffers still,
While we triumphant ride, and have the world at will.        30
His pierced hands in vain would hide
  His face from rude reproachful gaze,
His ears are open to abide
  The wildest storm the tongue can raise,
He who with one rough word, 1 some early day,        35
Their idol world and them shall sweep for aye away.
But we by Fancy may assuage
  The festering sore by Fancy made,
Down in some lonely hermitage
  Like wounded pilgrims safely laid.        40
Where gentlest breezes whisper souls distress’d,
That Love yet lives, and Patience shall find rest.
Oh! shame beyond the bitterest thought
  That evil spirit ever fram’d,
That sinners know what Jesus wrought,        45
  Yet feel their haughty hearts untam’d—
That souls in refuge, holding by the Cross,
Should wince and fret at this world’s little loss.
Lord of my heart, by Thy last cry,
  Let not Thy blood on earth be spent—        50
Lo, at Thy feet I fainting lie,
  Mine eyes upon Thy wounds are bent,
Upon Thy streaming wounds my weary eyes
Wait like the parched earth on April skies.
Wash me, and dry these bitter tears,        55
  O let my heart no further roam;
’Tis Thine by vows, and hopes, and fears,
  Long since—O call thy wanderer home;
To that dear home, safe in Thy wounded side,
Where only broken hearts their sin and shame may hide.        60
Note 1. Wisdom of Solomon xii. 9. [back]

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