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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

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.”

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,

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,

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

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.

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, some early day,

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.

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,

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—

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,

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.