W. Garrett Horder, comp. The Poets’ Bible: New Testament. 1895.
The Centurions FaithAlan Brodrick
A war-horse flinging foam-flakes on the air—
A soldier on his knees in deadly pain,
From sunburnt lips a wildly ringing prayer!
With none to spring between him and his death,
I cannot stand by powerless to save;
I cannot watch the torture of his breath.
And kisses it, and calls me ‘master, dear,’
Till I, who’ve fought for Rome in ev’ry land,
Am troubled with the weakness of a tear.
When galloping across the morning plain,
Wet with the tear-drops of an angry show’r,
I heard a shriek rise shrill, and die again.
I thunder’d on the echo of that cry,
A crowd of brutal faces laughing stood
Around a slave in his death-agony.
To right and left I swung mine iron mace;
One instant, and his thongs were all untied,
His dark eyes pleading mercy in my face.
A soldier bred in camp and battle-field,
My music the fierce war-cry of Rome’s foes,
My friends an honest heart and trusty shield.
All the sad story of my reckless youth,
O’er which my manhood sickens deadly faint,
Is read by one whom Israel calleth Truth,
Because I read men’s faces, and I see
That thou art tender, true of heart, and brave,
And crown’d with suff’ring’s nameless majesty.
My soul is well nigh broken with its shame,
Yet never on the down-cast have I trod;
Most sinful else, in this I have no blame.
Why I should love the simple slave I saved;
Thou wouldst have loved him for his misery,
A greater danger for him wouldst have braved.
When he is dying with no friend but me,
Babbling in dreams of some far palm-fringed hill,
Some cool lagoon beyond a sultry sea?
I do not fear him, cringer to the strong
And tyrant o’er the weak—none fear his frown
Save he whose life is built upon the wrong.”
You heard the lazy ripple on the beach;
The soldier still was kneeling at His feet,
The burden of his sorrow choking speech.
A murmur stole amid the list’ning crowd;
The soldier sprang up,—“Lord, say in a word—
“I am not worthy,”—then the strong man bow’d.
His spirit stricken by its stormy grief;
The sneering mob swept on, and then alone
The smitten heart with Jesus found relief.
What better need there is that you and I
Should fall in love and sorrow at those feet,
And lift once more our supplicating cry.
Beneath my roof, too foul for thy pure eyes;
Yet there’s a dying servant in my home,
Lord, speak—I am not worthy—or he dies.