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W. Garrett Horder, comp. The Poets’ Bible: New Testament. 1895.

The Sifting of Peter

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)

A Folk-Song

“Behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.”—LUKE XXII. 31.

IN St. Luke’s Gospel we are told

How Peter in the days of old

Was sifted;

And now, though ages intervene,

Sin is the same, while time and scene

Are shifted.

Satan desires us, great and small,

As wheat, to sift us, and we all

Are tempted;

Not one, however rich or great,

Is by his station or estate


No house so safely guarded is

But he, by some device of his,

Can enter;

No heart hath armor so complete

But he can pierce with arrows fleet

Its centre.

For all at last the cock will crow

Who hear the warning voice, but go


Till thrice and more they have denied

The Man of Sorrows, crucified

And bleeding.

One look of that pale suffering face

Will make us feel the deep disgrace

Of weakness;

We shall be sifted till the strength

Of self-conceit be changed at length

To meekness.

Wounds of the soul, though healed, will ache;

The reddening scars remain, and make


Lost innocence returns no more;

We are not what we were before


But noble souls, through dust and heat,

Rise from disaster and defeat

The stronger,

And conscious still of the divine

Within them, lie on earth supine

No longer.