For forty-and-five long years
I have followed my Master, Christ,
Through frailty and toils and tears,
Through passions that still enticed;
Through station that came unsought,
To dazzle me, snare, betray;
Through the baits the Tempter brought
To lure me out of the way;
Through the peril and greed of power
(The bribe that he thought most sure);
Through the name that hath made me cower,
"The holy bishop of Tours!"
Now, tired of life's poor show,
Aweary of soul and sore,
I am stretching my hands to go
Where nothing can tempt me more.
Ah, none but my Lord hath seen
How often I've swerved aside—
How the word or the look serene
Hath hidden the heart of pride.
When a beggar once crouched in need,
I flung him my priestly stole,
And the people did laud the deed,
Withholding the while their dole:
Then I closed my lips on a curse,
Like a scorpion curled within,
On such cheap charity. Worse
Was even than theirs, my sin!
And once when a royal hand
Brake bread for the Christ's sweet grace,
I was proud that a queen should stand
And serve in the henchman's place.
But sorest of all bestead
Was a night in my narrow cell,
As I pondered with low-bowed head
A purpose that pleased me well.
'Twas fond to the sense and fair,
Attuned to the heart and will,
And yet on its face it bare
The look of a duty still;
And I said, as my doubts took wing,
"Where duty and choice accord,
It is even a pleasant thing,
To the flesh, to serve the Lord."
I turned and I saw a sight
Wondrous and strange to see—
A being as marvelous bright
As the visions of angels be:
His vesture was wrought of flame,
And a crown on his forehead shone,
With jewels of nameless name,
Like the glory about the Throne.
"Worship thou me," he said;
And I sought, as I sank, to trace,
Through his hands above me spread,
The lineaments of his face.
I pored on each palm to see
The scar of the stigma, where
They had fastened him to the Tree,
But no print of the nails was there.
Then I shuddered, aghast of brow,
As I cried, "Accurst! abhorred!
Get thee behind me! for thou
Art Satan, and not my Lord!"
He vanished before the spell
Of the Sacred Name I named,
And I lay in my darkened cell
Smitten, astonied, shamed.
Thenceforth, whatever the dress
That a seeming duty wear,
I knew 'twas a wile, unless
The print of the nail was there!