The Praetorian and the Apostle
ACTS xxviii.16, 31

"Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him. . . . preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ."

(THE SOLDIER loquitur.)

Father, the dawn is near! the shield
Of Luna sinks remote and pale
O'er Tiber and the Martial field;
The breeze awakes; the cressets fail:
This livelong night from set of sun
Here have we talk'd: thy task is done.

But yesterday I smil'd or frown'd
To watch thy audience, soon and late,
With scroll and style embattl'd round
In barbarous accents ply debate;
While this would chide, and that would start
Sudden, as sword-struck in the heart.

I laugh'd aside, or, tir'd, withdrew
From the strange sound in waking dreams
To Umbrian hills -- the home I knew --
The cottage by Mevania's streams:
'Twas hush'd at length: the guests were flown,
And thou wast left and I alone.

Thou hast forgiven (I know thee now)
The insults of this heathen tongue;
The taunting questions why and how;
The songs (oh madness!) that I sung:
Thou hast forgiv'n the hateful strain
Of dull defiance and disdain.

Thy gaze, thy silence, they compell'd
My own responsive: aw'd I stood
Before thee; soften'd, search'd, and quell'd;
The evil captive to the good:
Half conscious, half entranc'd, I heard
(While the stars mov'd) thy conquering word.

These ears were dull to Grecian speech,
This heart more dull to aught but sin;
Yet the great Spirit bade thee reach,
Wake, change, exalt, the soul within:
I've heard; I know; thy Lord, ev'n He,
JESUS, hath look'd from heaven on me.

Thou saw'st me shake, and (spite of pride)
Weep on thy hand: so stern thy truth:
I own'd the terrors that abide
Dread sequel to a rebel's youth:
But soon I pour'd a happier shower
To learn thy Saviour's dying power.

Ah, speechless, rapt, I bent, to know
Each wonder of that fateful day
When midst thy zeal's terrific glow
He met thee on the Syrian way:
I saw, I felt, the scene: my soul
Drank the new bliss, the new control.

Father, the dawn is risen! the hour
Is near, too near, when from this hand
Thy chain must fall -- from yonder tower
Another guard must take my stand:
The City stirs: I go, to meet
The foe, the world, in camp and street;

A Christian -- yes, for ever now
A Christian: so our Leader keep
My faltering heart: to Him I bow,
His, whether now I wake or sleep:
In peace, in battle, His: -- the day
Breaks in the east: oh, once more pray!


chapter xii the collection for
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