Project Canterbury

The Altar; or Meditations in Verse on the Great Christian Sacrifice

By Isaac Williams

London: Joseph Masters, 1849.

VII. The Fall of S. Peter


"I have heard the blasphemy of the multitude, and fear is on every side."

High in the dim recess of that dark hall
The midnight conclave now before me pass,
Gathering around the impious Caiaphas.
Our God, Whose Word upholds this worldly ball,
Whose Presence doth Angelic hosts appal,
Stands bound; and now the rude insulting mass
Press on Him! Now, O dreadful sight, alas!
The uplifted hand of the rough menial
Strikes on the Mouth Divine that meekly spoke
(The healéd slave from Edom gave the stroke),
The hand against its Maker! Now I see
Earnest appeals, judicial mockery,
And gratulations at successful ill,
While lights more dim the noisy conclave fill.


"I looked also upon My right hand, and saw there was no man that would know Me."

Now in that corner of the vaulted dome
One soul of evil all the hearts doth stir;
They jeer and beat the holy Prisoner,
With mockeries and jests around Him come,
Mantling in scorn that Face which doth illume
The Heaven of Heavens. Now one pollutes His ear,
Another with injurious blows draws near.
But there is that which to His heart comes home
With sorer bitterness than jests so rude
And impious blows of that fierce multitude:
Amid the vassal courts and hall below
The dearly lovéd of His soul e'en now,
His own most dearly lovéd, hath forgot
His Master's very Name--he knows Him not.


"How is the gold become dim! how is the most fine gold changed!"

How terrible the night that broods around,
That we should e'er forget our Present God!
They who with Him the ways of sorrow trod,
Have been with Him in Tabor, and abound
With signs of love, with countless favours crown'd,
With whom He hath ta'en up His own abode,
Who companied with Him along the road,
And with Him were in season more profound;
They who had all things for His sake resign'd--
Home, friends, and calling--for a martyr's wreath,
And boast of faithfulness to chains and death,
In high resolves and protestations blind,--
When they forget to pray, one little breath
Blows all away, like leaves before the wind.


"The precious sons of Zion, compared to fine gold, how are they esteemed as earthen pitchers."

Like some frail reed, which in the pale moonlight
Bows down, then broken hangs upon the ground;
Like some ice-scene with golden sunbeams crown'd,
Which vanishes before mid-day grows bright;
Or like the sea, so beautiful to sight,
Basking in sunlight, till a cloud profound
Doth all the glittering scene with gloom surround;
Or when the autumnal frost of one brief night
Strips some fair tree, and leaves it bleak and bare,
Robb'd of a whole year's pride and leafy state;
Or when upon a full-orb'd summer noon
Comes in eclipse the intervening moon;--
So our best feelings cherish'd long and fair
One hour of darkness may lay desolate.


"Then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?"

And who shall stand the trial when the rock
Is shaken? We whose strongest purposes
Are but as webs to catch the summer flies,
Which the bat's wing beats down, the owlets mock,
Or light as gossamers that hold the flock
Of stationary sunbeams, which the breeze
Plays with,--yes, we that float our flags at ease
And softness, what shall we do in the shock,
When principalities have on us broke
In their own hour of darkness--what shall we?
Lord, let us not Thy Hand in that dark day
Forego, nor midnight Voice which calls to pray;--
So when the storm shivers the forest oak,
May we our poor frail branches hand on Thee.


"Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord."

Oft since that hour until the end e'en now,
While in the raised-apart and sacred shrine
The dread memorials of His Love Divine
Are offered up for us, there is below
One who hath ventured to His courts to go,
In whom His Omnipresent Eye descries,
A heart that secretly his Lord denies,
In self-deceiving thoughts and fears that bow
Before the multitude; who hears God's law,
While influences of men with present awe
O'erwhelm him; and content to be as they,
Forgets the lesson which the Garden taught,
And higher stern resolves before him brought,
Nor schools his heart aright to watch and pray.

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