Project Canterbury

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

By Isaac Williams

London: Joseph Masters, 1849.

XIV. The Crown of Thorns


"He holdeth back the face of His throne, and spreadeth His cloud upon it."

"What is His crime? One to a kingdom born!
Come, let us make a glorious diadem,
At every point shall be a living gem,
We with His own tiara will adorn,
And, circled with the radiance of the morn,
Show thee thy King, thou proud Jerusalem!
His bleeding temples shall supply the stem
With rubies, and its rays the twisted thorn."
O hell-born skill of fierce imperial Rome,
Well might they deem thee from the very womb
Nurtured by savage beast amid the wild;
With blood of all the nations now defiled;
Henceforth thyself shalt thine own Cæsars own,
And know and feel thyself the thorny crown.


"O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in Me is thine help. I will be thy King."

But clothe Him first!--no more those garments mean,--
Bring forth the purple for the kingly gown,
Such as may best become the imperial crown
And well be suited to the royal mien;
The mirror wherein best His state is seen.
Zion, go forth thy promised King to own!
Thou hast for Him prepared this regal throne;
For thee He now is scourged; for thee this scene,
This day of His espousals is for thee--
The Bride which He hath cherished now so long.
"Thy Maker is thy Husband," and to plead
More powerfully with thee He bears this wrong,--
The diadem that burns around His Head,
And robe that speaks, but mocks at, majesty.


"They know not what they do."

O types of suffering and of sovereignty,--
The scarlet robe, a crown that makes to bleed!
And for a sceptre add the hollow reed
Of scorn and weakness;--then they bend the knee,
And bow to Him in mock humility:
While one hath seized in sport the sceptred weed,
And with it strikes upon His crownéd Head
(Oh, art refined in murderous cruelty!)
Driving the thorns more deeply; while e'en now--
O blindness terrible!--around that Brow
Of unseen Godhead, on Whose smile or frown
Bliss everlasting hangs or endless woe,
The Blood bursts forth beneath the thorny crown,
And to His purple garment trickles down.


"And thorns shall come up in her palaces."

The King of Martyrs thus, with His own band
Dyed in their blood around His Kingly seat,
And sufferers hallowed by the Paraclete,
Against the evil world hath ta'en His stand.
For man's own sake and benefit, the land
Sends forth its thorns and briers at his feet,
To furnish unto him his chastenings meet:
Therefore Eternal Wisdom so hath plann'd,
That when the Second Man shall ope the door
Of pardon, and mankind with power divine
Through sorrow and atonement shall restore,
He of man's woes shall expiation make,
Shall seize of sin the very scourge and sign,
And for the emblem of His kingdom take.


"We also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God."

We bear not on our brows a ray divine
Caught from Thy glory, nor one glowing gem,
Nor the bright star of honoured Bethlehem,
But Thine own Cross impress'd--Thy Father's sign.
In adoration when our knees incline
To Thee our King, of David's royal stem,
We see Thee not with throne and diadem;
But on the Cross in anguish, there to pine.
So deep-polluted had become Thy Bride,
That Thou for love, to woo her to Thy side,
These "foul and filthy" garments didst put on,--
Thyself abasing that she might be won,
And in Thy Father's house with Thee abide,
Clothed with the robe of the Eternal Son.


"Then she that is Mine enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her which said unto Me, Where is the Lord Thy God."

In the fair autumn of the year's decline
When quiet stars come forth at evensong,
There doth a something to the skies belong
That speaks of roseate light which is divine;
When the sun sinks into his western shrine.
Leaving on even-gate a blood-like stain,
As on the door the paschal victim slain.
Those tints of light that blend with purple wine,
Which the sun leaves behind, portend a morn
Of glorious promise, quiet skies serene;
And even now, in its decline new-born,
The nascent moon with all her stars is seen.
Thus as our Sun goes down in His own Blood,
Comes forth His Church with her bright multitude.

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