Project Canterbury

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

By Isaac Williams

London: Joseph Masters, 1849.


XXII. The Cross Dripping Blood

1.

"It is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul."

"Ye shall pour it upon the earth as water."
Blood from His Hands is falling, drop by drop,
And from His Temples; now in streams they roll--
Haste downward to the earth as to their goal;
Now hang on His pale Body, and there stop,
Or on the wood below; till from the top
Unto the base the blood-stains mark the whole.
Such is the value of each human soul,
Which doth outweigh the world; and such the crop
Of thorns which Adam sowed in Paradise.
What marvel, then, at sight of such deep woe,
If penitential love should hide her eyes
From all the pleasant things which are below,
In cloistral cells of prayer; nor seek relief
But in each sternest discipline of grief?

2.

"Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of."

For doubtless hence whatever things belong
To shame, and pain, and bodies mortified
To Heavenward aspirations are allied,
With an intercommunion strange and strong.
Love from the ever-present sense of wrong
Finds no repose, save when she can abide
On any image of the Crucified,
Which in herself she finds, her sins among.
For else the Church could nothing do but mourn
With lamentable moans, like one unblest;
But when she finds her cross she upward springs,
Herself forgetting; like the dove forlorn,
When cross-ways she expands her balanced wings
On bosom of the sky she is at rest.

3.

"Thou feddest Thine own people with angels' food."

When veins which swell with sensuous low desire
Are emptied and made thin with abstinence,
Thy Blood Divine shall from the heart dispense
To all the frame Its own celestial fire,
Known but in thoughts which upward shall aspire,
Felt not nor seen; but throughout every sense
Send forth the savour of Omnipotence,
To cleanse the will diseased, and to attire
Decaying limbs with immortality;
Which, after they put off the sinful flesh,
With undecaying light shall bloom afresh;
Obedience henceforth lost in love divine,
The body all celestial discipline,
Fill├Ęd with Resurrection and with Thee.

4.

"The elements were changed in themselves by a kind of harmony."

'Tis Thou dispensest the life-giving shower
Through the vine's verdant veins, its hue and shape
Instilling, till there hangs the purple grape,
And we discern the hidden Bridegroom's power
In water changed to wine: or thence that flower
Nurturing to be Thy Passion's portraiture,
In semblance of Thy sorrows to endure;
With hanging thorny crowns, and leaves spread o'er
Like human-fingered palms, which bring to view
Thy pains for us on the accursed Tree.
Thus with Thy Blood as with celestial dew,
The kingdom of the soul Thou dost renew
With fruits and flowers divine, where angels see
Nought but developments which speak of Thee.

5.

"That Thy children, O Lord, whom Thou lovest,
might know that it is not the growing of fruits that nourisheth man; but that it is Thy Word."

So shall Thy Blood become to us new wine,
New wine of God, that maketh glad the heart
Of the meek soul that hath in Thee her part;
And multiplied throughout in every sign,
Thy death our life, Thy memories are a shrine
From evil thoughts. Yea, from ourselves Thou art
Our covering and our refuge. Ne'er to start
Away from this the spirit's rest divine,
Allured by cares or pleasures, love or strife,
To the bad world; but here for this short life,
In Thy dear Blood upon ourselves to gaze,
As in a fountain lit by the sun's rays:
In Thee, the Eternal Mind, ourselves to know--
This is the highest wisdom here below.

6.

"Where water stood before, dry land appeared; and out of the Red Sea a way without impediment."

Nor wonder that the blood of Very God
In union with our manhood hath such power
To change our being in this life's short hour;
So that, awakened from an earthly clod,
Christ shall lead forth with His Almighty rod
Sons to replenish Heaven; as the fair flower
Springs upward, quickened by the vernal shower,
'Mid foulest elements of mouldering sod,
The refuse of the world; as worms of earth
To fair-winged flies that soar to heaven give birth:
Thus, quickened by His Blood, to life shall move
The spirits which shall dwell with God above,
'Mid things which here offend the delicate sense,
And self-debasing arts of penitence.


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