A hard saying

A hard saying

The Bread of Life.

(The Gospel History, Section 64)

The Jews therefore strove one with another, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?

A hard saying

(The Saviour of the World, Vol IV, Book I, Poem XXIV)

First Speaker. A man like other men stands in our midst;

Cries, “I am Bread, and ye must eat or die!
I am sole Sustenance of all the world!”
Mark you, not for the Jews he comes, the world
Shall share this sacrament, His flesh! All men
Shall come and eat—and there’s to spare—His “flesh,”
As men eat sacrificial lamb. Nay, then,—
Perceives He fate we also see reserved
For the rash blasphemer?”

Second. Know’st thou not His work,

How, doing good He ever goes about,
And where His feet have trod blessings arise
As flowers spring when an angel goes that way?
And, look you, I want more than bread to eat
Such as I bite and handle. Hunger have I,
Fainting of heart and sickening at my soul—
That no man ever offered to appease!

Third. My spirit, too, has fainted; there was nought

In heaven above, on earth, could fill the void
That, gaping, ached in me. And then He came;
His word filled all my hunger; He is bread:
I know it; I have eaten and am filled.

Fourth. These many months I’ve followed in His steps

As disciple; thought, poor fool, Messias come,
And looked to serve our King in some high place;—
My soul loathes this light bread of fantasy!

Fifth. He offers us His flesh,—is there not tale

Of how the Baptist called Him ‘Lamb of God,’—
As though th’ lambs slain since out of Egypt came we
Were shadows of this substance—cast before?
Sure, well enough we know that blood of lamb
Spilt at the altar cannot wash a soul—
Its flesh is body’s food and can’t feed soul:
What if He saith to us,—“Children of men,
Your least part is your body. Behold, there’s meat
For those incessant gnawing hunger pains
That make a man faint at full board of this life!
There is one bread shall satisfy a man;—
Ho, all ye hungry, come! That bread AM I”?

And thus they strove, those Jews; conviction, straight
As well-aimed arrow, pierced the open breast;
The rest, infuriate with bitter scorn,
Beside themselves with rage that One should dare
Offer them sustenance as were He Prince,
In very deed their Lord—Giver of bread,
Cry out in wrath,—but can’t escape His words:—
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Nor impotent their word; that selfsame cry
Hath bred division in the Church till now;
In these last days, perplex we yet with—“How?”

St. John vi. 52.