“Ho, every one that thirsteth!”

“Ho, every one that thirsteth!”

(The Saviour of the World, Vol V Book III Poem XXIV)

S. John Writing His Gospel by Il Guercino

Now, what know we of thirst, who dwell
Within reach alway of a well?—
We draw and quench our modest thirst,
Nor pause we to consider, first,
How bounteous, blessed, our supply;
Nor think of them who fainting lie,
Their sinews withered, blood dried up,
For lack of the life-giving cup.

There was a man had ridden long
In eastern desert: there, among
Ravening wild beasts, he couched at night;
But not of these was his affright;
Four days they’d journeyed since the last
Bless’d hour of water-drinking ’d passed
Swelled tongue, dried sinews, blackened skin,
Witnessed to burning drought within.
This western man fared worse than they—
Of the desert—used athirst to stay.
Behold, an object, distant still,—
A mirage—trees and wells at will?
Nay, as they journey it remains
Nor fades away o’er the wide plains;
But the man faints ere yet they come
To this so grateful desert home;
One opens mouth, another pours
Delicious stream; his parchéd pores
Begin to moisten, eyes to ope,
His frame to expand with life and hope:
In after years, he told his friends,—
“I drank, drank, drank; no drink that ends
Would seem to satisfy my need;
Continual flowed, with tranquil speed,
The water into me; my veins,
The thickened blood again sustains:
My shrivelled skinny hands expand,
My skin, no more like leather tanned,
Perspires, grows moist; refreshment fills
My parchéd body—bless’d by rills
Of living water coursing there;
My soul was rescued from despair!

“That day I knew, as ne’er before,
That water only could restore
To life a famish’d fainting wretch:
No matter whence the drink we fetch,—
White, from cow’s udder, take our draught,
Or blood of purple grape gay quaff,—
’Tis water still our life preserves;
Water all our occasions serves;
And water, pure, sans taste or hue,
Can best a fainting wretch renew.”

Isaiah lv. 1

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