John the Baptist

John the Baptist

(The Saviour of the World, Vol III Book IV Poem LII)

No great man lives in vain; the tale is told
A hundred ages after, how he, bold,
Went forth to meet the dragon, slew the beast,
While the delivered kingdom, glad, increased
In wealth and peace and happy progeny,
And blessed their saviour—sure, a great one, he!
Some, great, with poet-words go forth to bless,
And some, with mighty deeds of righteousness;
Some, fruit of knowledge snatch from branches high
Of sacred Tree few men are bold to try.
What then did John that we should know him great,—
Aware he hath enriched each man’s estate
Of them that have come after? What owe we
To the Great Baptist? Thankful, would we be!

Image of dread, axe laid to root of tree,
Threatens our hours of wilful levity;
That life in desert spent, devoid of ease,
Chides us at moments we the flesh would please;
That ringing cry, “Repent, God is at hand!”
Hear we when in the ways of sin we stand:
And, ah, the grace that cries to men, “Behold
The Lamb of God!” when hearts are proud and cold
As flesh of the dead, and all because of sin!

Sure, a great thing, by steadfast thought to win
A single Nature-secret for men’s use;
Or, thought, the world had hardly thought before,—
One guiding principle of life, from store
Eternal in the heavens, by which men live!
John’s greatness ’twas, a few great thoughts to give
As bread to famished men; his flashing word
Is quick and powerful now as when first heard:
For evermore we know—Christ shall increase,
And we, in growing less shall find our peace:
We know,—a man receives nor more nor less
Than God bestows; the Good we take and bless
The Giver, grudging not ’gainst him hath more;
We know,—a man’s fulfilled when but a Voice,
Emptied of all besides, he cries, Rejoice
For joy of the Bridegroom’s presence: know we, too,
To discern Messiah tabernacled new
In this man, that man, even in me or you,
By sign of the Dove; meekness and love attest,
The King is present in that servant blest!

But these be fragments of great debt we owe
To him to whom ’twas given the Christ to know—
The very Lamb of God, should take away
The sins of all the world! take, day by day,
Till all that enmity men manifest
To God and to each other, at His hest,—
By alchemy divine He knows to use
On every heart doth not His act refuse,—
See, turn to pity, penitence and prayer,
And men confess, lo, Christ abideth there!
God, who dost deal his lot to every one,
We bless Thee, praise Thee, for Thy servant John!

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