The generous prince (The disciple)

The generous prince (The disciple)

The Bread of Life.

(The Gospel History, Section 64)

Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall not hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

The generous prince (The disciple)

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


Haroun al Raschid, mighty Prince,
Sought out a way should him convince
What every man in all the land
Would choose to have at Haroun’s hand.
At nightfall,—when men were at ease,
And spake, each one, as him should please,—
Concealed, the Prince stood by and heard
His subjects’ self-revealing word.
The chase, the feast, the song, the dance,
All lent delights that should enhance
The prince’s happiness each day:
But, wearied to satiety,
He sought out a new way of joy,
Should shield his people from annoy,
Should give his heart’s desire to each—
That fruit hung most beyond his reach.

A wretched beggar woke one day
To find the prince at his door—“I pray,
Let me and all my goodly train
Eat meat with thee. Now entertain
Us royally as doth befit.”
The beggar fell at the Caliph’s feet—
“My lord, now what offence have I
Committed ’gainst thy Majesty
That thou shouldst bid me do this thing,—
Spread feast before my glorious King?
Nay, look, consider my estate,
These rags, this hut all desolate,
No crust for mine own hunger, I
Possess; sure, thou wouldst have me die!”
And wept the beggar, for he knew
His prince’s anger would pursue
And slay him for some wrong he’d done.

“Nay, what a welcome, this, my son!
Rise up and bid us enter straight
To thy poor cabin desolate.”
The beggar, trembling with dismay,
In fearful tones bade, “Enter, pray.”
Haroun made straight for further wall,—
“What’s this? Why dost not show me all?
Bring tools, strike down this wretched screen;
Nay, churl, let all thy wealth be seen!”
One blow brings down the flimsy thing;
A way is opened for the King.
But what is this? A palace fair
With costly furnishings is there.
Tables are spread with viands choice—
Rare wines that make man’s heart rejoice:
To marble bath they lead the wretch,
Pour fragrant waters, towels fetch:
Lay clothing soft of silk and thread,
With costly unguents cheer his head:—
A new man, steps he forth to greet
His guests, in garb of honour meet.

Now, Haroun would his jest pursue;—
“Ha, ha! I have discovered you,—
Prince in disguise with palace grand
And five score slaves at your command,
And fountains cool and gardens fair,
An hundred precious things and rare!
This day we choose to be your guest,
Make haste and serve us of the best!”

That beggar, how shall he find word
To magnify his generous lord?


My King, and is it true Thy hands have made—
Unseen of any nor by sound betrayed,
So close it touches my poor hut of clay
Yet shines not through the rents—a House which may
All duly entertain Thee, fair and large,

Fitted with beauteous furnishings—at Thy sole charge?

And hast thou spread a table to sustain,
Allay those hungers manifold that pain
Thy fainting mendicant? And is it near,
That feast prepared of Thee, doth not appear
For flimsy walls which close me round about?

My Lord, who spread’st the feast, make haste and let me out!

I, too, all washed and graced, would sit at meat
With Thee, my Lord, whose place is at Thy feet!
With morsels all delectable, appease
Those pangs ere now consumed me with unease:
But what is this? The Bread I taste is—Thee,—

That manna duly fallen in the wilderness for me!

The wonder of’t! the while I idly thought
My hunger fed by any trifle bought
With laboured earnings, or bestowed of grace,—
Such simple matter little child might trace,—
A mystery’s disclosed—my life is more

Than any meat men dress shall nourish or restore:

One only bread can feed me or delight,
Sustain for labour, fortify for fight:
My Lord, my Prince, and I, His beggar, see,
In bonds so close united are, we be
One flesh;—His very life He spends that I

May on His substance feed and live eternally!

The while I held my life a thing of nought

Fed on poor husks, mean things of man’s contrivance wrought!

St. John vi. 35.