The Rich Man and Lazarus

The Rich Man and Lazarus

Of the wrong use of Riches. Dives and Lazarus.

(The Gospel History, Section 112)

Now there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, faring sumptuously every day: and a certain beggar named Lazarus was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table; yea, even the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and that he was carried away by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: and the rich man also died, and was buried. And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things: but now here he is comforted, and thou art in anguish. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that they which would pass from hence to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from thence to us. And he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house; for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. But Abraham saith, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one go to them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, if one rise from the dead.


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

The Lord perceiving they did not discern
That home-work lesson every man must learn
Who thinks to win the Kingdom, with Poets’ craze
And God’s long patience now, proceeds to graze

On barren stock one bud of life divine:
A tale he tells which in their dark should shine
And lights their groping thoughts as Christ a lamp
Flashed sudden into dungeon murk and damp.

We know the tale subversive; the rich man
Of whom we learn nothing until the span
Of his days is ended; then he lies in state,
Is buried as befits the rich and great:

But not on him on our thoughts instead rest:
Another there, his uninvited guest;
The beggar at his gates, too scantly fed,
On morsels left at table, broken bread,

Lazarus, the beggar is let ope that door
Men fain would pray within: see him, no more
Dependent on the rich man’s heedless dole
Leaning on Abraham’s bosom! See the whole.

Amazing transformation sudden strike
The poor rich man in torment with his like
“The beggar whom I fed! Perchance he may
Relieve my infirmity in this evil day!”

No claim hath he on Lazarus, so calls
On him, the fringe of whose wide mantle falls
O’er all sons of Israel: “Abraham, hear!
Father, send Lazarus with cool water here

Where I tormented lie!” “But think thee, son,
Of food thou hadst in life, whilst he had none;
Nor hope for help from Lazarus, the friend
Thou didst neglect to make while thou could’st lend

Medicaments for his sores, ease to his pain
In all those days when wretched he had lain
A suffering mendicant before thy gate;
Seek not his friendly offices too late!

Knowest not the Law, how all men shall receive
Good for ill meekly borne for they believe
God deals with them: ill, for that wealth they spent
In sumptuous living, knowing not ’twas lent

In the case of poor man who life’s good things lacked:
His day the same to enjoy whilst thou are racked
By pains of penitence!” “Thy word is true;
Send Lazarus to my brethren, lest they too

Come to this place of torment.” “They know the Law;
The prophets’ words sure should avail to draw
The men from final day spent, in Mammon’s rites.”
“But, sure, one from the dead all flesh affrights,

And they’d give heed to him!” “Not so my son;
Who hears not Moses, he would not be won
Though one rose from the Dead!” But many days
Since, Christ a long dead man, was seen to raise:

And did the people heed? Not they; their eyes
Refused due witness that the dead did rise
At Christ, His bidding! “This, a man must do,—
Fulfill the Law, discern its precepts true;

Wealth hath he! Not for him the boon is lent,
Let him no good give ere wealth be spent:
Succumbs a foolish man by ills oppress’d?
Let him trust God; his wrongs shall be redress’d.

Bless’d be the neighbor’s poor man; he shall share
His father’s tenderness, his father’s care!
Woe to the rich who found in life their good,
Nor how to use their riches, understood.

St. Luke xvi. 19-31