The second feeding

The second feeding

Four Thousand Men fed.

(The Gospel History, Section 68)

In those days, when there was again a great multitude, and they had nothing to eat, he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat, and I would not send them away fasting to their home, lest haply they faint in the way; and some of them are come from far. And his disciples answered him, Whence shall one be able to fill so great a multitude with bread here in a desert place? And Jesus said unto them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven. And he commandeth the multitude to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they set them before the multitude. And they had a few small fishes: and having blessed them, he commanded to set these also before them. And they did all eat and were filled: and they took up of the broken pieces that remained over, seven baskets full. And they that did eat were about four thousand men, besides women and children. And he sent them away. And straightway he entered into the boat with his disciples, and came into the parts of Dalmanutha.

The second feeding

(The Saviour of the World, Vol IV, Book II, Poem XXXVIII)

Four Thousand Fed, by Tintoretto

Once more up slope of mountain climbed the Lord
With the propriety of him who walks on land
All in his fee. The swarming people watched—
That multitude from all the coasts about
Come to Decapolis to seek the Lord;
They brought the poor, sick souls belonged to them,
Their blind and lame and deaf, and many more
In whom the Perfect Image was eclipsed
By hideous havoc of disease.
Through many a weary march they dragged these sick,—
And here at last they found Him,—in wild parts
Of the eastern border, far from scribes and priests
Who hunted Him, the Just.
Now, toiling up the slopes they carried these
Poor helpless wretches to the feet of Christ,
And cast them there, to wait: He touched, He spake,
And, this one, that one, all, were sound and whole;
The friends who knew them saw the lame, go walk,
The sick soul, hale, rise up; ecstatic cried
The blind in joy of vision: the folk perceived
That from their God, sure, came this blessedness
And raised their hallelujahs.

Christ sat there,

High on the mountain where all might behold;
In slow clear words He taught the eager crowd,
With many pauses that they might receive,
As, careful, slow, one feeds a famished man;—
All day the Master dropped His sentences;
The night fell quick, and all the place was dark.

The Master held His teaching. Every man
From out his wallet drew light bed and lay
In slumber sealed: Ah, holy sleep, watched o’er
By Him, the outgoings of the morning made!
The early sun woke them from slumbers light;
Each ate of crust he had; and waited, then,
Expectant on the Lord: again, He spake;
All through that day the words of Life fell slow,
And every word some famished souls sustained;
In stillness hung they, breathing low for fear
A word should be lost; ah, poor for them the world,
E’en one word lost! All day they sat and heard:
Of judgment spake He? Of the Father’s love?
Of place where every soul of man expands
To his perfection—the Kingdom of God on earth?

Spake He of healing, comforting and joy?
Of blessedness kept for the hungry soul,
The poor, the sorrowful, the lowly, meek?
Was none there, gathered up the words He spake,
Locked them in casket of his steadfast mind,
To be opened for our healing: as a man
Who beggar’d goes of wealth should have been his
Were but a will discovered, (surely made),
So we have lost those words, all due to us!

Again, night fell, and after scanty bread,
Again they spread their beds (who had them) there,
On such flat ledge on slope or at foot of height
As each could come upon; a city lay
Unsheltered ’neath the sky; nay, doubly safe,
All warm and cherished ’neath the love of Him
Watched o’er them from the mountain, tenderly
As praying mother guards her sleeping babe.

A third day passed as passed the other twain;
The Sacrament of Words sealed all their hearts;
And, as they heard, the vault of the blue heavens,
Each zephyr light that visited their cheek,
The swoop of wings above, wide stretch of earth,—
These sights and sounds so dear,—as organ tone
Accompanied His words and filled them out
With deep significance. Soul was alert,
Hungering the more for every morsel had,
But body, “Brother Body,” fainting sunk:
Three days had they been there, and none was left
Of the scant meal they’d carried: home was far,
What help for them in this lone wilderness?

The Lord was very pitiful; He called
His Own about Him; gazing on the crowd,—
“I have compassion on the multitude;
Three days have they been with Me without food;
If I should send them hence, fainting they’ll fall,
Unfriended, by the wayside.” Those men of God
Remembered them of multitudes well fed
With store was meal for one man—two at most:
Did they bethink them, too, of mystic words
The Lord had taught them of the Bread of Life,—
Words had divided joints and marrow, caused
Zealous disciples to turn their back on Him,
And He was sorrowful;—what if it were,
That, as before those Mighty Words He fed
A multitude to show,—that all life was His,
That bread sustained men only as He bade;—
So now would He confirm that teaching hard,
A man’s heart hovers round nor apprehends,
By feeding once again a multitude?
Such thoughts within them surging, those meek men
Yet asked,—“How feed men in the wilderness?”
The Master said,—“How many loaves have ye?”
“Seven.” He bade the multitude sit down
There on the rocky, grassy mountain slope:
He took the loaves, gave thanks, and breaking them,
He gave to the disciples, they, to the crowd;
A few small fishes, too, He blessed and brake:
Thus, th’ ritual was repeated—before and since
He taught that mystery of the Bread of God—
So that none could ponder but confirming signs,
That men indeed from God gat all their meat,
Should to remembrance leap, and none should doubt.
They ate their fill, that multitude of folk,
Four thousand men, with wives and little ones:
And the Lord sent them forth, glad, satisfied,
Great thoughts at work as leaven in their hearts.

Again, the disciples sent He forth to save
Of broken fragments, seven baskets full,
And as they went was this the hymn that rose
From hearts like springs whence issued thoughts of the Lord?—

St. Matthew xv. 32-39.
St. Mark viii. 1-10.