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Philippian Studies by Handley C. G. Moule

THE PRAETORIAN AND THE APOSTLE

ACTS xxviii.16, 31

|Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him. . . . preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ.|

(THE SOLDIER loquitur.)

Father, the dawn is near! the shield
Of Luna sinks remote and pale
O'er Tiber and the Martial field;
The breeze awakes; the cressets fail:
This livelong night from set of sun
Here have we talk'd: thy task is done.

But yesterday I smil'd or frown'd
To watch thy audience, soon and late,
With scroll and style embattl'd round
In barbarous accents ply debate;
While this would chide, and that would start
Sudden, as sword-struck in the heart.

I laugh'd aside, or, tir'd, withdrew
From the strange sound in waking dreams
To Umbrian hills -- the home I knew --
The cottage by Mevania's streams:
'Twas hush'd at length: the guests were flown,
And thou wast left and I alone.

Thou hast forgiven (I know thee now)
The insults of this heathen tongue;
The taunting questions why and how;
The songs (oh madness!) that I sung:
Thou hast forgiv'n the hateful strain
Of dull defiance and disdain.

Thy gaze, thy silence, they compell'd
My own responsive: aw'd I stood
Before thee; soften'd, search'd, and quell'd;
The evil captive to the good:
Half conscious, half entranc'd, I heard
(While the stars mov'd) thy conquering word.

These ears were dull to Grecian speech,
This heart more dull to aught but sin;
Yet the great Spirit bade thee reach,
Wake, change, exalt, the soul within:
I've heard; I know; thy Lord, ev'n He,
JESUS, hath look'd from heaven on me.

Thou saw'st me shake, and (spite of pride)
Weep on thy hand: so stern thy truth:
I own'd the terrors that abide
Dread sequel to a rebel's youth:
But soon I pour'd a happier shower
To learn thy Saviour's dying power.

Ah, speechless, rapt, I bent, to know
Each wonder of that fateful day
When midst thy zeal's terrific glow
He met thee on the Syrian way:
I saw, I felt, the scene: my soul
Drank the new bliss, the new control.

Father, the dawn is risen! the hour
Is near, too near, when from this hand
Thy chain must fall -- from yonder tower
Another guard must take my stand:
The City stirs: I go, to meet
The foe, the world, in camp and street;

A Christian -- yes, for ever now
A Christian: so our Leader keep
My faltering heart: to Him I bow,
His, whether now I wake or sleep:
In peace, in battle, His: -- the day
Breaks in the east: oh, once more pray!

1869.

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