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Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Legend Of St. John

- John in a detail of Fra Angelico's Entombment

Tomorrow is the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles, but to be honest, I don't really like either of them much and if I had to choose an apostle, it would probably be John. So here below is a strange poem I found on him and the legend of his continued existence all these years as he waits for Jesus' return .......

A Legend Of St. John - Thomas Chard

Then Jesus answered unto Peter, "If I will
That he shall tarry till I come again,
What is it unto thee?" He spake of John.

In Russia there still lives a legend sweet,
Repeated by the grandsire to the child,--
A dear old legend, which has lived so long,
And held an honored place so many years
By ancient firesides long since turned to dust--
A legend which doth mind us so of eve,
Of lengthened shadows, wonder-opened eyes,
And groups which listened ere they went their way,
We well might wish the story may be true,--
Of him who once had lain on Jesus' breast.
This is the tale, as I remember it.

When John to Patmos' isle was banished,
He saw and heard unutterable things.
The "Revelation" is a shadow poor,
Of his most marvelous experience.
But human language never can convey,
And human intellect can never span,
Things not of earth. When from his beauteous dream
Unwillingly the loved disciple woke,
His heart was burning with new zeal for God
And therefore with more tender love for man.
Down the steep mountain side, with ready feet,
To preach the gospel to the Greeks, he ran,
To tell of that fair city with its gates
Of gleaming pearl, and streets of shining gold,
Built for the people of the gracious Lord.
But to the Greeks his words were foolishness.
The Stoics cried, "What doth this babbler say?
He seems a setter forth of unknown gods!"
And thus they closed their ears against his words
Of beauty, and went on their careless way.

'Twere long to tell how patiently he toiled;
How some believed, and some refused to hear;
Of all the cities that he visited;
And how his words were always, "God is love;"
How he was saved by miracle from death,
When cast into a pot of boiling oil;
How in a weary dungeon he was thrown,
Yet counted it but gain, for in the dark
The angels dwelt with him and made it light.
At last he was released. Perhaps his face--
So full of holy love, so angel-sweet,
He seemed Christ's brother--moved his cruel foes
To pity; and they bade him go in peace.
So from the rusty iron gates he passed,
With a bowed form, and hair as white as snow.

John traversed Europe for the Lord. At last
His pilgrim feet pressed Russia. Through its coast
He preached with holy fervor, as was meet,
The message of the Lord to erring men.
But everywhere with cold indifference,
Or anger, or contempt, his words were met:
Until, at last, with bleeding feet, he came
To bleak Siberia. A churlish crowd
Received his message with a stupid stare;
Which, as he gently told them of their need
Of Him who came to save them from their sins,
Changed to a glare of rage. So curst were they,
They would have slain him; but on his calm face
There fell a light supernal, and he passed
In safety through their midst, and came at last
To where the Arctic laves with icy wave
The chill Siberian coast, and there a boat
Filled with strong men received him, and they plied
Their oars, and like a swift-winged bird, sped north.

Within the iceberg barricade which girds
Impregnably the Northern Pole, 'tis said
There is a Beulah Land surpassing fair,
With beaming sky and soft delicious air,
Rich with the perfume sweet of blossoms rare.
Its trees have never turned to russet tinge;
The girdling waves, warm as the summer, fringe
Its golden sands with lace of foam, and die
In soft accord with bird-song melody.
No cruel heats nor chilling blasts invade,
But the sweet quietude of twilight shade
Brings ever to the mind a holy calm.
And there, 'tis said, the Great Apostle waits
Until the end of all things shall draw near,
When he will come again, and preach to men
With the old words of love, and move their hearts
To penitence, and they will captive yield
To the sweet words of truth, and give their lives
With heartiness to deeds of charity.

Come, blest Apostle! from the icy North
Haste thy departure, for the world is faint
And weary for the music of thy feet.
The earth is growing old. Two thousand years
Have fled since thou and Jesus walked with men.
Two thousand years of bitterness of creeds;
Two thousand years of selfishness and crime.

Come thou! our clouded hearts to gently win
From chilling unbelief, from fear and sin.
Come, as to evening comes the silver moon;
As comes the south-wind on the wings of June:
From the far south the waves of summer roll,
Come from the North, thou summer of the soul!
O, how our eyes are lifted to behold
The rising of the star whose beams of gold
Will usher in, with Bethlehem songs above,
The day of Love--sweet universal Love.
Thou art its priest, O son of Zebedee,
And we are waiting--waiting still for thee.
Why tarry yet thy footsteps from afar
Thou gentler John the Baptist? May thy star
The herald of _The Christ_ uprising shine,
The harbinger of love--of Love Divine.


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