Madison Julius Cawein

(1865-1914 / the United States)

The Iron Cross


THEY pass, with heavy eyes and hair,
Before the Christ upon the Cross,
The Nations, stricken with their loss,
And lifting faces of despair.
What is the prayer they pray to Him,
Christ Jesus on the Iron Cross?
The Christ, neglected, dark with moss,
Whose hands are pierced, whose face is grim.
Is it forgiveness for great sin
They plead before the Iron Cross?
Or for some gift of gold or dross?
Or battle lost, that they would win?
With eyes where hate and horror meet,
They pass before the Iron Cross,
The Cross, that ancient words emboss,
Where hangs the Christ with nail-pierced feet.
His hair is fallen on his face.
His head hangs sidewise from the Cross —
The Crucified, who knows all loss,
And had on Earth no resting place.
'O world of men,' he seems to say,
'Behold me on your Iron Cross!
To me why kneel and tell your loss?
Why kneel to me and weep and pray?
'Have I not taught you to forgive?
And bade you from my Iron Cross
Believe, and bear your grief and loss,
That after death you too may live?
'You have not followed at my call!
You keep me on this Iron Cross,
And pray me keep you from all loss,
And save and comfort you withal.—
'You ask for love, and hate the more! —
You keep me on this Iron Cross!—
Restore to me my greater loss,
The brotherhood of rich and poor.'
They pass, with weary eyes and hair,
Before the Christ upon the Cross —
The Nations, wailing of their loss,
And lifting faces of despair.

Submitted: Tuesday, September 21, 2010

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