Richard Chenebix Trench

(1807-1886 / Ireland)

The Monk And Sinner - Poem by Richard Chenebix Trench

In days of old, when holy Prophets trod
This earth, the living oracles of God,
What time one such his mission did fulfil,
There lived a youth, a prodigy of ill:
So foul the tablets of his heart and black,
That Satan's self from them had started back.
Him as the plague sought every soul to shun,
At him in horror pointed every one;
And in the city, where this sinful youth
All bosoms filled with horror or with ruth,
In the same city dwelt a Monk as well,
Round whom all crowded when he left his cell.
Great name for prayer and penance he had gained,
And he one day that Prophet entertained:
When in their sight this sinner did appear,
Who yet for awe presumed not to draw near,
But falling back, like moth from stunning light,
Lay on the ground, as blinded by their sight.
And as in spring relents the frozen ground,
Even so it seemed as though his heart unbound,
Streamed from his eyes like loosened floods the tears:
'Woe's me,' he cried; 'for thirty guilty years--
My life's best treasure have I spent in vain,
And death and hell are now my only gain.
I totter on a dark chasm's dreadful brink,
Hell's jaws are yawning for me, and I sink:
Yet since none ever thou didst from thee cast,
I stretch my hands to thee; Lord, hold them fast.'

But here the Monk with lifted eyebrows--'Peace,
Blasphemer,--from thy useless clamors cease:
And darest thou, thus steeped in sin, make free
With him, God's holy Prophet, and with me?
My God, this one thing grant me, that I may
Stand far from this man on the judgement day.'--
More he had said, but on the Prophet broke
Swift inspiration, and he straightway spoke:
'Two here have prayed -- diverse has been their prayer,
Yet granted both their supplications are.
He who in mire of sin now thirty years
Has rolled, forgiveness asks with many tears:
Ne'er yet his head has contrite sinner lain
Upon the threshold of God's throne in vian.
All he has sinned to him shall be forgiven,
Whom God has chose a denizen of heaven.
That monk has prayed upon the other hand
That he may never near this sinner stand;
That this may be so, hell his place must be,
Where never more this sinner he shall see.
Whose robe is white, but heart is black with pride,
He for himself hell's gate has opened wide,
For weighed in God the All-sufficient's scale,
Not claims nor righteousness of man avail;
But these are costly in his sight indeed,--
Repentence, poverty, and sense of need.


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Poem Submitted: Monday, September 20, 2010



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