Home  »  Lyra Sacra: A Book of Religious Verse  »  The Love of Christ

Henry Charles Beeching, ed. (1859–1919). Lyra Sacra: A Book of Religious Verse. 1903.

By Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599)

The Love of Christ

O HUGE 1 and most unspeakable impression
  Of love’s deep wound, that pierced the piteous heart
Of that dear Lord with so entire affection,
  And, sharply launching 2 every inner part,
  Dolours of death into His soul did dart,        5
  Doing Him die, that never it deserved,
  To free His foes, that from His hest had swerved!
What heart can feel least touch of so sore launch,
  Or thought can think the depth of so dear wound?
Whose bleeding source their streams can never staunch,        10
  But still do flow, and freshly still redound,
  To heal the sores of sinful souls unsound,
  And cleanse the guilt of that infected crime
  Which was enrooted in all fleshly slime.
O blessed Well of Love! O Flower of Grace!        15
  O glorious Morning Star! O Lamp of Light!
Most lively image of Thy Father’s face,
  Eternal King of Glory, Lord of Might,
  Meek Lamb of God, before all worlds behight, 3
  How can we Thee requite for all this good?        20
  Or what can prize 4 that Thy most precious blood?
Yet nought Thou ask’st in lieu of all this love
  But love of us, for guerdon of Thy pain;
Ay me! what can us less than that behove?
  Had He required life of us again,        25
  Had it been wrong to ask His own with gain?
  He gave us life, He it restored lost;
  Then life were least that us so little cost.
But He our life hath left unto us free,
  Free that was thrall, and blessed that was banned;        30
Ne ought demands but that we loving be,
  As He Himself hath loved us aforehand,
  And bound thereto with an eternal band,
  Him first to love that us so dearly bought,
  And next our brethren, to His image wrought.        35
Him first to love great right and reason is,
  Who first to us our life and being gave,
And after, when we fared had amiss,
  Us wretches from the second death did save;
  And last, the food of life, which now we have,        40
  Even He Himself, in His dear sacrament,
  To feed our hungry souls, unto us lent.
Then next to love our brethren, that were made
  Of that self mould and that self Maker’s hand
That we, and to the same again shall fade;        45
  (Where they shall have like heritage of land,
  However here on higher steps we stand)
  Which also were with self-same price redeemed
  That we, however of us light esteemed.
And were they not, yet since that loving Lord        50
  Commanded us to love them for His sake,
Even for His sake and for His sacred word,
  Which as His last bequest He to us spake,
  We should them love and with their needs partake;
  Knowing that, whatso’er to them we give,        55
  We give to Him by whom we all do live.
Note 1. “The Love of Christ” is from “A Hymn of Heavenly Love.” [back]
Note 2. Piercing. [back]
Note 3. Ordained. [back]
Note 4. Equal in value. [back]