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

By Coventry Patmore (1823–1896)

Victory in Defeat

AH, God, alas,
How soon it came to pass
The sweetness melted from Thy barbèd hook
Which I so simply took;
And I lay bleeding on the bitter land,        5
Afraid to stir against Thy least command,
But losing all my pleasant life-blood, whence
Force should have been heart’s frailty to withstand.
Life is not life at all without delight,
Nor has it any might;        10
And better than the insentient heart and brain
Is sharpest pain;
And better for the moment seems it to rebel,
If the great Master, from His lifted seat,
Ne’er whispers to the wearied servant “Well!”        15
Yet what returns of love did I endure,
When to be pardon’d seem’d almost more sweet
Than aye to have been pure!
But day still faded to disastrous night,
And thicker darkness changed to feebler light,        20
Until forgiveness, without stint renew’d,
Was now no more with loving tears imbued,
Vowing no more offence.
Not less to thine unfaithful didst Thou cry,
“Come back, poor child; be all as ’twas before.”        25
But I,
“No, no: I will not promise any more!
Yet, when I feel my hour is come to die,
And so I am secured of continence,
Then may I say, though haply then in vain,        30
‘My only, only love, O take me back again.’”
Thereafter didst Thou smite
So hard that, for a space,
Uplifted seem’d Heav’n’s everlasting door,
And I indeed the darling of thy grace.        35
But in some dozen changes of the moon,
A bitter mockery seem’d thy bitter boon.
The broken pinion was no longer sore.
Again, indeed, I woke
Under so dread a stroke        40
That all the strength it left within my heart
Was just to ache and turn, and then to turn and ache,
And some weak sign of war unceasingly to make.
And here I lie,
With no one near to mark,        45
Thrusting Hell’s phantoms feebly in the dark,
And still at point more utterly to die.
O God, how long!
Put forth indeed Thy powerful right hand,
While time is yet,        50
Or never shall I see the blissful land!
Thus I: then God, in pleasant speech and strong,
(Which soon I shall forget):
“The man who, though his fights be all defeats,
Still fights,        55
Enters at last
The heavenly Jerusalem’s rejoicing streets
With glory more, and more triumphant rites,
Than always-conquering Joshua’s, when his blast
The frighted walls of Jericho down cast;        60
And lo! the glad surprise
Of peace beyond surmise,
More than in common saints, for ever in his eyes.”