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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII. 1876–79.

Syria: Gethsemane

Scene in Gethsemane

By Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806–1867)

THE MOON was shining yet. The Orient’s brow,

Set with the morning-star, was not yet dim;

And the deep silence which subdues the breath

Like a strong feeling, hung upon the world

As sleep upon the pulses of a child.

’T was the last watch of night. Gethsemane,

With its bathed leaves of silver, seemed dissolved

In visible stillness; and as Jesus’ voice,

With its bewildering sweetness, met the ear

Of his disciples, it vibrated on

Like the first whisper in a silent world.

They came on slowly. Heaviness oppressed

The Saviour’s heart, and when the kindnesses

Of his deep love were poured, he felt the need

Of near communion, for his gift of strength

Was wasted by the spirit’s weariness.

He left them there, and went a little on,

And in the depth of that hushed silentness,

Alone with God, he fell upon his face,

And as his heart was broken with the rush

Of his surpassing agony, and death,

Wrung to him from a dying universe,

Was mightier than the Son of man could bear,

He gave his sorrows way,—and in the deep

Prostration of his soul, breathed out the prayer,

“Father, if it be possible with thee,

Let this cup pass from me.” O, how a word,

Like the forced drop before the fountain breaks,

Stilleth the press of human agony!

The Saviour felt its quiet in his soul;

And though his strength was weakness, and the light

Which led him on till now was sorely dim,

He breathed a now submission. “Not my will,

But thine be done, O Father!” As he spoke,

Voices were heard in heaven, and music stole

Out from the chambers of the vaulted sky

As if the stars were swept like instruments.

No cloud was visible, but radiant wings

Were coming with a silvery rush to earth,

And as the Saviour rose, a glorious one,

With an illumined forehead, and the light

Whose fountain is the mystery of God,

Encalmed within his eye, bowed down to him,

And nerved him with a ministry of strength.

It was enough,—and with his godlike brow

Rewritten of his Father’s messenger,

With meekness, whose divinity is more

Than power and glory, he returned again

To his disciples, and awaked their sleep,

For he that should betray him was at hand.