Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  Stephen’s Martyrdom

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

Syria: Jerusalem

Stephen’s Martyrdom

By John Keble (1792–1866)

AS rays around the source of light

Stream upward ere he glow in sight,

And watching by his future flight

Set the clear heavens on fire;

So on the King of Martyrs wait

Three chosen bands, in royal state,

And all earth owns, of good and great,

Is gathered in that choir.

One presses on, and welcomes death;

One calmly yields his willing breath,

Nor slow, nor hurrying, but in faith

Content to die or live:

And some, the darlings of their Lord,

Play smiling with the flame and sword,

And, ere they speak, to his sure word

Unconscious witness give.

Foremost and nearest to his throne,

By perfect robes of triumph known

And likest him in look and tone,

The holy Stephen kneels,

With steadfast gaze, as when the sky

Flew open to his fainting eye,

Which like a fading lamp flashed high,

Seeing what death conceals.

Well might you guess what vision bright

Was present to his raptured sight,

Even as reflected streams of light

Their solar source betray,—

The glory which our God surrounds,

The Son of Man, the atoning wounds,—

He sees them all; and earth’s dull bounds

Are melting fast away.

He sees them all,—no other view

Could stamp the Saviour’s likeness true,

Or with his love so deep imbrue

Man’s sullen heart and gross,—

“Jesu, do thou my soul receive;

Jesu, do thou my foes forgive”:

He who would learn that prayer must live

Under the holy cross.

He, though he seem on earth to move,

Must glide in air like gentle dove,

From yon unclouded depths above

Must draw his purer breath;

Till men behold his angel face

All radiant with celestial grace,

Martyr all o’er, and meet to trace

The lines of Jesus’ death.