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W. Garrett Horder, comp. The Poets’ Bible: New Testament. 1895.

“Depart from Me”

Edward Hayes Plumptre (1821–1891)

ALL through the long night’s mist and rain,

In open sea or near the shore,

They cast their nets, yet still in vain;

They found but failure evermore.

’Twas time to cleanse from tangled weed,

And lay them on the beach to dry:

When lo! in hour of utmost need,

They heard the voice of Jesus nigh.

They heard, and knew the gracious love

That once had made their cold hearts burn,

That told them of their home above,

And bade them to their Father turn.

They cast their nets again, and lo!

So large the haul of fish they take,

The meshes gape, and scarce they know

If they shall land them ere they break.

And then a chill of sudden fear,

As though the veil of sense were rent,

And they, frail men, were brought too near

The scope of some divine intent.

As if through midnight’s silent gloom

Should flash the lightning’s sudden blaze,

Or one who watch’d by dear friend’s tomb,

See spectral form through mist and haze.

Oh, could they bear that Presence dread,

Before whose keen and piercing sight

Lie bare the hearts of quick and dead,

The world’s great Teacher, Light of Light?

What wonder if from pallid lips

The cry bursts out, “Depart from me?”

Too bright that full apocalypse

For man’s sin-darkened eyes to see.

“Sin-stained am I, and Thou art pure;

Oh, turn Thy steps some other way;

How shall I dare Thy gaze endure?

How in Thy stainless Presence stay?”

Yet chiefly when unlocked for gains

Our skill-less, planless labours bless,

And we, for weary labour’s pains,

Reap the full harvest of success;

We wonder at the draught we take,

The latent powers that bud and grow;

Ah, can we dare our work forsake,

And follow where He bids us go?

“Yes, fear ye not,” so ran His speech;

“Fishers of men ye now must be,

Where’er the world’s wide waters reach,

By gliding stream or stormiest sea.”

So only can we hope restore,

So only conquer shame and fear,

And welcome, from the eternal shore,

The voice that tells “our Lord is near.”