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

The Centurion’s Faith

Alan Brodrick


A SOLDIER with his hand upon the rein—

A war-horse flinging foam-flakes on the air—

A soldier on his knees in deadly pain,

From sunburnt lips a wildly ringing prayer!

“My servant, Lord! my servant, but a slave!

With none to spring between him and his death,

I cannot stand by powerless to save;

I cannot watch the torture of his breath.

“Poor fool, at times he takes my hard rough hand

And kisses it, and calls me ‘master, dear,’

Till I, who’ve fought for Rome in ev’ry land,

Am troubled with the weakness of a tear.

“How well I can remember the first hour,

When galloping across the morning plain,

Wet with the tear-drops of an angry show’r,

I heard a shriek rise shrill, and die again.

“Mysterious pity pulsed along my blood,

I thunder’d on the echo of that cry,

A crowd of brutal faces laughing stood

Around a slave in his death-agony.

“I smote the smiter—hurl’d the mob aside,

To right and left I swung mine iron mace;

One instant, and his thongs were all untied,

His dark eyes pleading mercy in my face.

“My Lord, what I have been God only knows,

A soldier bred in camp and battle-field,

My music the fierce war-cry of Rome’s foes,

My friends an honest heart and trusty shield.

“I do not now profess to be a saint:

All the sad story of my reckless youth,

O’er which my manhood sickens deadly faint,

Is read by one whom Israel calleth Truth,

“O Lord! I tell Thee all about this slave,

Because I read men’s faces, and I see

That thou art tender, true of heart, and brave,

And crown’d with suff’ring’s nameless majesty.

“In many ways I have offended God,

My soul is well nigh broken with its shame,

Yet never on the down-cast have I trod;

Most sinful else, in this I have no blame.

“O Lord! I know full well that Thou canst see

Why I should love the simple slave I saved;

Thou wouldst have loved him for his misery,

A greater danger for him wouldst have braved.

“And is it wonder I do love him still,

When he is dying with no friend but me,

Babbling in dreams of some far palm-fringed hill,

Some cool lagoon beyond a sultry sea?

“My Lord, death might have leapt and struck me down:

I do not fear him, cringer to the strong

And tyrant o’er the weak—none fear his frown

Save he whose life is built upon the wrong.”

There was such sudden silence in the street,

You heard the lazy ripple on the beach;

The soldier still was kneeling at His feet,

The burden of his sorrow choking speech.

“I will come and heal him,” said the Lord;

A murmur stole amid the list’ning crowd;

The soldier sprang up,—“Lord, say in a word—

“I am not worthy,”—then the strong man bow’d.

And fell down on the pavement with a groan,

His spirit stricken by its stormy grief;

The sneering mob swept on, and then alone

The smitten heart with Jesus found relief.

Ah! brother, sister, in life’s crowded street,

What better need there is that you and I

Should fall in love and sorrow at those feet,

And lift once more our supplicating cry.

O Lord! I am not worthy thou shouldst come

Beneath my roof, too foul for thy pure eyes;

Yet there’s a dying servant in my home,

Lord, speak—I am not worthy—or he dies.