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

The Fire by the Sea

Alice Cary (1820–1871)

THERE were seven fishers, with their nets in their hands,

And they walked and talked by the seaside sands;

Yet sweet as the sweet dew-fall

The words they spake, though they spake so low,

Across the long, dim centuries flow,

And we know them, one and all—

Ay! know them and love them all.

Seven sad men in the days of old,

And one was gentle and one was bold,

And they walked with downward eyes;

The bold was Peter, the gentle was John,

And they all were sad, for the Lord was gone,

And they knew not if he would rise,—

Knew not if the dead would rise.

The live-long night, till the moon went out

In the drowning waters, they beat about;

Beat slow through the fog their way;

And the sails drooped down with wringing wet,

And no man drew but an empty net,

And now ’twas the break of the day,—

The great, glad, break of the day.

“Cast in your nets on the other side!”

(’Twas Jesus speaking across the tide;)

And they cast and were dragging hard;

But that disciple whom Jesus loved

Cried straightway out, for his heart was moved,

“It is our risen Lord,—

Our master, and our Lord!”

Then Simon, girding his fisher’s coat,

Went over the nets and out of the boat,—

Ay! first of them all was he;

Repenting sore the denial past,

He feared no longer his heart to cast

Like an anchor into the sea,—

Down deep in the hungry sea.

And the others, through the mists so dim,

In a little ship came after him,

Dragging their net through the tide;

And when they had gotten close to the land

They saw a fire of coals on the sand,

And, with his arms of love so wide,

Jesus, the crucified!

’Tis long, and long, and long ago

Since the rosy lights began to flow

O’er the hills of Galilee;

And with eager eyes and lifted hands

The seven fishers saw on the sands

The fire of coals by the sea,—

On the wet, wild sands by the sea.

’Tis long ago, yet faith in our souls

Is kindled just by that fire of coals

That streamed o’er the mists of the sea;

Where Peter, girding his fisher’s coat,

Went over the nets and out of the boat,

To answer, “Lov’st thou Me?”

Thrice over, “Lov’st thou Me?”