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

The Woman That Was a Sinner

George MacDonald (1824–1905)

HIS face, his words, her heart awoke;

Awoke her slumbering truth.

She judged him well; her bonds she broke,

And fled to him for ruth.

With tears she washed his weary feet;

She wiped them with her hair.

Her kisses—call them not unmeet,

When they were welcome there.

What saint a richer crown to throw,

Could love’s ambition teach?

Her eyes, her lips, her hair down go,

In love’s despair of speech.

His holy manhood’s perfect worth

Owns her a woman still;

It is impossible henceforth

For her to stoop to ill.

Her to herself his words restore,

The radiance to the day;

A horror to herself no more,

Nor yet a castaway!

And so, in kisses, ointment, tears,

And outspread lavish hair,

Love, shame, and hopes, and griefs, and fears,

Mingle in worship rare.

Mary, thy hair thou didst not spread

About the holy feet;

Didst only bless the holy head

With spikenard’s ointment meet.

Or if thou didst, as some would hold—

Thy heart the lesson caught,

The abandonment so humble—bold,

From her whom pardon taught.

And if thy hair thou too didst wind

The holy feet around,

Such plenteous tears thou couldst not find

As this sad woman found.

Let her in grief the first be read—

And love, the woful sweet!

Be thou content to bless his head,

Let this one crown his feet.

Simon, her kisses will not soil;

Her tears are pure as rain;

Eye not her hair’s untwisted coil,

Baptised in pardoning pain.

For God hath pardoned all her much,

Her iron bands have burst;

Her love could never have been such

Had not his love been first.

But oh! rejoice, ye sisters pure,

Who hardly know her case:

There is no sin but has its cure,

Its all-consuming grace.

He did not leave her soul in hell,

’Mong shards the silver dove,

But raised her pure that she might tell

Her sisters how to love.

She gave him all your best love can.

Was he despised and sad?—

Yes; and yet never mighty man

Such perfect homage had.

Jesus, by whose forgiveness sweet

Her love grew so intense,

We, sinners all, come round Thy feet—

Lord, make no difference.