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Alfred H. Miles, ed. The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century. 1907.

By Miscellaneous Poems. V. “A poor wayfaring man”

James Montgomery (1771–1854)


A POOR wayfaring man of grief

Hath often cross’d me on my way,

Who sued so humbly for relief,

That I could never answer, Nay:

I had not power to ask his name,

Whither he went, or whence he came,

Yet there was something in his eye

That won my love, I knew not why.

Once, when my scanty meal was spread,

He entered; not a word he spake

Just perishing for want of bread;

I gave him all; he bless’d it, brake,

And ate; but gave me part again:

Mine was an angel’s portion then;

For, while I fed with eager haste,

That crust was manna to my taste.

I spied him, where a fountain burst

Clear from the rock; his strength was gone;

The heedless water mocked his thirst,

He heard it, saw it hurrying on:

I ran to raise the sufferer up;

Thrice from the stream he drain’d my cup,

Dipt, and returned it running o’er;

I drank, and never thirsted more.

’Twas night; the floods were out; it blew

A winter hurricane aloof;

I heard his voice abroad, and flew

To bid him welcome to my roof;

I warmed, I clothed, I cheered my guest,

Laid him on my own couch to rest;

Then made the hearth my bed, and seem’d

In Eden’s garden while I dream’d.

Stript, wounded, beaten, nigh to death,

I found him by the highway side:

I roused his pulse, brought back his breath,

Revived his spirit, and supplied

Wine, oil, refreshment; he was healed;

I had myself a wound concealed;

But from that hour forgot the smart,

And peace bound up my broken heart.

In prison I saw him next, condemned

To meet a traitor’s death at morn;

The tide of lying tongues I stemmed,

And honoured him midst shame and scorn;

My friendship’s utmost zeal to try,

He ask’d, if I for him would die?

The flesh was weak, my blood ran chill;

But the free spirit cried, “I will.”

Then in a moment to my view

The stranger darted from disguise;

The tokens in His hands I knew,

My Saviour stood before mine eyes!

He spake; and my poor name He named:

“Of Me thou hast not been ashamed;

These deeds shall thy memorial be;

Fear not; thou didst them unto Me.”