To Damascus [poem by Henry Kendall]

[Editor: This poem by Henry Kendall was published in Leaves from Australian Forests (1869).]

To Damascus.

Where the sinister sun of the Syrians beat
On the brittle bright stubble,
And the camels fell back from the swords of the heat,
Came Saul with a fire in the soles of his feet,
And a forehead of trouble.

And terrified faces to left and to right,
Before and behind him,
Fled away with the speed of a maddening fright,
To the cloughs of the bat, and the chasms of night,
Each hoping the zealot would fail in his flight
To find him and bind him.

For, behold you, the strong man of Tarsus came down
With breathings of slaughter,
From the priests of the city, the chiefs of the town,
(The lords with the sword, and the sires with the gown),
To harry the Christians, and trample, and drown,
And waste them like water.

He was ever a fighter, this son of the Jews —
A fighter in earnest;
And the Lord took delight in the strength of his thews,
For He knew he was one of the few He could choose
To fight out His battles and carry His news
Of a marvellous Truth through the dark, and the dews,
And the desert-lands furnaced!

He knew he was one of the few He could take
For His Mission supernal;
Whose feet would not falter, whose limbs would not ache,
Through the waterless lands of the thorn and the snake,
And the ways of the wild — bearing up for the sake
Of a Beauty eternal.

And therefore the road to Damascus was burned
With a swift, sudden brightness;
While Saul, with his face in the bitter dust, learned
Of the sin which he did, ere he tumbled, and turned
Aghast at God’s whiteness!

Of the sin which he did, ere he covered his head
From the strange revelation.
But, thereafter, you know of the life that he led;
How he preached to the peoples, and suffered, and sped
With the wonderful words which his Master had said,
From nation to nation.

Now would we be like him, who suffer and see,
If the Chooser should choose us!
For I tell you, brave brothers, whoever you be,
It is right, till all learn to look further, and see,
That our Master should use us!

It is right, till all learn to discover and class,
That our Master should task us:
For now we may judge of the Truth through a glass;
And the road over which they must evermore pass,
Who would think for the many, and fight for the mass,
Is the road to Damascus.



Source:
Henry Kendall, Leaves from Australian Forests, Melbourne: George Robertson, 1869, pages 42-43

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