[Editor: This poem by John Neilson (1844-1922) was published in The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic.), 20 April 1895.]
He lieth calm, and white, and very still,
The mountain rocks and trembles on its seat,
The dews of night the lily’s petals fill,
The city slumbers at His wounded feet;
The Roman soldier’s spear His side hath torn,
His hands are pierced, His brows are marred with thorn.
The night is long; the earthquake throes have rent
The rock-hewn graves, the dead have burst their bars;
They wonder forth in flowing cerement;
Their shadowy forms float upward to the stars,
While women’s wailings on the night arise;
But cold and pale the Galilean lies.
Is this the Christ of whom the seers foretold,
And herald angels sang on Bethel plains?
Who bade the dead arise? The blind behold?
Who [?] upon the billows’ foaming manes,
And [?] the red-winged lightning at His will?
Who said unto the tempest, “Peace; be still.”
The night is on the wane; the drowsy hours
Pass by on leaden wings. The dawn appears.
The warriors of the legion midst the flowers
Stand motionless, and lean upon their spears.
The Angel of the Lord at dawn of day
Stood by the tomb and rolled the stone away.
The Lord is risen indeed; let Earth rejoice;
All tribes and tongues take up the glad refrain.
The mountains echo back with gladsome voice
The deep-toned hallelujahs of the main.
The Conqueror comes to set the prisoner free!
Death shackles fall and Hell’s dark legions flee.
Oh! Thou didst drink the bitter cup that we
Might drink the healing water’s crystal wave;
Thy feet were nail’d to the cursed tree
That ours might stand upon the golden pave;
And passed the Gates of Death the lost to bring,
That so the Gates of Pearl might backward swing.
How long, oh Lord — how long? the cry ascends,
On careworn cheeks the burning tears are shed;
Though dews distil and rain of Heaven descends
The hungry generations cry for bread;
Still Famine stalks abroad and dull-eyed care
Wafts o’er the seas the message of despair.
Earth yet gives back the armed legion’s tread;
Still cities crumble in the earthquake’s path;
The cannon’s thunder shakes the sky o’erhead;
The sun goes down upon the nation’s wrath.
And faith is faint and low, and love grows cold,
When shall our eyes Thy reign on earth behold?
Lord, let Thine angel roll the stone away
From graves of buried hopes, and weary years
Give place to days of blessing and the lay
The reaper sings amidst the tass’led ears.
For cannon’s thunder and the battle drum
Let infants’ voices lisp “Thy kingdom come.”
The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic.), 20 April 1895, p. 741 (21st page of that issue)
Two missing words, in stanza III, which were illegible on the Trove site (sourced from a microfilmed copy) have been marked with a question mark in square brackets: [?]
abroad = all around; at large; broadly; widely; over a wide space
Bethel = in Biblical times, a small village located north of Jerusalem
See: “Bethel”, Wikipedia
bitter cup = a metaphor referring to the need for someone to do something which must be done, even though the consequence of doing it will be to bring about pain and suffering, or some other type of terrible cost (the idea being that one may need to endure great hardship, pain, or suffering to do something which is necessary); something which is both unpleasant and unavoidable (a task which must be done, despite the expected unsavory consequences; to drink from the bitter cup is to accept one’s fate); in Christian culture, the cup has been referred to as “the bitter cup of suffering”; the phrase “bitter cup” derives from the Bible (Matthew 26:39 and 26:42, Mark 14:36, and Luke 22:42) where, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asks God if he has to drink the cup (interpreted as his fatal responsibility for the sins of mankind), but says that he will do what God wants him to do (consequently, by submitting to being seized and crucified, Jesus submits to the will of God by sacrificing himself, in order to wash away the sins of mankind); the cup is also referred to in Matthew 20:22, Mark 10:38, and John 18:11 (the New Living Translation version of the Bible, in Mark 10:38, quotes Jesus as saying “Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?”); the “bitter cup” is also mentioned in the Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 11)
See: 1) “Matthew 26:39”, BibleRef.com
2) “Luke 22:42”, BibleRef.com
3) “Mark 10:38”, BibleRef.com
4) “What did Jesus mean when He said, ‘let this cup pass from me’? ”, Compelling Truth
5) G.G. Vandagriff, “Learning from the Symbolism of the Cup and the Garden”, Meridian Magazine, 20 March 2012
6) “Hebrews 10:10-12”, Bible Gateway [“sins are washed away”]
7) “3 Nephi 11” (Book of Mormon), The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
8) “Gethsemane”, Wikipedia
brows are marred with thorn = (in the context of Jesus) a reference to the crown of thorns placed upon the head of Jesus Christ at his crucifixion
cerement = a burial shroud or burial garment, a cloth used to wrap a deceased person; a cerecloth, a waxed waterproof cloth used for wrapping a corpse; any type of burial clothes or graveclothes
See: “cerement”, Wiktionary
the Conqueror = (in the context of the Bible or the Christian religion) a reference to God or Jesus Christ
didst = (archaic) did (second-person singular past tense of “do”); commonly used in conjunction with “thou” (e.g. “Whence didst thou come?”)
the Galilean = (in the context of the Bible or the Christian religion) Jesus Christ; distinct from “Galilean”: of or relating to Galilee or its people (Galilee is a region in northern Israel); a Christian (especially in the days of the Roman empire)
Gates of Pearl = the Gates of Heaven, also known as the Pearly Gates; in Christian culture, “the Pearly Gates” is an informal reference to the entrance to Heaven; in chapter 21 of Revelation (in the Bible) there is a reference to a new Jerusalem coming out of Heaven (21:2, 10), with its gates made out of pearl (21:21)
See: “Pearly gates”, Wikipedia
golden pave = the golden pavements of Heaven (regarding the concept of Heaven, “where the streets are paved with gold”); derived from the book of Revelation 21:21, in the Bible, which speaks of “a new heaven” (21:1), where “the street of the city was pure gold” (21:21)
hath = (archaic) has
His = in a religious context, and capitalized, a reference to God or Jesus Christ
lay = song, tune; ballad (can refer to ballads or narrative poems, as sung by medieval minstrels or bards)
lieth = (archaic) lies
Lord = in a religious context, and capitalized, a reference to God or Jesus Christ
main = the high sea, the open ocean
midst = amidst; of or in the middle of an area, group, position, etc.
nail’d = (vernacular) nailed
o’er = (archaic) over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)
o’erhead = (archaic) overhead
reaper = a representation of Death; a personification of Death, otherwise known as “the Grim Reaper”
rent = split, tear apart, cleave; past tense of “rend” (to tear or break in a violent manner)
tass’led = tasseled
thine = (archaic) yours (“thine”, meaning “yours”, is the more common usage); your (“thine”, meaning “your”, is usually placed before a word which begins with a vowel or a vowel sound, e.g. “To thine own self be true”)
Thine = Your (in a religious context, and capitalized, the word is used regarding God or Jesus Christ)
thou = (archaic) you (regarding a person as the subject in a sentence)
Thou = You (in a religious context, and capitalized, the word is used regarding God or Jesus Christ)
thy = (archaic) your
Thy = Your (in a religious context, and capitalized, the word is used regarding God or Jesus Christ)
warriors of the legion = (in the context of the Roman empire) Roman soldiers, Roman legionnaires