[Editor: This poem by “R.G.S.” — a pseudonym of John Neilson (1844-1922) — was published in The Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA), 1 March 1879.]
Via Dolorosa! Street of woe
Path of sorrow, long years ago;
Bearing His cross o’er thy flinty, road,
This is the path that the Master trod,
Bearing our burden of sin and shame.
Via Dolorosa! how meet thy name.
Via Dolorosa! Thy path still lies,
Up to the Mount of the sacrifice;
He passed along, to the slaughter led;
Who still’d the tempest, who raised the dead.
Scourged and bound, that we might go free,
Via Dolorosa He trod for me.
He turned him round and His glance it swept,
Back o’er the throng, and the women that wept;
His friends were fled, His followers gone,
But the love of women still followed him on.
He said, while their tears were falling free,
“Daughters of Salem, weep not for me.
“Weep not for me, ye sorrowing ones,
But weep for yourselves, and the days come;
When the pitiless sword shall awake to kill,
In vain shall ye call on the rocks and hills,
To shield from the wrath that soon shall be,
Daughters of Salem, weep not for me.”
For He saw through the mists of the coming years,
Where bright with the sheen of the Roman spears,
The hosts that encircled the leaguered town,
And the ruined walls that were crumbling down,
And the deafening roar of the battle’s din,
Where Titus was pouring his legions in.
How they reap the fruits of that bitter hour
When they cried, “Be his blood on us and ours,”
For “famine and death hold court and state,
And ruin stalked through their empty gates;”
And the Temple is sheeted in twining flame,
Like some vast sacrifice offered in vain.
Now Israel scattered on every coast,
Shall mourn for Zion, the loved, the lost:
Thy sons and thy daughters everyone,
Scattered and fallen, dispersed and gone,
As they weep o’er the glories of bygone days,
To the land of the morning shall turn their gaze.
Via Dolorosa! Thy weary road,
Through paved with sorrow, leads up to God;
Oh! could thy walls on the trembling air
Awaken the echoes imprisoned there,
Since the Moslem flag o’er thy ramparts hung,
And Omar’s sword on thy proud gates rung,
Here often lies mingled in hostile ranks,
Paynim and Moslem and mail-clad Frank,
By turns victorious, by turns subdued,
Till the earth has grown weary with crying for blood.
But thy feet-worn stones still mark the road,
That echoed the steps of the Son of God.
But yet, though the night is dark and long,
O Daughter of Zion awake thy song;
The helpers are come for to set thee free,
They stand on the mountains and call to thee;
And the eastern gates of the morning bright
Are barred with the lines of the coming light.
The messenger comes, and the tidings bring,
“Prepare the way for the Eastern kings;
From the land of the sunrisings see they come,
Now Via Dolorosa thy path is won
And the ships of the Gentiles from o’er the foam,
Are bringing the wanderers of Israel home!”
And the rose shall bloom in the desert sand,
When the Lord shall smile on His ancient land;
Then laughing plenty shall fill her horn,
And thy land no more shall be called forlorn,
But the hills and vales shall with gladness ring,
’Neath the sceptre of Israel’s Eternal King.
Thy banished ones He will gather again,
From the summer isles of the distant main;
To that welcome call shall thy children rise,
’Neath the aurole lights of the northern skies;
And war shall no longer men’s thoughts employ,
When Via Dolorosa’s a path of joy.
The Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA), 1 March 1879, p. 4
din = a loud noise which continues for a significant amount of time, especially an unpleasant noise
He = in a religious context, and capitalized, a reference to God or Jesus Christ
His = in a religious context, and capitalized, a reference to Jesus Christ (it can also be a reference to God in Heaven)
horn = a container or vessel, made from the horn of an animal, which can be filled with drink, food, or goods
Israel’s Eternal King = Jesus Christ
Lord = in a religious context, and capitalized, a reference to God or Jesus Christ
main = the high sea, the open ocean
Master = in a religious context, and capitalized, a reference to Jesus Christ or God
meet = (archaic) suitable, fit, or proper; also, something having the proper dimensions, or being made to fit; can also mean mild or gentle
Moslem = an alternative spelling of “Muslim” (an adherent of the Islamic religion; a believer in Islam)
’neath = (vernacular) beneath
o’er = (archaic) over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)
Son of God = Jesus Christ
still’d = (vernacular) stilled
thee = (archaic) you
thy = (archaic) your
Titus = Titus Caesar Vespasianus (39 AD – 81 AD), Roman emperor (79 AD – 81 AD)
vale = valley
via = (latin) road, street (especially referring to a highway or main road)
Via Dolorosa = the route traditionally believed to have been taken by Jesus Christ in Jerusalem on his way to his crucifixion on the Hill of Calvary
See: “Via Dolorosa”, Wikipedia
ye = (archaic; dialectal) you (still in use in some places, e.g. in Cornwall, Ireland, Newfoundland, and Northern England; it can used as either the singular or plural form of “you”, although the plural form is the more common usage)