Dreaming I slept. Three crosses stood
High in the gloomy air;
One bore a thief, and one the Good;
The other waited bare.
- soldier came up to the place, And took me for the third;
My eyes they sought the Master's face,
My will the Master's word.
He bent his head; I took the sign,
And gave the error way;
Gesture nor look nor word of mine
The secret should betray.
The soldier from the cross's foot
Turned. I stood waiting there:
That grim, expectant tree, for fruit
My dying form must bear.
Up rose the steaming mists of doubt
And chilled both heart and brain;
They shut the world of vision out,
And fear saw only pain.
"Ah me, my hands! the hammer's blow!
The nails that rend and pierce!
The shock may stun, but, slow and slow,
The torture will grow fierce."
"Alas, the awful fight with death!
The hours to hang and die!
The thirsting gasp for common breath!
The weakness that would cry!"
My soul returned: "A faintness soon
Will shroud thee in its fold;
The hours will bring the fearful noon;
'Twill pass--and thou art cold."
"'Tis his to care that thou endure,
To curb or loose the pain;
With bleeding hands hang on thy cure--
It shall not be in vain."
But, ah, the will, which thus could quail,
Might yield--oh, horror drear!
Then, more than love, the fear to fail
Kept down the other fear.
- stood, nor moved. But inward strife The bonds of slumber broke:
Oh! had I fled, and lost the life
Of which the Master spoke?