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  The Vision of St. Peter  

 

To Peter by night the faithfullest came
    And said, "We appeal to thee!
The life of the Church is in thy life;
    We pray thee to rise and flee.

"For the tyrant's hand is red with blood,
    And his arm is heavy with power;
Thy head, the head of the Church, will fall,
    If thou tarry in Rome an hour."

Through the sleeping town St. Peter passed
    To the wide Campagna plain;
In the starry light of the Alban night
    He drew free breath again:

When across his path an awful form
    In luminous glory stood;
His thorn-crowned brow, His hands and feet,
    Were wet with immortal blood.

The godlike sorrow which filled His eyes
    Seemed changed to a godlike wrath,
As they turned on Peter, who cried aloud,
    And sank to his knees in the path.

"Lord of my life, my love, my soul!
    Say, what wilt Thou with me?"
A voice replied, "I go to Rome
    To be crucified for thee."

The apostle sprang, all flushed, to his feet,--
    The vision had passed away;
The light still lay on the dewy plain,
    But the sky in the east was gray.

To the city walls St. Peter turned,
    And his heart in his breast grew fire;
In every vein the hot blood burned
    With the strength of one high desire.

And sturdily back he marched to his death
    Of terrible pain and shame;
And never a shade of fear again
    To the stout apostle came.

       - John Hay


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