5 MAY 1894, Page 15


" DOMINE, QUO VADIS ? "* A. LEGEND OF THE EARLY CHURCH. [DARKENING the azure roof of Nero's world, From smouldering Rome the smoke of ruin curled; And the fierce populace went clamouring ; " These Christian dogs, 'tis they have done this thing !" So to the wild wolf Hate were sacrificed The panting, huddled flock whose crime was Christ.

Now Peter lodged in Rome, and rose each morn Looking to be ere night in sunder torn By those blind hands that with inebriate zeal Burned the strong Saints, or broke them on the wheel, 'Or flung them to the lions to make mirth For dames that ruled the lords that ruled the earth.

And unto him, their towering rocky hold, Repaired those sheep of the Good Shepherd's fold In whose white fleece as yet no blood or foam 'Bare witness to the ravening fangs of Rome.

"More light, more cheap," they cried, " we hold our lives Than chaff the flail or dust the whirlwind drives : As chaff they are winnowed and as dust are blown ; Nay, they are nought; but priceless is thine own.

Not in you streaming shambles must thou die; We counsel, we entreat, we charge thee, fly !"

And Peter answered : "Nay, my place is here ; Through the dread storm, this ship of Christ I steer.

(Blind is the tempest, deaf the roaring tide, And I, His pilot, at the helm abide."

Then one stood forth, the flashing of whose soul Znrayed his presence like an aureole.

Eager he spake ; his fellows, ere they heard, -Caught from his eyes the swift and leaping word. " Let us, His vines, be in the winepress trod, And poured a beverage for the lips of God ; 43r, ground as wheat of His eternal field, Bread for His table let our bodies yield. .Behold, the Church hath other use for thee ; Thy safety ie her own, and thou must flee. 'Ours be the glory at her call to die, But.quick and whole God needs His great ally." And Peter said : "Do lords of spear and shield 'Thus leave their hosts uncaptained on the field, And from some mount of prospect watch afar 'The havoc of the hurricane of war ?

Mt, if He wills it Nay, my task is plain,—

To serve, and to endure, and to remain. But weak I stand, and I beseech you all -Urge me no more, lest at a touch I fall."

There knelt a noble youth at Peter's feet, And like a viol's strings his voice was sweet. A suppliant angel might have pleaded so, 'Crowned with the splendour of some starry woe. He said: " My sire and brethren yesterday The heathen did with ghastly torments slay. Pain, like a worm, beneath their feet they trod.

EopyrIght, Maomillan and Co ,1891.

Their souls went up like incense unto God.

An offering richer yet, can Heaven require ?

0 live, and be my brethren and my sire." And Peter answered : " Son, there is small need That thou exhort me to the easier deed.

Rather I would that thou and these had lent Strength to uphold, not shatter, my intent.

Already my resolve is shaken sore.

I pray thee, if thou love me, say no more."

And even as he spake, be went apart, Somewhat to hide the brimming of his heart, Wherein a voice came flitting to and fro, That now said " Tarry !" and anon said " Go !" And louder every moment, " Go !" it cried, And " Tarry!" to a whisper sank, and died. And as a leaf when summer is o'erpast Hangs trembling ere it fall in some chance blast, So hung his trembling purpose and fell dead ; And he arose, and hurried forth, and fled, Darkness conniving, through the Capnan Gate, From all that heaven of love, that hell of hate, To the Campania glimmering wide and still, And strove to think he did his Master's will.

But spectral eyes and mocking tongues pursued, And with vague hands he fought a phantom brood. Doubts, like a swarm of gnats, o'erhung his flight, And "Lord," he prayed, " have I not done aright P Can I not, living, more avail for Thee Than whelmed in you red storm of agony ? The tempest, it shall pass, and I remain, Not from its fiery sickle saved in vain. Are there no seeds to sow, no desert lands Waiting the tillage of these eager hands, That I should beastlike 'neath the butcher fall, More fruitlessly than oxen from the stall? Is earth so easeful, is men's hate so sweet, Are thorns so welcome unto sleepless feet, Have death and heaven so feeble lures, that I, Choosing to live, should win rebuke thereby ? Not mine the dread of pain, the lust of bliss ! Master who judgest, have I done amiss?"

Lo, on the darkness brake a wandering ray : A vision flashed along the Appian Way. Divinely in the pagan night it shone— A mournful Face—a Figure hurrying on— Though haggard and dishevelled, frail and worn, A King, of David's lineage, crowned with thorn. " Lord, whither &rest P" Peter, wondering, cried. " To Rome," said Christ, " to be re-crucified."

Into the night the vision ebbed like breath ; And Peter tamed, and rushed on Rome and death.