First World War Poetry Digital Archive

In The Wilderness


He, of his gentleness, Thirsting and hungering Walked in the wilderness; Soft words of grace he spoke Unto lost desert-folk That listened wondering. He heard the bittern call From ruined palace-wall, Answered him brotherly; He held communion With the she-pelican Of lonely piety. Basilisk, cockatrice, Flocked to his homilies, With mail of dread device, With monstrous barbèd stings, With eager dragon-eyes; Great bats on leathern wings And old, blind, broken things Mean in their miseries. Then ever with him went, Of all his wanderings Comrade, with ragged coat, Gaunt ribs---poor innocent--- Bleeding foot, burning throat, The guileless young scapegoat: For forty nights and days Followed in Jesus' ways, Sure guard behind him kept, Tears like a lover wept.

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