After An Old Legend by George MacDonald

The monk was praying in his cell,
And he did pray full sore;
He had been praying on his knees
For two long hours and more.

And in the midst, and suddenly,
He felt his eyes ope wide;
And he lifted not his head, but saw
A man’s feet him beside.

And almost to his feet there reached
A garment strangely knit;
Some woman’s fingers, ages agone,
Had trembled, in making it.

The monk’s eyes went up the garment,
Until a hand they spied;
A cut from a chisel was on it,
And another scar beside.

Then his eyes sprang to the face
With a single thirsty bound;
‘Twas He, and he nigh had fainted;
His eyes had the Master found.

On his ear fell the convent bell,
That told him the poor did wait
For his hand to divide the daily bread,
All at the convent-gate.

And a storm of thoughts within him
Blew hither and thither long;
And the bell kept calling all the time
With its iron merciless tongue.

He looked in the Master’s eyes,
And he sprang to his feet in strength:
“Though I find him not when I come back,
I shall find him the more at length.”

He went, and he fed the poor,
All at the convent-gate;
And like one bereft, with heavy feet
Went back to be desolate.

He stood by the door, unwilling
To see the cell so bare;
He opened the door, and lo!
The Master was standing there.

“I have waited for thee, because
The poor had not to wait;
And I stood beside thee all the time,
In the crowd at the convent-gate.”

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* * * * *

But it seems to me, though the story
Sayeth no word of this,
If the monk had stayed, the Lord would have stayed,
Nor crushed that heart of his.

For out of the far-off times
A word sounds tenderly:
“The poor ye have always with you,
And ye have not always me.”

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