The world lies deep in darkness; but the night
Was deeper yet upon the highest hills,
And still the mountain-tops were veiled in mist,
When long and long ago a Voice began
That cried: "Arise and shine, thy light is come,
The day of God is risen on the earth!"
Then they that heard, uplooking steadfastly,
Beheld a wonder where the glory fell;
A single shaft of light from highest heaven
A central cross uplifted in the light,
Bearing a legend writ in many tongues:
"Behold" it saith, "the Ransom of the World."
O hearts of men, do ye not know the sign?
This is the ancient mystery of the earth,
The looming terror of the twilight time;
The only token known to hope or fear.
See, as the light creeps downward, it reveals
On every height the likeness of the cross;
Grand pinnacles that catch the earliest gleams
And fling them far adown into the dark.
The radiance falls on many a lifted face
Of that prophetic line which kept the faith--
Though many watchers died without the sight--
Long waiting for the Ransom of the World.
And yet who knows the meaning of the sign?
Know ye not, ye, who in your hearts have borne
The burden of a bound Humanity,
And shared its sacraments of blood and tears?
O soul of man, of thee the tale is told;
Thy story is the story of the cross,
Thy sacrifice the tragedy of time!
Still for the Worst the Best is crucified;
Wherever Man the Sufferer hath atoned
For Man the Sinner, see the conquering sign;
See triumph born of agony and shame
And say, "It is the Ransom of the World."
But, O my God, we are so slow to see!
We never read the words upon the scroll
Until the victim is unbound; we hail
The empty cross, but not the crucified;
And Christ himself were lifted up in vain
Had not the heavens withdrawn him from our sight
With us the martyrs wore no aureoles.
They die forsaken in the dark, and yet
I know the sufferers are the saviours, yea,
This surely is the Ransom of the World!
If we could see, O Lord, if we could see!
We worship toward the Vision, but our eyes
Are dazzled, there are tremblings in our praise;
"O Christ, the crown is thine, the cross is ours,
Thine is the glory, ours the mystery"!
Nay if we suffer with him we shall reign;
God does not mock us with the sacred sign;
This also is the Ransom of the World.
O Christ the dregs are bitter in the cup
That flowed for thee with sorrow's choicest wine
And sparkled in the light of heavenly joy,
For thee were greatest work and grandest pain,
For others the long weariness of life,
The deathliness of death; doubts and despairs
And no transifuration! Dare we say
Our sorrow is the Ransom of the World?
Listen, ye happy heavens! The groaning earth
Wearies for her redemption; hill to hill
Repeats the ancient promise, but beneath
The seething darkness cries continually
"How long, how long"? The cry of trampled hearts
Of stifled souls, uncounted and unnamed
But cast by millions like the balance-dust
To fill the measure of that monstrous price
So God makes up the Ransom of the World!
No more, no more! O thou most marrèd face
Bowed in the awful shadow of the Cross--
Shall the eternal ages comfort thee?
Or can there yet be pity enough in heaven
To weep for thee, thou miracle of woe,
Slain from the earth's foundation? Lord, how long?
How long shall love endure and evil mock,
And hell devour--forever? O my God,
How heavy is the Ransom of the World!