Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE CROWN OF THORNS, by JESSE WILLIS JEFFERIS

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE CROWN OF THORNS, by                    
First Line: What recompense is theirs who, scorning gain and glory
Last Line: A wreath ineffable above his cross behold!
Subject(s): Art & Artists; Composers; Crowns; Dante Alighieri (1265-1321); Egypt; Galileo (1564-1642); Jesus Christ; Love; Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564); Poetry & Poets; Socrates (470-399 B.c.); Sphinx; Thorns; Galileo Galilei

What recompense is theirs who, scorning gain and glory,
Engrave the finer features of a nobler race;
The record of whose dreams, a love-illumined story,
Upon the scrolls of Time eyes dimmed with tears shall trace?

To know their rich reward, read lives of martyrs lowly,
Who dying hear the harsh anathemas of men;
Ask sculptor, painter, poet, mid their travail holy,
Heroic souls that wield the chisel, brush and pen,

A heedless world ignores their right to well-earned treasure, --
Their meed of food and raiment, houses, lands and gold;
The guerdon earth bestows, oft in unstinted measure,
Is man's ingratitude as they grow poor and old.

Do they in death behold belated garlands gleaming,
Discarnate haste to seek some soul-inviting shore,
Whose never-setting sun is Love's pure radiance beaming
Benignly on the promised mansions evermore?

Roam through the winter's woods and ask old Boreas bitter
If frost-killed leaves return to broken branches bare;
Learn why the gaunt she-wolf among her hungry litter
With their slain sire shall ne'er his bleeding booty share.

Muse with the stricken maiden, whose dead lover lieth
In foreign trenches by hell's ruthless havoc torn;
Beseech the grief-bowed mother as she daily crieth
Why o'er an empty cradle she should vainly mourn.

And when no light, no hope, or answer thou canst muster
From Nature's mighty heart or from the mind of man;
When silent sits the Sphinx, stone-deaf to earthly bluster,
Assured no human brain can grasp the Builder's plan:

Ask Him who heard the stones on Stephen's body raining,
Who let the bigots compass Galileo's woe;
Who saw a Socrates the bitter death-cup draining,
Who hindered not the hand that laid a Lincoln low.

Ask why the loftiest spirits oft lose all in serving,
Rejected by the thankless age which owes them most;
Condemned, imprisoned, tortured, yet with wills unswerving,
Before our vision looms the valiant martyred host!

From flaming fagots see their spectral forms arising:
Savonarola, Bruno, Latimer who gave
Their lives for Truth; self-seeking, sordid aims despising,
Who saving others had no thought themselves to save.

Composers, artists, authors through our fancy wending,
The passing centuries a throng immortal yield:
A banished Dante man's ingratitude transcending,
A Mozart's spirit fleeing from a potter's field;

A Michelangelo with art celestial carving,
Millet arisen from a night of tragic years --
What radiant beauty flowers from souls of artists starving;
What heaven-wrought pearls the Maker wring from human tears! . . .

Flinch not, soul-builders, Truth at last the way revealeth
With rays supernal, such as blinded doubting Saul:
The mystic Book of Life no mortal man unsealeth
Unless denying self for Truth he giveth all.

Christ had His grim reward Who, scorning gain and glory,
Engraved the finer features of a nobler race;
He had His crown of thorns, whose love-illumined story
Upon the scrolls of Time eyes dimmed with tears shall trace.

No well-earned meed of worldy wealth had He to measure, --
No costly raiment, houses, lands or jingling gold;
Yet myriads His gentle life and teachings treasure;
A wreath ineffable above His cross behold!

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