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Treasury of Sacred Song
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CLXXXVI

LOVE STRONG AS DEATH

A saint, to few but GOD well known,

Who seem'd in town to dwell alone:

With few but saints who e'er conversed,

His alms in secret who dispersed;

Whose virtues lay so out of view,

That Satan ne'er his saintship knew--

Such was the Saint to JESUS dear,

Who often made him visits here.

JESUS to Death commission gave,

To lay his body in the grave;--

Death to confederate Hell reveal'd

For whom his warrant next was seal'd.

Death and Hell out together went,

On the saint's endless ruin bent:

They both approaching his sick-bed,

His watchful Angel o'er his head

Brandish'd his bright angelic blade,

That neither could the saint invade.

His license Death began to plead:

'That,' said the Angel, 'you exceed;

For, when his dying Heaven design'd,

You should have left your hell behind--

Hell, which Heaven damns to strict restraint,

From troubling a departed saint.'

The Angel, with his two-edged fire,

Made the infernal Fiend retire;

'Your dart,' said he, 'now on him try;

In slumbers sweet you see him lie:

Truth says that Love as Death is strong,

To see the experiment I long--

Death! what your strength is, fully say,

And I'll his love against it weigh.'

Grim Death replied--'What lovers dare

Weak Love with this strong arm compare?

I, a crown'd king, this sceptre sway;

All living creatures me obey:

I daily, round the heavenly arch,

Arm'd with ten thousand terrors, march:

My darts I at my pleasure fling,

At statesman, hero, prelate, king.'

'Blest Enoch and Elias flew

To heavenly rest in spite of you:

Love over dangers, tortures, pains,

Invincible, the conquest gains;

Contemns you when you, fierce, appear,

And never feels what 'tis to fear.'

'I vanquish'd your incarnate GOD,

And on His grave triumphant trod:

And can weak Love my force withstand,

When JESUS own'd my conquering hand?'

'Twas Love, not you, made GOD to die,

That lovers might your darts defy;

He down His life was pleased to lay,

A ransom for man's guilt to pay.

'Death! when to lovers you draw nigh,

You're forced to lay your terrors by;

When warrants are for lovers sign'd,

You leave sting, sceptre, crown, behind:

Love eyes dear JESUS on the tree,

And from your tyranny is free.

You force exert on brittle clay,

Which has no power to disobey.

Love fights with lust, the world, and hell,

Has foes unnumber'd to repel;

Love runs through life a dangerous course,

And must at last take Heaven by force.

'On dust you, like the serpent, feed;

By Love the soul from dust is freed:

You, sin-born, seize the baser part,

Love keeps for GOD the heaven-born heart.

--Death! you are mortal!--you'll at last

Into the fiery lake be cast:

Love will, immortal, still abide,

Eternally beatified.'

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