To Peter by night the faithfullest came
And said, "We appeal to thee!
The life of the Church is in thy life;
We pray thee to rise and flee.
"For the tyrant's hand is red with blood,
And his arm is heavy with power;
Thy head, the head of the Church, will fall
If thou tarry in Rome an hour."
Through the sleeping town St. Peter passed
To the wide Campagna plain;
In the starry light of the Alban night
He drew free breath again:
When across his path an awful form
In luminous glory stood;
His thorn-crowned brow, His hands and feet,
Were wet with immortal blood.
The godlike sorrow which filled His eyes
Seemed changed to a godlike wrath
As they turned on Peter, who cried aloud,
And sank to his knees in the path.
"Lord of my life, my love, my soul!
Say, what wilt Thou with me?"
A voice replied, "I go to Rome
To be crucified for thee."
The Apostle sprang, all flushed, to his feet, -
The vision had passed away;
The light still lay on the dewy plain,
But the sky in the east was gray.
To the city walls St. Peter turned,
And his heart in his breast grew fire;
In every vein the hot blood burned
With the strength of one high desire.
And sturdily back he marched to his death
Of terrible pain and shame;
And never a shade of fear again
To the stout Apostle came.