S. Elizabeth's Leper

A poem by William Arthur Dunkerley

"My lord, there came unto the gate
One, in such pitiful estate,
So all forlorn and desolate,
Ill-fed, ill-clad, of ills compact;
A leper too,--his poor flesh wracked
And dead, his very bones infect;
Of all God's sons none so abject.
I could not, on the Lord's own day,
Turn such a stricken one away.
In pity him I took, and fed,
And happed him in our royal bed."

"A leper!--in our bed!--Nay then,
My Queen, thy charities do pass
The bounds of sense at times! A bane
On such unwholesome tenderness!
Dost nothing owe to him who shares
Thy couch, and suffers by thy cares?
He could have slept upon the floor,
And left you still his creditor.
A leper!--in my bed!--God's truth!
Out upon such outrageous ruth!"

He strode in anger towards the bed,
And lo!--
The Christ, with thorn-crowned head,
Lay there in sweet sleep pillowed.

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