There was a man who feared his death

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There was a man who feared his death
Who nursed each moment as his last ,
Who breathed but to begrudge each breath ,
And passed life mourning that life passed .

Love stormed his heart and cast out fear :
Wild with the ecstasy of life
He snatched at joy : within a year
Death chose to rob him of his wife .

Clutching what fragile hope remained ,
He made their newborn son his joy :
Before the seventh summer waned ,
Death chose to rob him of the boy .

He cursed the powers of heaven and earth ,
Beyond , men feared , his own forgiving :
Then , moved by a satanic mirth ,
He set himself to save the living .

His thought was not to purchase fame ;
Yet some their benefactor guessed :
In ward and theatre his name
Whispered by all , by all was blest .

He felt his bitter humour fade ,
As long years came and long years passed :
His loveless gifts , in anger made ,
Achieved true charity at last .

The more he learned to value man
Death still the less would he forgive ,
And steadily the hourglass ran
Till he had but one hour to live .
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Friends begged him to repent his pride ,
Take God’s love and be reconciled :
“God is not loving , ” he replied
What love was shown my wife and child ? ”

Repulsed , they knelt , and mercy prayed
That God his sinful soul might show :
While he , resentful of their aid ,
Prepared to face his mortal foe .

But as he tossed upon the bed ,
A boy came softly to his side :
“Sir , you have far to go , ” he said ,
“And I am sent to be your guide . ”

All wrongs forgotten , he again
Saw what he most desired to see :
He followed , and the path lay plain
To lead him where he longed to be .

The watchers saw no envoy come ,
But sighed to see their friend depart :
Some said , “He had no faith ,” and some
“Yet he was great of heart .”

27th May 1952