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Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
 
An Early Christian
By Robert Barnabas Brough (1828–1860)
 
CHRISTIANS were on the earth ere Christ was born;
  His laws, not yet a code, were follow’d still
By sightless Pagans in the dark forlorn,
  Groping toward the light, as blind men will:
Thousands of years ago men dared to die        5
Loving their enemies—and wonder’d why!
 
Who that has read in Homer’s truthful page
  Of brave Achilles brooding o’er the corse
Of Hector sacrificed—less to his rage
  Than iron custom’s law, without remorse        10
Claiming revenge for mild Patroclus slain—
Can doubt he wish’d great Hector lived again?
 
Full half the tears he shed were Hector’s due,
  Whose noble soul he had to Hades sent.
Why—was Patroclus gainer, if they knew?        15
  Methinks I see Achilles in his tent
Beating his breast and twitching at his hair,
Wanting a few words only—the Lord’s Prayer!
 
And more for his than Priam’s sake I feel
  Rejoiced when I am told the good old man        20
Comes with his simple fatherly appeal
  For Hector’s body—pointing out a plan
Of kindliness, atonement, and of peace,
That in Achilles’ breast hate’s strife may cease.
 
What joy he must have felt to see a way        25
  To turn him from revenge’s irksome path;
Like a worn seaman who descries the day
  After a night-watch ’mid the tempest’s wrath.
Methinks I see him in his huge arms bear
Great Hector’s body, with admiring care,        30
 
And, chuckling to evade the sentries dull,
  Convey it thro’ the sleeping camp with glee,
With sense of lightness, new and wonderful,
  To grateful Priam’s car. ‘What can it be,’
—I hear him ask—‘thus makes my bosom glow,        35
Showing such weakness to a fallen foe?’
 
 
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