Verse > Anthologies > W. Garrett Horder, ed. > The Poets’ Bible: New Testament
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W. Garrett Horder, comp.  The Poets’ Bible: New Testament.  1895.
 
The Woman That Was a Sinner
George MacDonald (1824–1905)
 
HIS 1 face, his words, her heart awoke;
  Awoke her slumbering truth.
She judged him well; her bonds she broke,
  And fled to him for ruth.
 
With tears she washed his weary feet;        5
  She wiped them with her hair.
Her kisses—call them not unmeet,
  When they were welcome there.
 
What saint a richer crown to throw,
  Could love’s ambition teach?        10
Her eyes, her lips, her hair down go,
  In love’s despair of speech.
 
His holy manhood’s perfect worth
  Owns her a woman still;
It is impossible henceforth        15
  For her to stoop to ill.
 
Her to herself his words restore,
  The radiance to the day;
A horror to herself no more,
  Nor yet a castaway!        20
 
And so, in kisses, ointment, tears,
  And outspread lavish hair,
Love, shame, and hopes, and griefs, and fears,
  Mingle in worship rare.
 
Mary, thy hair thou didst not spread        25
  About the holy feet;
Didst only bless the holy head
  With spikenard’s ointment meet.
 
Or if thou didst, as some would hold—
  Thy heart the lesson caught,        30
The abandonment so humble—bold,
  From her whom pardon taught.
 
And if thy hair thou too didst wind
  The holy feet around,
Such plenteous tears thou couldst not find        35
  As this sad woman found.
 
Let her in grief the first be read—
  And love, the woful sweet!
Be thou content to bless his head,
  Let this one crown his feet.        40
 
Simon, her kisses will not soil;
  Her tears are pure as rain;
Eye not her hair’s untwisted coil,
  Baptised in pardoning pain.
 
For God hath pardoned all her much,        45
  Her iron bands have burst;
Her love could never have been such
  Had not his love been first.
 
But oh! rejoice, ye sisters pure,
  Who hardly know her case:        50
There is no sin but has its cure,
  Its all-consuming grace.
 
He did not leave her soul in hell,
  ’Mong shards the silver dove,
But raised her pure that she might tell        55
  Her sisters how to love.
 
She gave him all your best love can.
  Was he despised and sad?—
Yes; and yet never mighty man
  Such perfect homage had.        60
 
Jesus, by whose forgiveness sweet
  Her love grew so intense,
We, sinners all, come round Thy feet—
  Lord, make no difference.
 
Note 1. All these poems refer to the same woman. The Editor expresses no opinion on the question whether she was Mary Magdalen or not. [back]
 
 
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