Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IV. The Higher Life
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IV. The Higher Life.  1904.
 
VI. Human Experience
The Sifting of Peter
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)
 
A Folk-Song

   “Behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.”—LUKE xxii. 31.

IN Saint Luke’s Gospel we are told
How Peter in the days of old
          Was sifted;
And now, though ages intervene,
Sin is the same, while time and scene        5
          Are shifted.
 
Satan desires us, great and small,
As wheat, to sift us, and we all
          Are tempted;
Not one, however rich or great,        10
Is by his station or estate
          Exempted.
 
No house so safely guarded is
But he, by some device of his,
          Can enter;        15
No heart hath armor so complete
But he can pierce with arrows fleet
          Its centre.
 
For all at last the cock will crow
Who hear the warning voice, but go        20
          Unheeding,
Till thrice and more they have denied
The Man of Sorrows, crucified
          And bleeding.
 
One look of that pale suffering face        25
Will make us feel the deep disgrace
          Of weakness;
We shall be sifted till the strength
Of self-conceit be changed at length
          To meekness.        30
 
Wounds of the soul, though healed, will ache;
The reddening scars remain, and make
          Confession;
Lost innocence returns no more;
We are not what we were before        35
          Transgression.
 
But noble souls, through dust and heat,
Rise from disaster and defeat
          The stronger,
And conscious still of the divine        40
Within them, lie on earth supine
          No longer.
 
 
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