Domine, Quo Vadis ?*

There stands in the old Appian way,1
Two miles without the Roman wall,2
A little ancient church, and grey :3
Long may it moulder not, nor fall !4
There hangs a legend on the name5
One reverential thought may claim.6
’Tis written of that fiery time,7
When all the angered evil powers8
Leagued against Christ for wrath and crime,9
How Peter left the accursèd towers,10
Passing from out the guilty street,11
And shook the red dust from his feet.12
Sole pilgrim else in that lone road,13
Suddenly he was ’ware of one14
Who toiled beneath a weary load,15
Bareheaded in the beating sun,16
Pale with long watches, and forespent17
With harm and evil accident.18
Under a cross His weak limbs bow.19
Scarcely His sinking strength avails.20
A crown of thorns is on His brow,21
And in His hands the print of nails.22
So friendless and alone in shame,23
One like the Man of Sorrows came.24
Read in her eyes who gave thee birth,25
That loving, tender, sad rebuke ;26
Then learn no mother on this earth,27
How dear soever, shaped a look28
So sweet, so sad, so pure as now29
Came from beneath that holy brow.30
And deeply Peter’s heart it pierced,31
Once had he seen that look before ;32
And even now, as at the first,33
It touched, it smote him to the core.34
Bowing his head, no word save three35
He spake— “ Quo vadis, Domine ?”36

* See Mrs Jameson’s Sacred and Legendary Art, p. 180.
Then as he looked up from the ground,37
His Saviour made him answer due38
My son, to Rome I go thorn-crowned,39
There to be crucified anew ;40
Since he to whom I gave my sheep41
Leaves them for other men to keep.”42
Then the saint’s eyes grew dim with tears.43
He knelt his Master’s feet to kiss44
I vexed my heart with faithless fears,45
Pardon thy servant, Lord, for this.”46
Then rising up—but none was there47
No voice, no sound, in earth or air.48
Straightway his footsteps he retraced,49
As one who hath a work to do.50
Back through the gates he passed with haste,51
Silent, alone, and full in view ;52
And lay forsaken, save of One,53
In dungeon deep ere set of sun.54
Then he, who once, apart from ill,55
Nor taught the depth of human tears,56
Girded himself and walked at will,57
As one rejoicing in the years,58
Girded of others, scorned and slain,59
Passed heavenward through the gates of pain.60
If any bear a heart within,61
Well may these walls be more than stone,62
And breathe of peace and pardoned sin63
To him who grieveth all alone.64
Return, faint heart, and strive thy strife ;65
Fight, conquer, grasp the crown of life.66