Sunday Respite: “The Look” and “The Meaning of the Look” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The Saviour looked on Peter. Ay, no word,
No gesture of reproach; the Heavens serene
Though heavy with armed justice, did not lean
Their thunders that way: the forsaken Lord
Looked only, on the traitor. None record
What that look was, none guess; for those who have seen
Wronged lovers loving through a death-pang keen,
Or pale-cheeked martyrs smiling to a sword,
Have missed Jehovah at the judgment-call.
And Peter, from the height of blasphemy –
‘I never knew this man’- did quail and fall
As knowing straight That God; and turned free
And went out speechless from the face of all
And filled the silence, weeping bitterly.

I think that look of Christ might seem to say –
‘Thou Peter! art thou then a common stone
Which I at last must break my heart upon
For all God’s charge to his high angels may
Guard my foot better ? Did I yesterday
Wash thy feet, my beloved, that they should run
Quick to deny me ‘neath the morning sun ?
And do thy kisses, like the rest, betray ?
The cock crows coldly. – Go, and manifest
A late contrition, but no bootless fear!
For when thy final need is dreariest,
Thou shalt not be denied, as I am here;
My voice to God and angels shall attest,
Because I Know this man, let him be clear.’

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