He treads alone the burning sand
Of the fiery desert plain;
No human heart is near to love,
No human hands sustain.
There are spirits dread in that region wild,
And they howl in the desert blast;
There are spirits lost, who wail and weep
As viewless they hurry past.
There are forms that man never looked upon,
Nor mortal eye could bear—
The terrible sight of an angel’s brow,
On which is stamped despair.
No lofty palm‐tree casts a shade,
Gusheth no silvery well,
Where the stately Giraffe stoops down to drink,
Or cometh the soft Gazelle.
For the desert islands of waving green
Are far, oh! far away;
And never a spot can the wanderer find
To rest from the noontide ray.
Oh! weary, weary, the changeless, waste,
Of that burning desert sand;
Oh! weary, weary, the changeless changless sky,
Of that blasted fiery land!
Weary to listen, with straining sense,
For the step or the voice of man;
To watch in despair, till the sun goes down,
For the wandering caravan.
But the sun goes down, and the white stars rise,
And never a sound is heard,
Save the roar of the Lion, the Panther’s howl,
Or the scream of the carrion bird.
Still on the pale young wanderer goes
On, without fear or dread,
The hot sand burning beneath his feet,
The hot sun above his head:
On, tho’ never his fevered lips
Have been cooled in the desert springs;
For the soul that is filled with the Spirit of God,
Recks little of earthly things.
On, tho’ never the bending fruit
Of the palm‐tree meets his hand;
No food, no rest, no shelter for him
In all that terrible land.
And the powers of Hell seem gathering round
That frail and gentle form,
But, sublime in the strength of faith, he stands
Unmoved, amid the storm.
The spirit is strong, but the flesh is weak,
He hath borne what a mortal can;
And down on the desolate waste he sinks,
A fainting, dying man.
Now the hot samiri approaches fast,
The desert wind of dread;
Glaring upon the horizon’s verge,
Like a pillar fiery red.
Onward it comes in its lurid light,
Like a giant form of death,
Blasting the earth, and air, and sky,
With its scorching, deadly breath.
The sands rise high as the billows at sea,
Raging when tempest‐tossed:
Ah! the fiery column has reached him now
Pale wanderer—thou art lost!
It drinks the blood from his youthful cheek,
It burns up the life within;
And fiercely around him it dashes and whirls,
With a wild, unearthly din.
Then he seems to hear a silvery flow,
Soft gushing, like Paradise streams;
For of such whom the desert kills, it is said,
These are the dying dreams.
And he lifts his head from the burning waste;
But in place of the silvery fall,
He sees but that lurid, fiery cloud
Encircling him as a pall.
Nearer and nearer it gathers round,
Stifling the half‐breathed prayer,
And the fainting hands dropp weary down,
That were lifted in mute despair.
There’s an hour of dread for human souls,
When help there seemeth none,
And the powers of Hell rage fierce around
The God‐forsaken one;
’Tis the hour of dread, when souls are tired,
And angels are bending down,
Watching each one that resisteth to death,
To weave for him the crown.
But an hour more dark, a trial more dread,
That Weary‐one hath known;
For now he must fight the Lord of Hell,
In the desolate waste alone.
Oh! the burning breath of the fiery wind,
Hunger, and thirst, and woe—
What are they all to that strange, lone strife
With man’s dark Demon‐foe?
What terrible form the Tempter chose.
Saw never a mortal eye
Did he come in the flame, or the thunder‐cloud,
Or flash as the lightning by?
Was his blasted brow as the midnight black,
Or wreathed with a lurid light,
Like the livid rays that play on the ice
In the gloom of a polar night?
None can tell; but the subtle words
He poured in the wanderer’s ears,
Are echoed to us from that desert wild,
Through the long, long course of years.
And ages many have shadowed the earth
Since human woes began,
Yet still, with the self‐same words and lures,
He tempteth the sons of man.
Woe, woe to the suffering soul, unless
Sustained, O God, by Thee,
Who hears in its anguish the Tempter’s words
“Fall down, and worship me.”
Woe to the soul that ascends the mount
Of pomp, and power, and pride,
With the glories of earth within his reach,
And the Demon at his side.
But Christ, with His meek and holy brow,
Shuns not the deadly strife;
For His soul is strong in the armour of faith,
And His sword is the Word of Life.
The soul is strong, tho’ the human frame
May faint ’neath the chastening rod;
And the Demon‐foe recognises there
The mortal and the God.
With the radiant light of a stainless soul,
As a crown upon His brow,
How He forces the trembling Chief of Hell
To bend in homage low.
Thus, with His foot on the serpent’s head,
He stands a triumphant king;
But the serpent fangs that have pierced His heel,
Sorrow and Death must bring.
How glorious now is that frail, weak form,
Strong in the spirit within,
Standing alone in the desert of life,
Conquering Hell and Sin.
And we must tread the desert too,
Where want and woe assail;
We must war, like Christ, with the Prince of Hell,
We—human, weak, and frail.
The Tempter will come in those moments of life,
When the soul is dark with fears,
And we sit by the empty urn of joy,
Filling it with our tears;
When those we love, as shadows pass,
And we tread life’s desert lone,
Without hope in heaven, or love upon earth,
Wearily ever on.
It is then he will lead us to doubt upon God,
Doubt in His love for us;
And the murmuring soul he will tempt to ask
“Why must I suffer thus?”
And pleasure and power will seem so near,
If we but kneel to him
O God, keep from us the Tempter far,
When faith is burning dim!
O Christ, who hast known the Tempter’s strength,
Bend from Thy throne of light;
Aid in the terrible strife with Hell,
Aid with Thy power and might.
Teach us to fight as Thou hast fought;
To conquer as Thou hast done;
That angels may bring from the starry skies
The plan for the conquering one.
For never yet was the Tempter foiled
By the might of Jehovah’s name,
But holy joys in the sufferer’s heart.
Like blessed angels came.
And the terrible strife, and the desert drear,
Will pass like earthly things;
But the soul that has conquered will rest in peace,
’Neath angels’ shadowing wings.