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The Toiling Of Felix
by [?]


In the rubbish heaps of the ancient city of Oxyrhynchus, near the River Nile, a party of English explorers, in the winter of 1897, discovered a fragment of a papyrus book, written in the second or third century, and hitherto unknown. This single leaf contained parts of seven short sentences of Christ, each introduced by the words, “Jesus says.” It is to the fifth of these Sayings of Jesus that the following poem refers.




Hear a word that Jesus spake
Nineteen hundred years ago,
Where the crimson lilies blow
Round the blue Tiberian lake:
There the bread of life He brake,
Through the fields of harvest walking
With His lowly comrades, talking
Of the secret thoughts that feed
Weary souls in time of need.
Art thou hungry? Come and take;
Hear the word that Jesus spake!
‘Tis the sacrament of labour, bread and wine divinely blest;
Friendship’s food and sweet refreshment, strength and courage, joy and rest.

But this word the Master said
Long ago and far away,
Silent and forgotten lay
Buried with the silent dead,
Where the sands of Egypt spread
Sea-like, tawny billows heaping
Over ancient cities sleeping,
While the River Nile between
Rolls its summer flood of green
Rolls its autumn flood of red:
There the word the Master said,
Written on a frail papyrus, wrinkled, scorched by fire, and torn,
Hidden by God’s hand was waiting for its resurrection morn.

Now at last the buried word
By the delving spade is found,
Sleeping in the quiet ground.
Now the call of life is heard:
Rise again, and like a bird,
Fly abroad on wings of gladness
Through the darkness and the sadness,
Of the toiling age, and sing
Sweeter than the voice of Spring,
Till the hearts of men are stirred
By the music of the word,–
Gospel for the heavy-laden, answer to the labourer’s cry:
Raise the stone, and thou shall find me; cleave the wood and there
am I.”



Brother-men who look for Jesus, long to see Him close and clear,
Hearken to the tale of Felix, how he found the Master near.

Born in Egypt, ‘neath the shadow of the crumbling gods of night,
He forsook the ancient darkness, turned his young heart toward the Light.

Seeking Christ, in vain he waited for the vision of the Lord;
Vainly pondered many volumes where the creeds of men were stored;

Vainly shut himself in silence, keeping vigil night and day;
Vainly haunted shrines and churches where the Christians came to pray.

One by one he dropped the duties of the common life of care,
Broke the human ties that bound him, laid his spirit waste and bare,

Hoping that the Lord would enter that deserted dwelling-place,
And reward the loss of all things with the vision of His face.

Still the blessed vision tarried; still the light was unrevealed;
Still the Master, dim and distant, kept His countenance concealed.

Fainter grew the hope of finding, wearier grew the fruitless quest;
Prayer and penitence and fasting gave no comfort, brought no rest.

Lingering in the darkened temple, ere the lamp of faith went out,
Felix knelt before the altar, lonely, sad, and full of doubt.

“Hear me, O my Lord and Master,” from the altar-step he cried,
“Let my one desire be granted, let my hope be satisfied!

“Only once I long to see Thee, in the fulness of Thy grace:
Break the clouds that now enfold Thee, with the sunrise of Thy face!

“All that men desire and treasure have I counted loss for Thee;
Every hope have I forsaken, save this one, my Lord to see.