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Poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Ultima Thule

THE SIFTING OF PETER

In St. 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
      Are shifted.

Satan desires us, great and small,
As wheat to sift us, and we all
      Are tempted;
Not one, however rich or great,
Is by his station or estate
      Exempted.

No house so safely guarded is
But he, by some device of his,
      Can enter;
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
      Unheeding,
Till thrice and more they have denied
The Man of Sorrows, crucified
      And bleeding.

One look of that pale suffering face
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.

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
      Transgression.

But noble souls, through dust and heat,
Rise from disaster and defeat
      The stronger,
And conscious still of the divine
Within them, lie on earth supine
      No longer.