The Cross

The Cross  (1852) 
by John Greenleaf Whittier

Richard Dillingham(1823-1850), a young member of the Religious Society of Friends, died in the Nashville penitentiary, where he was confined for the act of aiding the escape of fugitive slaves. This poem, dedicated to Dillingham, appeared in the National Era, a weekly abolitionist newspaper, in February 1852.

"The cross, if rightly borne, shall be:
No burden, but support to thee;"
So, moved of old time for our sake,
The holy monk of Kempen spake. [1]

Thou brave and true one! upon whom
Was laid the cross of martyrdom,
How didst thou, in thy generous youth,
Bear witness to this blessed truth!

Thy cross of suffering and of shame
A staff within thy hands became,
In paths where faith alone could see
The Master's steps supporting thee.

Thine was the seed-time; God alone
Beholds the end of what is sown;
Beyond our vision, weak and dim,
The harvest-time is hid with Him.

Yet, unforgotten where it lies,
That seed of generous sacrifice,
Though seeming on the desert cast,
Shall rise with bloom and fruit at last.

This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.



  1. Whittier's reference here is to the line "Si crucem libenter portes, te portabit," in The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis.