To An Athlete Dying Young

** A.E. Housman and Hebrews 12 Rephrased **

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the marketplace;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder high.
 
Today, the road all runners come,
Shoulder high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.
 
Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.
 
But eyes that shady night has shut
Will see in Christ the death-chain cut.
And solemn silence gives way to cheers
When Heaven retunes our earthly ears.
 
For Christ has run His fateful race;
Now follow His “Athletes” in their place.
Fixed on Him, their treasured prize,
They run to the cheers of Paradise.
 
So set, before its echoes fade,
His fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
His uncontested Challenge Cup.
 
For on the Cross, His laurelled head,
Gave strength and life to the life-less dead;
And Heaven’s honor trumps earth’s renown
As withered garland gives way to crown.

 

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