The Robe of Christ
(For Cecil Chesterton)
At the foot of the Cross on Calvary
   Three soldiers sat and diced,
And one of them was the Devil
   And he won the Robe of Christ.
When the Devil comes in his proper form
   To the chamber where I dwell,
I know him and make the Sign of the Cross
   Which drives him back to Hell.
And when he comes like a friendly man
   And puts his hand in mine,
The fervour in his voice is not
   From love or joy or wine.
And when he comes like a woman,
   With lovely, smiling eyes,
Black dreams float over his golden head
   Like a swarm of carrion flies.
Now many a million tortured souls
   In his red halls there be:
Why does he spend his subtle craft
   In hunting after me?
Kings, queens and crested warriors
   Whose memory rings through time,
These are his prey, and what to him
   Is this poor man of rhyme,
That he, with such laborious skill,
   Should change from role to role,
Should daily act so many a part
   To get my little soul?
Oh, he can be the forest,
   And he can be the sun,
Or a buttercup, or an hour of rest
   When the weary day is done.
I saw him through a thousand veils,
   And has not this sufficed?
Now, must I look on the Devil robed
   In the radiant Robe of Christ?
He comes, and his face is sad and mild,
   With thorns his head is crowned;
There are great bleeding wounds in his feet,
   And in each hand a wound.
How can I tell, who am a fool,
   If this be Christ or no?
Those bleeding hands outstretched to me!
   Those eyes that love me so!
I see the Robe—I look—I hope—
   I fear—but there is one
Who will direct my troubled mind;
   Christ’s Mother knows her Son.
O Mother of Good Counsel, lend
   Intelligence to me!
Encompass me with wisdom,
   Thou Tower of Ivory!
“This is the Man of Lies,” she says,
   “Disguised with fearful art:
He has the wounded hands and feet,
   But not the wounded heart.”
Beside the Cross on Calvary
   She watched them as they diced.
She saw the Devil join the game
   And win the Robe of Christ.

Webpage © 2001 ELC
Lane Core Jr. (
Created April 1, 2001; not revised.