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Forgiveness Poems

Table of Contents

  1. Forgive and Forget by Charles Swain
  2. Forgiveness by Mary Ann Hanmer Dodd
  3. Forgiveness by Eliza Down
  4. A New Leaf by Carrie Shaw Rice
  5. The Fool's Prayer by Edward R. Sill
  6. The Lion and the Mouse by Jeffreys Taylor
  7. The Church Scene from Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  8. I think just how my shape will rise by Emily Dickinson
  9. Pardon Time by John Charles McNeill
  10. Forgiven by Margaret E. Sangster
  11. Revenge

  12. Revenge by Mary E. Tucker


To err is human; to forgive divine.

– Alexander Pope
An Essay on Criticism, Part II
  1. Forgive and Forget

    Oh! how could our spirits e'er hope for the skies,
    If Heaven refused to forgive and forget.

    - Charles Swain
    Forgive and Forget
    by Charles Swain

    Forgive and forget! why the world would be lonely,
    The garden a wilderness left to deform,
    If the flowers but remembered the chilling winds only,
    And the fields gave no verdure for fear of the storm!
    Oh! still in thy loveliness emblem the flower,
    Give the fragrance of feeling to sweeten life's way;
    And prolong not again the brief cloud of an hour,
    With tears that but darken the rest of the day!

    Forgive and forget! there's no breast so unfeeling
    But some gentle thoughts of affection there live;
    And the best of us all require something concealing,
    Some heart that with smiles can forget and forgive!
    Then away with the cloud from those beautiful eyes
    That brow was no home for such frowns to have met:
    Oh! how could our spirits e'er hope for the skies,
    If Heaven refused to forgive and forget.

  2. Forgiveness

    by Mary Ann Hanmer Dodd

    When the last lesson Jesus taught,
    We in our hearts would shrine,
    How are we moved with love so deep,
    Forgiveness so divine.
    We see him nailed upon the cross,
    Cold with the dew of death,
    Imploring pardon for his foes,
    With his fast failing breath.

    Saviour! to thee we trusting come;
    Look from thy throne above!
    Teach us to meekly imitate,
    Thy pure and holy love.
    However coldly, deeply wronged,
    Be our petition too,
    "Father, forgive the sinful ones,
    They know not what they do!"

  3. Forgiveness

    by Eliza Down

    Oh, come and kiss the bleeding feet,
    Nailed to the shameful tree!
    Come in your chains of guilt and sin,
    Come in your misery,
    Come to the feet of Him
    Who died to set you free!

    Come, and your hearts of stone shall melt,
    To think such love should be
    So long despised, so long denied,—
    Sinner, He cares for thee!
    Come to the feet of Him
    Who died to set you free!

    The new pure heart shall Christ bestow,
    Oh, taste His liberty!
    Pardon and peace He giveth you
    His joy your own shall be,
    Come to the feet of Him
    Who died to set you free!

    Oh, kiss with tears the bleeding feet
    Nailed to the shameful tree!
    Come men, come women, stained with sin,
    Slaves sold to infamy,
    Come to the feet of Him
    Who died to set you free!

  4. A New Leaf

    He took the old leaf, stained and blotted,
    And gave me a new one all unspotted,

    - Carrie Shaw Rice
    A New Leaf
    by Carrie Shaw Rice

    He came to my desk with, quivering lip—
    The lesson was done.
    "Dear Teacher, I want a new leaf," he said,
    "I have spoiled this one."
    I took the old leaf, stained and blotted,
    And gave him a new one all unspotted,
    And into his sad eyes smiled,
    "Do better, now, my child."

    I went to the throne with a quivering soul—
    The old year was done.
    "Dear Father, hast Thou a new leaf for me?
    I have spoiled this one."
    He took the old leaf, stained and blotted,
    And gave me a new one all unspotted,
    And into my sad heart smiled,
    "Do better, now, my child."

  5. The Fool's Prayer

    by Edward R. Sill

    The royal feast was done; the King
    Sought some new sport to banish care,
    And to his jester cried: "Sir Fool,
    Kneel now, and make for us a prayer!"

    The jester doffed his cap and bells,
    And stood the mocking court before;
    They could not see the bitter smile
    Behind the painted grin he wore.

    He bowed his head, and bent his knee
    Upon the Monarch's silken stool;
    His pleading voice arose: "O Lord,
    Be merciful to me, a fool!

    "No pity, Lord, could change the heart
    From red with wrong to white as wool;
    The rod must heal the sin: but Lord,
    Be merciful to me, a fool!

    "'T is not by guilt the onward sweep
    Of truth and right, O Lord, we stay;
    'T is by our follies that so long
    We hold the earth from heaven away.

    "These clumsy feet, still in the mire,
    Go crushing blossoms without end;
    These hard, well-meaning hands we thrust
    Among the heart-strings of a friend.

    "The ill-timed truth we might have kept—
    Who knows how sharp it pierced and stung?
    The word we had not sense to say—
    Who knows how grandly it had rung!

    "Our faults no tenderness should ask.
    The chastening stripes must cleanse them all;
    But for our blunders — oh, in shame
    Before the eyes of heaven we fall.

    "Earth bears no balsam for mistakes;
    Men crown the knave, and scourge the tool
    That did his will; but Thou, O Lord,
    Be merciful to me, a fool!"

    The room was hushed; in silence rose
    The King, and sought his gardens cool,
    And walked apart, and murmured low,
    "Be merciful to me, a fool!"

    13"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' 14"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

    – Luke 18:13-14
    The Bible, NIV
  6. The Lion and the Mouse

    by Jeffreys Taylor

    A lion with the heat oppressed,
    One day composed himself to rest:
    But while he dozed as he intended,
    A mouse, his royal back ascended;
    Nor thought of harm, as Aesop tells,
    Mistaking him for someone else;
    And travelled over him, and round him,
    And might have left him as she found him
    Had she not—tremble when you hear—
    Tried to explore the monarch's ear!
    Who straightway woke, with wrath immense,
    And shook his head to cast her thence.
    "You rascal, what are you about?"
    Said he, when he had turned her out,
    "I'll teach you soon," the lion said,
    "To make a mouse-hole in my head!"
    So saying, he prepared his foot
    To crush the trembling tiny brute;
    But she (the mouse) with tearful eye,
    Implored the lion's clemency,
    Who thought it best at last to give
    His little prisoner a reprieve.

    'Twas nearly twelve months after this,
    The lion chanced his way to miss;
    When pressing forward, heedless yet,
    He got entangled in a net.
    With dreadful rage, he stamped and tore,
    And straight commenced a lordly roar;
    When the poor mouse, who heard the noise,
    Attended, for she knew his voice.
    Then what the lion's utmost strength
    Could not effect, she did at length;
    With patient labor she applied
    Her teeth, the network to divide;
    And so at last forth issued he,
    A lion, by a mouse set free.

    Few are so small or weak, I guess,
    But may assist us in distress,
    Nor shall we ever, if we're wise,
    The meanest, or the least despise.

  7. The Church Scene from Evangeline

    Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    So passed the morning away. And lo! with a summons sonorous
    Sounded the bell from its tower, and over the meadows a drumbeat.
    Thronged erelong was the church with men. Without, in the churchyard,
    Awaited the women. They stood by the graves, and hung on the headstones
    Garlands of autumn leaves and evergreens fresh from the forest.
    Then came the guard from the ships, and marching proudly among them
    Entered the sacred portal. With loud and dissonant clangor
    Echoed the sound of their brazen drums from ceiling and casement,—
    Echoed a moment only, and slowly the ponderous portal
    Closed, and in silence the crowd awaited the will of the soldiers.

    Then uprose their commander, and spake from the steps of the altar,
    Holding aloft in his hands, with its seals, the royal commission.
    "You have convened this day," he said, "by his Majesty's orders.
    Clement and kind has he been; but how you have answered his kindness,
    Let your own hearts reply! To my natural make and my temper
    Painful the task is I do, which to you I know must be grievous.
    Yet must I bow and obey, and deliver the will of our monarch;
    Namely, that all your lands, and dwellings, and cattle of all kinds
    Forfeited be to the crown; and that you yourselves from this province
    Be transported to other lands. God grant you may dwell there
    Ever as faithful subjects, a happy and peaceable people!
    Prisoners now I declare you; for such is his Majesty's pleasure!"

    As, when the air is serene in the sultry solstice of summer,
    Suddenly gathers a storm, and the deadly sling of the hailstones
    Beats down the farmer's corn in the field and shatters his windows,
    Hiding the sun, and strewing the ground with thatch from the house roofs,
    Bellowing fly the herds, and seek to break their inclosure;
    So on the hearts of the people descended the words of the speaker.
    Silent a moment they stood in speechless wonder, and then rose
    Louder and ever louder a wail of sorrow and anger,
    And, by one impulse moved, they madly rushed to the doorway.

    Vain was the hope of escape; and cries and fierce imprecations
    Rang through the house of prayer; and high o'er the heads of the others
    Rose, with his arms uplifted, the figure of Basil the blacksmith,
    As, on a stormy sea, a spar is tossed by the billows.
    Flushed was his face and distorted with passion; and wildly he shouted,—
    "Down with the tyrants of England! we never have sworn them allegiance!
    Death to these foreign soldiers, who seize on our homes and our harvests!"
    More he fain would have said, but the merciless hand of a soldier
    Smote him upon the mouth, and dragged him down to the pavement.

    In the midst of the strife and tumult of angry contention,
    Lo! the door of the chancel opened, and Father Felician
    Entered, with serious mien, and ascended the steps of the alter.
    Raising his reverend hand, with a gesture he awed into silence
    All that clamorous throng; and thus he spake to his people;
    Deep were his tones and solemn; in accents measured and mournful
    Spake he, as, after the tocsin's alarum, distinctly the clock strikes.

    "What is this that ye do, my children? what madness has seized you?
    Forty years of my life have I labored among you, and taught you,
    Not in word alone, but in deed, to love one another!
    Is this the fruit of my toils, of my vigils and prayers and privations?
    Have you so soon forgotten all the lessons of love and forgiveness?
    This is the house of the Prince of Peace, and would you profane it
    Thus with violent deeds and hearts overflowing with hatred?
    Lo! where the crucified Christ from his cross is gazing upon you!
    See! in those sorrowful eyes what meekness and holy compassion!
    Hark! how those lips still repeat the prayer, 'O Father, forgive them!'
    Let us repeat that prayer in the hour when the wicked assail us,
    Let us repeat it now, and say, 'O Father, forgive them.' "

    Few were his words of rebuke, but deep in the hearts of his people
    Sank they, and sobs of contrition succeeded the passionate outbreak,
    While they repeated his prayer, and said, "O Father, forgive them!"

  8. I think just how my shape will rise

    by Emily Dickinson

    I think just how my shape will rise
    When I shall be forgiven,
    Till hair and eyes and timid head
    Are out of sight, in heaven.

    I think just how my lips will weigh
    With shapeless, quivering prayer
    That you, so late, consider me,
    The sparrow of your care.

    I mind me that of anguish sent,
    Some drifts were moved away
    Before my simple bosom broke, —
    And why not this, if they?

    And so, until delirious borne
    I con that thing, — "forgiven," —
    Till with long fright and longer trust
    I drop my heart, unshriven!

  9. Pardon Time

    by John Charles McNeill

    Give over now; forbear. The moonlight steeps
    In silver silence towered castle-keeps
    And cottage crofts, where apples bend the bough.
    Peace guards us round, and many a tired heart sleeps.
    Let me brush back the shadow from your brow.
    Give over now.

    On such a night, how sweet, how sweet is life,
    Even to the insect piper with his fife!
    And must your troubled face still bear the blight
    Of strength that runs itself to waste in strife
    For love's own heart should throb through all the light
    Of such a night

    Art thou a sinner? Sins may be forgiven;
    Each morning gives thee wings to flee from hell,
    Each night a star to guide thy feet to heaven.

    – Walter Malone
    Opportunity
  10. Forgiven

    by Margaret E. Sangster

    You left me when the weary weight of sorrow
    Lay, like a stone, upon my bursting heart;
    It seemed as if no shimmering tomorrow
    Could dry the tears that you had caused to start.
    You left me, never telling why you wandered—
    Without a word, without a last caress;
    Left me with but the love that I had squandered,
    The husks of love and a vast loneliness.

    And yet if you came back with arms stretched toward me,
    Came back to-night, with carefree, smiling eyes,
    And said: "My journeying has somehow bored me,
    And love, though broken, never, never dies!"
    I would forget the wounded heart you gave me,
    I would forget the bruises on my soul.
    My old-time gods would rise again to save me,
    My dreams would grow supremely new and whole.
    What though youth lay, a tattered garment, o'er you?
    Warm words would leap upon my lips, long dumb;
    If you came back, with arms stretched out before you,
    AND TOLD ME, DEAR, THAT YOU WERE GLAD TO COME!

  11. Revenge

    Anger is the poorest of counselors, and revenge is suicide.

    – Elizabeth Blair Lee
  12. Revenge

    by Mary E. Tucker

    Ah! I could curse them in my woe,
    E'en as the viper stings,
    And to the heel that strikes it clings,
    So I could plant my blow.

    Yes, I could pray that fell disease
    Should torture them with pain —
    That plague should fall in every rain,
    Miasma taint each breeze.

    That wealth should vanish, and the curse
    Of poverty should reign;
    That cries for bread should be in vain!
    An always empty purse.

    That friends should die, and every pride
    Should vanish in a day;
    'Till even hope withdraws her ray,
    And naught of joys abide.

    Yes, I could whisper in the ear
    Of one who loves to tell
    Some fabrication, dark as hell,
    As scandal loves to hear.

    Revenge is sweet; I could invent
    Full many a thousand way,
    That would my heartfelt wrongs repay,
    Could they my soul content.

    But could I go to sleep in peace,
    And could I dream of heaven —
    Could I e'er hope to be forgiven
    When death came to release?

    Revenge is sweet to those who live;
    But when we think of death —
    The ebbing of this life-tide breath —
    'Tis sweeter to forgive.

    For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

    – Matthew 6:14
    The Bible, NIV

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