I found this poem on Maria Horvath’s blog more than ten years ago, and have kept her introductory words attached. This week in the Orthodox Church we remember the story of the Prodigal Son. I noticed that this poem can be sung, if you want, to the same tune as “Amazing Grace.”
Today’s poem, “The Prodigal Son,” tells of a father’s unconditional love for his son. It was written by John Newton (1725-1807). He is the former slave trader who became famous for “Amazing Grace,” the folk hymn that also examines the nature of forgiveness, his own in this case:
Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
The poem recounts the story of one of Christ’s best-known parables. The younger of two sons asks his father for the share of his inheritance, only to squander it all on loose living. Humiliated and desperate, he comes crawling back to his family.
THE PRODIGAL SON
Afflictions, though they seem severe;
In mercy oft are sent;
They stopped the prodigal’s career,
And forced him to repent.
Although he no relentings felt
Till he had spent his store;
His stubborn heart began to melt
When famine pinched him sore.
What have I gained by sin, he said,
But hunger, shame, and fear;
My father’s house abounds with bread,
While I am starving here.
I’ll go, and tell him all I’ve done,
And fall before his face
Unworthy to be called his son,
I’ll seek a servant’s place.
His father saw him coming back,
He saw, and ran, and smiled;
And threw his arms around the neck
Of his rebellious child.
Father, I’ve sinned — but O forgive!
I’ve heard enough, he said,
Rejoice my house, my son’s alive,
For whom I mourned as dead.
Now let the fatted calf be slain,
And spread the news around;
My son was dead, but lives again,
Was lost, but now is found.
’Tis thus the Lord his love reveals,
To call poor sinners home;
More than a father’s love he feels,
And welcomes all that come.