“Go, work within my vineyard’s bound,
At eve your penny shall be found:”
So spake the vineyard’s lord, and they
Began to toil at break of day.
For hours the sun had shown his face,
When idlers in the market-place
Once and again were sent within
The vineyard’s wall their wage to win.
Nay, when but one short hour remains
Before the sun its goal attains,
More loiterers hear the Lord’s command
And set to work with willing hand.
The steward came at close of day
Their wage to reckon and to pay;
And they whose toil could scarcely tire,
Received a penny for their hire.
But they who the day’s burden bore
And noonday heat, expected more;
And murmured that the generous lord
To all one penny should accord.
But he replied, “I wrong not you;
I give you the full wages due;
And why should you my bounty blame,
In paying these beyond their claim?”
Lord, to Thy vineyard Thou dost call
The least, the youngest of us all:
To each Thou dost assign a task,
From each some service Thou dost ask.
How kind such feeble hands to use;
Such pleasant work I needs must choose:
I ask no wages, Lord, from thee,
For Thou hast given Thyself for me.
When I remember all Thy grace,
I cannot loiter in my place:
And when I think of all my sin,
What wages can I hope to win?
Thanks, Lord, if yet my years are few,
And I retain the early dew:
Oh, keep me through the noonday heat,
And cheer me with Thy presence sweet.
For if I have Thy presence, Lord,
‘Tis an exceeding great reward;
And if at last I see Thy face,
‘Tis not of merit, but of grace.
And, oh, what will that “penny” be
Which Thou wilt then bestow on me?
A glorious image it will bear,
Thy own dear Self, Lord, will be there!
RICHARD WILTON, M.A.
Note: The penny, or denarius, was a silver coin, stamped with the image of the Roman Emperor, and worth about 16 cents of our money. It was a full ordinary day’s wage at that time.