Goldwyn Smith, a 19th Century Professor of History at Oxford, commented: The lines on the two disciples going to Emmaus convey pleasantly the Evangelical idea of the Divine Friend. Cowper says in one of his letters that a man who had confessed to him that though he could not subscribe to the truth of Christianity, he could never read this passage of St. Luke without being deeply affected by it, and feeling that if the stamp of divinity was impressed upon anything in the Scriptures, it was upon that passage.
It is a favourite passage for many, one we have reflected upon in Agnellus Mirror – do a search for Emmaus – and one to return to gladly. William Cowper’s work is more than pleasant, it is respectful toward the two disciples, bringing out their humanity and friendship, and shows the courtesy of the stranger who gathered up the broken thread, and opened their eyes and ears.
It happen'd on a solemn eventide, Soon after He that was our surety died, Two bosom friends, each pensively inclined, The scene of all those sorrows left behind, Sought their own village, busied as they went In musings worthy of the great event: They spake of him they loved, of him whose life, Though blameless, had incurr'd perpetual strife, Whose deeds had left, in spite of hostile arts, A deep memorial graven on their hearts. The recollection, like a vein of ore, The farther traced enrich'd them still the more; They thought him, and they justly thought him, one Sent to do more than he appear'd to have done, To exalt a people, and to place them high Above all else, and wonder'd he should die. Ere yet they brought their journey to an ends, A stranger join'd them, courteous as a friend, And ask'd them with a kind engaging air What their affliction was, and begg'd a share. Inform'd, he gathered up the broken thread, And truth and wisdom gracing all he said, Explain'd, illustrated, and search'd so well The tender theme on which they chose to dwell, That reaching home, the night, they said is near, We must not now be parted, sojourn here.— The new acquaintance soon became a guest, And made so welcome at their simple feast, He bless'd the bread, but vanish'd at the word, And left them both exclaiming, 'Twas the Lord! Did not our hearts feel all he deign'd to say, Did they not burn within us by the way?" William Cowper (1731–1800)