/ James Faris

All Is Still By The Temple Wall

In May 1935, Reformed Presbyterian missionary Sam Boyle took a river boat trip in China from his home base in Canton to Lienchow, Kwangtung for a Chinese presbytery meeting. He recorded the journey in his journal. Thirty years earlier, on October 28, 1905, a mob had killed five American Presbyterian missionaries in Lienchow. Upon visiting the site, Sam wrote the following "amateurish 'poem'" (his own words) to remember the event and the result:

All Is Still By The Temple Wall

Now all is still by the temple wall.
While misty peaks form a distant pall
To enshroud with peace this memorial
At the cave which saw five martyrs fall.

The river mutters on in rebellious mood,
While water-wheels drink its yellow flood.
The restless stream must appease its gods
For cruelly drinking of the martyr’s blood.

Five of seven foreigners in Lienchow fell
Clubbed to death in this grassy dell,
When the idolatrous fury of a festival
Turned some Chinese into friends of hell.

The missionaries fled the burning “kwai lau”,*
Chased by a wine-maddened crowd, under a vow
To avenge a skeleton from the hospital hall,
Screaming, “This is what they do to us now!”

Through the back gate, down a narrow path,
The missionaries fled from the mob’s wrath,
‘Till they came at last with gasping breath
To the temple cave, their shelter from death.

The mob rushed past like a cheated beast,
Deceived for a time by the lie of the priest,
While inside the cave the fugitives pressed
Close to the walls of the damp, rocky nest.

Then one of those hiding, Mother Mackle(y)
Suddenly saw, with a scream of dismay,
That her little girl – who had been at play
Was not among those who had gotten away.

A mother’s love drove her out of the cave,
Back toward the Mission, her child to save;
But her deed of desperation, so wild and brave
Cost her own life, and of others in the cave.

Two out of seven workers were mercifully spared,
more came later to see God’s work restored
hatred has died and Christ adored
As Chinese and Americans still serve the Lord.

Now all is still by the temple wall;
And the same misty peaks form a pall
O’er the same murmuring waters as they gently fall,
Praising the Lord Jesus, King over all.

  • "Kwai lau" is Cantonese slang for the foreign style residences built by the mission. It means "foreign devil loft" or house.
James Faris

James Faris

Child of God. Husband to Elizabeth. Father of six. Pastor of Second Reformed Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. Ordained as a pastor in 2003.

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