Poems: Patriotic, Religious, Miscellaneous
Part 5 out of 6
Prepares its heart for consecration's hour.
Nature is but the ever-rustling veil
Which God is wearing, like the Carmelite
Who hides her face behind her virgin veil
To keep it all unseen from mortal eyes,
Yet by her vigils and her holy prayers,
And ceaseless sacrifices night and day,
Shields souls from sin -- and many hearts from harm.
God hides in nature as a thought doth hide
In humbly-sounding words; and as the thought
Beats through the lowly word like pulse of heart
That giveth life and keepeth life alive,
So God, thro' nature, works on ev'ry soul;
For nature is His word so strangely writ
In heav'n, in all the letters of the stars,
Beneath the stars in alphabets of clouds,
And on the seas in syllables of waves,
And in the earth, on all the leaves of flowers,
And on the grasses and the stately trees,
And on the rivers and the mournful rocks
The word is clearly written; blest are they
Who read the word aright -- and understand.
For God is everywhere -- and He doth find
In every atom which His hand hath made
A shrine to hide His presence, and reveal
His name, love, power, to those who kneel
In holy faith upon this bright below
And lift their eyes, thro' all this mystery,
To catch the vision of the great beyond.
Yea! nature is His shadow, and how bright
Must that face be which such a shadow casts?
We walk within it, for "we live and move
And have our being" in His ev'rywhere.
Why is God shy? Why doth He hide Himself?
The tiniest grain of sand on ocean's shore
Entemples Him; the fragrance of the rose
Folds Him around as blessed incense folds
The altars of His Christ: yet some will walk
Along the temple's wondrous vestibule
And look on and admire -- yet enter not
To find within the Presence, and the Light
Which sheds its rays on all that is without.
And nature is His voice; who list may hear
His name low-murmured every -- everywhere.
In songs of birds, in rustle of the flowers,
In swaying of the trees, and on the seas
The blue lips of the wavelets tell the ships
That come and go, His holy, holy name.
The winds, or still or stormy, breathe the same;
And some have ears and yet they will not hear
The soundless voice re-echoed everywhere;
And some have hearts that never are enthrilled
By all the grand Hosannahs nature sings.
List! Sanctus! Sanctus! Sanctus! without pause
Sounds sweetly out of all creation's heart,
That hearts with power to love may echo back
Their Sanctus! Sanctus! Sanctus! to the hymn.
Life's Vesper-bells are ringing
In the temple of my heart,
And yon sunset, sure, is singing
"Nunc dimittis -- Now depart!"
Ah! the eve is golden-clouded,
But to-morrow's sun shall shine
On this weary body shrouded;
But my soul doth not repine.
"Let me see the sun descending,
I will see his light no more,
For my life, this eve, is ending;
And to-morrow on the shore
That is fair, and white, and golden,
I will meet my God; and ye
Will forget not all the olden,
Happy hours ye spent with me.
"I am glad that I am going;
What a strange and sweet delight
Is thro' all my being flowing
When I know that, sure, to-night
I will pass from earth and meet Him
Whom I loved thro' all the years,
Who will crown me when I greet Him,
And will kiss away my tears.
"My last sun! haste! hurry westward!
In the dark of this to-night
My poor soul that hastens rest-ward
`With the Lamb' will find the light;
Death is coming -- and I hear him,
Soft and stealthy cometh he;
But I do not believe I fear him,
God is now so close to me."
* * * * *
Fell the daylight's fading glimmer
On a face so wan and white;
Brighter was his soul, while dimmer
Grew the shadows of the night;
And he died -- and God was near him;
I knelt by him to forgive;
And I sometimes seem to hear him
Whisper -- "Live as I did live."
The Pilgrim (A Christmas Legend for Children)
The shades of night were brooding
O'er the sea, the earth, the sky;
The passing winds were wailing
In a low, unearthly sigh;
The darkness gathered deeper,
For no starry light was shed,
And silence reigned unbroken,
As the silence of the dead.
The wintry clouds were hanging
From the starless sky so low,
While 'neath them earth lay folded
In a winding shroud of snow.
'Twas cold, 'twas dark, 'twas dreary,
And the blast that swept along
The mountains hoarsely murmured
A fierce, discordant song.
And mortal men were resting
From the turmoil of the day,
And broken hearts were dreaming
Of the friends long passed away;
And saintly men were keeping
Their vigils through the night,
While angel spirits hovered near
Around their lonely light.
And wicked men were sinning
In the midnight banquet halls,
Forgetful of that sentence traced
On proud Belshazzar's walls.
On that night, so dark and dismal,
Unillumed by faintest ray,
Might be seen the lonely pilgrim
Wending on his darksome way.
Slow his steps, for he was weary,
And betimes he paused to rest;
Then he rose, and, pressing onward,
Murmured lowly: "I must haste."
In his hand he held a chaplet,
And his lips were moved in prayer,
For the darkness and the silence
Seemed to whisper God was there.
On the lonely pilgrim journeyed,
Nought disturbed him on his way,
And his prayers he softly murmured
As the midnight stole away.
Hark! amid the stillness rises
On his ears a distant strain
Softly sounding -- now it ceases --
Sweetly now it comes again.
In his path he paused to wonder
While he listened to the sound:
On it came, so sweet, so pensive,
'Mid the blast that howled around;
And the restless winds seemed soothed
By that music, gentle, mild,
And they slept, as when a mother
Rocks to rest her cradled child.
Strange and sweet the calm that followed,
Stealing through the midnight air;
Strange and sweet the sounds that floated
Like an angel breathing there.
From the sky the clouds were drifting
Swiftly one by one away,
And the sinless stars were shedding
Here and there a silver ray.
"Why this change?" the pilgrim whispered --
"Whence that music? whence its power?
Earthly sounds are not so lovely!
Angels love the midnight hour!"
Bending o'er his staff, he wondered,
Loath to leave that sacred place:
"I must hasten," said he, sadly --
On he pressed with quickened pace.
Just before him rose a mountain,
Dark its outline, steep its side --
Down its slopes that midnight music
Seemed so soothingly to glide.
"I will find it," said the pilgrim,
"Though this mountain I must scale" --
Scarcely said, when on his vision
Shone a distant light, and pale.
Glad he was; and now he hastened --
Brighter, brighter grew the ray --
Stronger, stronger swelled the music
As he struggled on his way.
Soon he gained the mountain summit,
Lo! a church bursts on his view:
From the church that light was flowing,
And that gentle music, too.
Near he came -- its door stood open --
Still he stood in awe and fear;
"Shall I enter spot so holy?
Am I unforbidden here?
I will enter -- something bids me --
Saintly men are praying here;
Vigils sacred they are keeping,
'Tis their Matin song I hear."
Softly, noiselessly, he glided
Through the portal; on his sight
Shone a vision, bright, strange, thrilling;
Down he knelt -- 'twas Christmas night --
Down, in deepest adoration,
Knelt the lonely pilgrim there;
Joy unearthly, rapture holy,
Blended with his whispered prayer.
Wrapped his senses were in wonder,
On his soul an awe profound,
As the vision burst upon him,
'Mid sweet light and sweeter sound.
"Is it real? is it earthly?
Is it all a fleeting dream?
Hark! those choral voices ringing,
Lo! those forms like angels seem."
On his view there rose an altar,
Glittering 'mid a thousand beams,
Flowing from the burning tapers
In bright, sparkling, silver streams.
From unnumbered crystal vases,
Rose and bloomed the fairest flowers,
Shedding 'round their balmy fragrance
'Mid the lights in sweetest showers.
Rich and gorgeous was the altar,
Decked it was in purest white.
Mortal hands had not arrayed it
Thus, upon that Christmas night.
Amid its lights and lovely flowers,
The little tabernacle stood;
Around it all was rich and golden,
It alone was poor and rude.
Hark! Venite Adoremus!
Round the golden altar sounds --
See that band of angels kneeling
Prostrate, with their sparkling crowns!
And the pilgrim looked and listened,
And he saw the angels there,
And their snow-white wings were folded,
As they bent in silent prayer.
Twelve they were; bright rays of glory
Round their brows effulgent shone;
But a wreath of nobler beauty
Seemed to grace and circle one;
And he, beauteous, rose and opened
Wide the tabernacle door:
Hark! Venite Adoremus
Rises -- bending, they adore.
Lo! a sound of censers swinging!
Clouds of incense weave around
The altar rich a silver mantle,
As the angels' hymns resound.
List! Venite Adoremus
Swells aloud in stronger strain,
And the angels swing the censers,
And they prostrate bend again.
Rising now, with voice of rapture,
Bursts aloud, in thrilling tone,
"Gloria in Excelsis Deo"
Round the sacramental throne.
Oh! 'twas sweet, 'twas sweet and charming
As the notes triumphant flowed!
Oh! 'twas sweet, while wreathes of incense
Curled, and countless tapers glowed.
Oh! 'twas grand! that hymn of glory
Earthly sounds cannot compare;
Oh! 'twas grand! it breath'd of heaven,
As the angels sung it there.
Ravished by the strains ecstatic,
Raptured by the vision grand,
Gazed the pilgrim on the altar,
Gazed upon the angel band.
All was hushed! the floating echoes
Of the hymn had died away;
Vanished were the clouds of incense,
And the censers ceased to sway.
Lo! their wings are gently waving,
And the angels softly rise,
Bending towards the tabernacle,
Worship beaming from their eyes.
One last, lowly genuflection!
From their brows love burning shone --
Ah! they're going, they've departed,
All but one, the brightest one.
"Why remains he?" thought the pilgrim,
Ah! he rises beauteously --
"Listen!" and the angel murmured
Sweetly: "Pilgrim, hail to thee!"
"Come unto the golden altar,
I'm an angel -- banish fear --
Come, unite in adoration
With me, for our God is here.
Come thy Jesus here reposes,
Come! He'll bless thy mortal sight --
Come! adore the Infant Saviour
With me -- for 'tis Christmas night."
Now approached the pilgrim, trembling,
Now beside the angel bent,
And the deepest, blissful gladness,
With his fervent worship blent.
"Pilgrim," said the spirit, softly,
"Thou hast seen bright angels here,
And hast heard our sacred anthems,
Filled with rapture, filled with fear.
"We are twelve -- 'twas we who chanted
First the Saviour's lowly birth,
We who brought the joyful tidings
Of His coming, to the earth;
We who sung unto the shepherds,
Watching on the mountain height,
That the Word was made Incarnate
For them on that blessed night.
"And since then we love to linger
On that festal night on earth;
And we leave our thrones of glory
Here to keep the Saviour's birth.
Happy mortals! happy mortals!
To-night the angels would be men;
And they leave their thrones in heaven,
For the Crib of Bethlehem."
And the angel led the pilgrim
To the tabernacle door;
Lo! an Infant there was sleeping,
And the angel said: "Adore!
He is sleeping, yet he watches,
See that beam of love divine;
Pilgrim! pay your worship holy
To your Infant God and mine."
And the spirit slowly, slowly,
Closed the tabernacle door,
While the pilgrim lowly, lowly,
Bent in rapture to adore.
"Pilgrim," spoke the angel sweetly,
"I must bid thee my adieu;
Love! oh! love the Infant Jesus! --"
And he vanished from his view.
* * * * *
All was silent -- silent -- silent --
Faded was the vision bright --
But the pilgrim long remembered
In his heart that Christmas night.
A Reverie ["Those hearts of ours -- how strange! how strange!"]
Those hearts of ours -- how strange! how strange!
How they yearn to ramble and love to range
Down through the vales of the years long gone,
Up through the future that fast rolls on.
To-days are dull -- so they wend their ways
Back to their beautiful yesterdays;
The present is blank -- so they wing their flight
To future to-morrows where all seems bright.
Build them a bright and beautiful home,
They'll soon grow weary and want to roam;
Find them a spot without sorrow or pain,
They may stay a day, but they're off again.
Those hearts of ours -- how wild! how wild!
They're as hard to tame as an Indian child;
They're as restless as waves on the sounding sea,
Like the breeze and the bird are they fickle and free.
Those hearts of ours -- how lone! how lone!
Ever, forever, they mourn and moan;
Let them revel in joy, let them riot in cheer;
The revelry o'er, they're all the more drear.
Those hearts of ours -- how warm! how warm!
Like the sun's bright rays, like the Summer's charm;
How they beam and burn! how they gleam and glow
Their flash and flame hide but ashes below.
Those hearts of ours -- how cold! how cold!
Like December's snow on the waste or wold;
And though our Decembers melt soon into May,
Hearts know Decembers that pass not away.
Those hearts of ours -- how deep! how deep!
You may sound the sea where the corals sleep,
Where never a billow hath rumbled or rolled --
Depths still the deeper our hearts hide and hold.
Where the wild storm's tramp hath ne'er been known
The wrecks of the sea lie low and lone;
Thus the heart's surface may sparkle and glow,
There are wrecks far down -- there are graves below.
Those hearts of ours -- but, after all,
How shallow and narrow, how tiny and small;
Like scantiest streamlet or Summer's least rill,
They're as easy to empty -- as easy to fill.
One hour of storm and how the streams pour!
One hour of sun and the streams are no more;
One little grief -- how the tears gush and glide!
One smile -- flow they ever so fast, they are dried.
Those hearts of ours -- how wise! how wise!
They can lift their thoughts till they touch the skies;
They can sink their shafts, like a miner bold,
Where wisdom's mines hide their pearls and gold.
Aloft they soar with undazzled gaze,
Where the halls of the Day-King burn and blaze;
Or they fly with a wing that will never fail,
O'er the sky's dark sea where the star-ships sail.
Those hearts of ours -- what fools! what fools!
How they laugh at wisdom, her cant and rules!
How they waste their powers, and, when wasted, grieve
For what they have squandered, but cannot retrieve.
Those hearts of ours -- how strong! how strong!
Let a thousand sorrows around them throng,
They can bear them all, and a thousand more,
And they're stronger then than they were before.
Those hearts of ours -- how weak! how weak!
But a single word of unkindness speak,
Like a poisoned shaft, like a viper's fang,
That one slight word leaves a life-long pang.
Those hearts of ours -- but I've said enough,
As I find that my rhyme grows rude and rough;
I'll rest me now, but I'll come again
Some other day, to resume my strain.
---- Their Story Runneth Thus
Two little children played among the flowers,
Their mothers were of kin, tho' far apart;
The children's ages were the very same
E'en to an hour -- and Ethel was her name,
A fair, sweet girl, with great, brown, wond'ring eyes
That seemed to listen just as if they held
The gift of hearing with the power of sight.
Six summers slept upon her low white brow,
And dreamed amid the roses of her cheeks.
Her voice was sweetly low; and when she spoke
Her words were music; and her laughter rang
So like an altar-bell that, had you heard
Its silvery sound a-ringing, you would think
Of kneeling down and worshiping the pure.
They played among the roses -- it was May --
And "hide and seek", and "seek and hide", all eve
They played together till the sun went down.
Earth held no happier hearts than theirs that day:
And tired at last she plucked a crimson rose
And gave to him, her playmate, cousin-kin;
And he went thro' the garden till he found
The whitest rose of all the roses there,
And placed it in her long, brown, waving hair.
"I give you red -- and you -- you give me white:
What is the meaning?" said she, while a smile,
As radiant as the light of angels' wings,
Swept bright across her face; the while her eyes
Seemed infinite purities half asleep
In sweetest pearls; and he did make reply:
"Sweet Ethel! white dies first; you know, the snow,
(And it is not as white as thy pure face)
Melts soon away; but roses red as mine
Will bloom when all the snow hath passed away."
She sighed a little sigh, then laughed again,
And hand in hand they walked the winding ways
Of that fair garden till they reached her home.
A good-bye and a kiss -- and he was gone.
She leaned her head upon her mother's breast,
And ere she fell asleep she, sighing, called:
"Does white die first? my mother! and does red
Live longer?" And her mother wondered much
At such strange speech. She fell asleep
With murmurs on her lips of red and white.
Those children loved as only children can --
With nothing in their love save their whole selves.
When in their cradles they had been betroth'd;
They knew it in a manner vague and dim --
Unconscious yet of what betrothal meant.
The boy -- she called him Merlin -- a love name --
(And he -- he called her always Ullainee,
No matter why); the boy was full of moods.
Upon his soul and face the dark and bright
Were strangely intermingled. Hours would pass
Rippling with his bright prattle; and then, hours
Would come and go, and never hear a word
Fall from his lips, and never see a smile
Upon his face. He was so like a cloud
With ever-changeful hues, as she was like
A golden sunbeam shining on its face.
* * * * *
Ten years passed on. They parted and they met
Not often in each year; yet as they grew
In years, a consciousness unto them came
Of human love.
But it was sweet and pure.
There was no passion in it. Reverence,
Like Guardian-Angel, watched o'er Innocence.
One night in mid of May their faces met
As pure as all the stars that gazed on them.
They met to part from themselves and the world;
Their hearts just touched to separate and bleed;
Their eyes were linked in look, while saddest tears
Fell down, like rain, upon the cheeks of each:
They were to meet no more.
Their hands were clasped
To tear the clasp in twain; and all the stars
Looked proudly down on them, while shadows knelt,
Or seemed to kneel, around them with the awe
Evoked from any heart by sacrifice.
And in the heart of that last parting hour
Eternity was beating. And he said:
"We part to go to Calvary and to God --
This is our garden of Gethsemane;
And here we bow our heads and breathe His prayer
Whose heart was bleeding, while the angels heard:
Not my will, Father! but Thine own be done."
Raptures meet agonies in such heart-hours;
Gladness doth often fling her bright, warm arms
Around the cold, white neck of grief -- and thus
The while they parted -- sorrow swept their hearts
Like a great, dark stormy sea -- but sudden
A joy, like sunshine -- did it come from God? --
Flung over every wave that swept o'er them
A more than golden glory.
"Our loves must soar aloft to spheres divine;
The human satisfies nor you nor me,
(No human love shall ever satisfy --
Or ever did -- the hearts that lean on it);
You sigh for something higher as do I,
So let our spirits be espoused in God,
And let our wedlock be as soul to soul;
And prayer shall be the golden marriage ring,
And God will bless us both."
She sweetly said:
"Your words are echoes of my own soul's thoughts;
Let God's own heart be our own holy home
And let us live as only angels live;
And let us love as our own angels love.
'Tis hard to part -- but it is better so --
God's will is ours, and -- Merlin! let us go."
And then she sobbed as if her heart would break --
Perhaps it did; an awful minute passed,
Long as an age and briefer than a flash
Of lightning in the skies. No word was said --
Only a look which never was forgot.
Between them fell the shadows of the night.
Their faces went away into the dark,
And never met again; and yet their souls
Were twined together in the heart of Christ.
And Ethel went from earthland long ago;
But Merlin stays still hanging on his cross.
He would not move a nail that nails him there,
He would not pluck a thorn that crowns him there.
He hung himself upon the blessed cross
With Ethel; she has gone to wear the crown
That wreathes the brows of virgins who have kept
Their bodies with their souls from earthly taint.
And years and years, and weary years, passed on
Into the past. One Autumn afternoon,
When flowers were in their agony of death,
And winds sang "De Profundis" over them,
And skies were sad with shadows, he did walk
Where, in a resting place as calm as sweet,
The dead were lying down; the Autumn sun
Was half way down the west; the hour was three --
The holiest hour of all the twenty-four,
For Jesus leaned His head on it, and died.
He walked alone amid the virgin's graves
Where virgins slept; a convent stood near by,
And from the solitary cells of nuns
Unto the cells of death the way was short.
Low, simple stones and white watched o'er each grave,
While in the hollows 'tween them sweet flowers grew,
Entwining grave and grave. He read the names
Engraven on the stones, and "Rest in peace"
Was written 'neath them all, and o'er each name
A cross was graven on the lowly stone.
He passed each grave with reverential awe,
As if he passed an altar, where the Host
Had left a memory of its sacrifice.
And o'er the buried virgins' virgin dust
He walked as prayerfully as tho' he trod
The holy floor of fair Loretta's shrine.
He passed from grave to grave, and read the names
Of those whose own pure lips had changed the names
By which this world had known them into names
Of sacrifice known only to their God;
Veiling their faces they had veiled their names;
The very ones who played with them as girls,
Had they passed there, would know no more than he
Or any stranger where their playmates slept;
And then he wondered all about their lives, their hearts,
Their thoughts, their feelings, and their dreams,
Their joys and sorrows, and their smiles and tears.
He wondered at the stories that were hid
Forever down within those simple graves.
In a lone corner of that resting-place
Uprose a low white slab that marked a grave
Apart from all the others; long, sad grass
Drooped o'er the little mound, and mantled it
With veil of purest green; around the slab
The whitest of white roses 'twined their arms --
Roses cold as the snows and pure as songs
Of angels -- and the pale leaflets and thorns
Hid e'en the very name of her who slept
Beneath. He walked on to the grave, but when
He reached its side a spell fell on his heart
So suddenly -- he knew not why -- and tears
Went up into his eyes and trickled down
Upon the grass; he was so strangely moved
As if he met a long-gone face he loved.
I believe he prayed. He lifted then the leaves
That hid the name; but as he did, the thorns
Did pierce his hand, and lo! amazed, he read
The very word -- the very, very name
He gave the girl in golden days before --
He sat beside that lonely grave for long,
He took its grasses in his trembling hand,
He toyed with them and wet them with his tears,
He read the name again, and still again,
He thought a thousand thoughts, and then he thought
It all might be a dream -- then rubbed his eyes
And read the name again to be more sure;
Then wondered and then wept -- then asked himself:
"What means it all? Can this be Ethel's grave?
I dreamed her soul had fled.
Was she the white dove that I saw in dream
Fly o'er the sleeping sea so long ago?"
The convent bell
Rang sweet upon the breeze, and answered him
His question. And he rose and went his way
Unto the convent gate; long shadows marked
One hour before the sunset, and the birds
Were singing Vespers in the convent trees.
As silent as a star-gleam came a nun
In answer to his summons at the gate;
Her face was like the picture of a saint,
Or like an angel's smile; her downcast eyes
Were like a half-closed tabernacle, where
God's presence glowed; her lips were pale and worn
By ceaseless prayer; and when she sweetly spoke,
And bade him enter, 'twas in such a tone
As only voices own which day and night
Sing hymns to God.
She locked the massive gate.
He followed her along a flower-fringed walk
That, gently rising, led up to the home
Of virgin hearts. The very flowers that bloomed
Within the place, in beds of sacred shapes,
(For they had fashioned them with holy care,
Into all holy forms -- a chalice, a cross,
And sacred hearts -- and many saintly names,
That, when their eyes would fall upon the flowers,
Their souls might feast upon some mystic sign),
Were fairer far within the convent walls,
And purer in their fragrance and their bloom
Than all their sisters in the outer world.
He went into a wide and humble room --
The floor was painted, and upon the walls,
In humble frames, most holy paintings hung;
Jesus and Mary and many an olden saint
Were there. And she, the veil-clad Sister, spoke:
"I'll call the mother," and she bowed and went.
He waited in the wide and humble room,
The only room in that unworldly place
This world could enter; and the pictures looked
Upon his face and down into his soul,
And strangely stirred him. On the mantle stood
A crucifix, the figured Christ of which
Did seem to suffer; and he rose to look
More nearly on to it; but he shrank in awe
When he beheld a something in its face
Like his own face.
But more amazed he grew, when, at the foot
Of that strange crucifix he read the name --
A whirl of thought swept o'er his startled soul --
When to the door he heard a footstep come,
And then a voice -- the Mother of the nuns
Had entered -- and in calmest tone began:
"Forgive, kind sir, my stay; our Matin song
Had not yet ended when you came; our rule
Forbids our leaving choir; this my excuse."
She bent her head -- the rustle of her veil
Was like the trembling of an angel's wing,
Her voice's tone as sweet. She turned to him
And seemed to ask him with her still, calm look
What brought him there, and waited his reply.
"I am a stranger, Sister, hither come,"
He said, "upon an errand still more strange;
But thou wilt pardon me and bid me go
If what I crave you cannot rightly grant;
I would not dare intrude, nor claim your time,
Save that a friendship, deep as death, and strong
As life, has brought me to this holy place."
He paused. She looked at him an instant, bent
Her lustrous eyes upon the floor, but gave
Him no reply, save that her very look
Encouraged him to speak, and he went on:
He told her Ethel's story from the first,
He told her of the day amid the flowers,
When they were only six sweet summers old;
He told her of the night when all the flowers,
A-list'ning, heard the words of sacrifice --
He told her all; then said: "I saw a stone
In yonder graveyard where your Sisters sleep,
And writ on it, all hid by roses white,
I saw a name I never ought forget."
She wore a startled look, but soon repressed
The wonder that had come into her face.
"Whose name?" she calmly spoke. But when he said
She forward bent her face and pierced his own
With look intensest; and he thought he heard
The trembling of her veil, as if the brow
It mantled throbbed with many thrilling thoughts
But quickly rose she, and, in hurried tone,
Spoke thus: "'Tis hour of sunset, 'tis our rule
To close the gates to all till to-morrow's morn.
Return to-morrow; then, if so God wills,
I'll see you."
He gave many thanks, passed out
From that unworldly place into the world.
Straight to the lonely graveyard went his steps --
Swift to the "White-Rose-Grave", his heart: he knelt
Upon its grass and prayed that God might will
The mystery's solution; then he took,
Where it was drooping on the slab, a rose,
The whiteness of whose leaves was like the foam
Of summer waves upon a summer sea.
Then thro' the night he went
And reached his room, where, weary of his thoughts,
Sleep came, and coming found the dew of tears
Undried within his eyes, and flung her veil
Around him. Then he dreamt a strange, weird dream.
A rock, dark waves, white roses and a grave,
And cloistered flowers, and cloistered nuns, and tears
That shone like jewels on a diadem,
And two great angels with such shining wings --
All these and more were in most curious way
Blended in one dream or many dreams. Then
He woke wearier in his mind. Then slept
Again and had another dream.
His dream ran thus --
(He told me all of it many years ago,
But I forgot the most. I remember this):
A dove, whiter than whiteness' very self,
Fluttered thro' his sleep in vision or dream,
Bearing in its flight a spotless rose. It
Flew away across great, long distances,
Thro' forests where the trees were all in dream,
And over wastes where silences held reign,
And down pure valleys, till it reached a shore
By which blushed a sea in the ev'ning sun;
The dove rested there awhile, rose again
And flew across the sea into the sun;
And then from near or far (he could not say)
Came sound as faint as echo's own echo --
A low sweet hymn it seemed -- and now
And then he heard, or else he thought he heard,
As if it were the hymn's refrain, the words:
"White dies first!" "White dies first."
The sun had passed his noon and westward sloped;
He hurried to the cloister and was told
The Mother waited him. He entered in,
Into the wide and pictured room, and there
The Mother sat and gave him welcome twice.
"I prayed last night," she spoke, "to know God's will;
I prayed to Holy Mary and the saints
That they might pray for me, and I might know
My conduct in the matter. Now, kind sir,
What wouldst thou? Tell thy errand." He replied:
"It was not idle curiosity
That brought me hither or that prompts my lips
To ask the story of the `White-Rose-Grave',
To seek the story of the sleeper there
Whose name I knew so long and far away.
Who was she, pray? Dost deem it right to tell?"
There was a pause before the answer came,
As if there was a comfort in her heart,
There was a tremor in her voice when she
Unclosed two palest lips, and spoke in tone
Of whisper more than word:
"She was a child
Of lofty gift and grace who fills that grave,
And who has filled it long -- and yet it seems
To me but one short hour ago we laid
Her body there. Her mem'ry clings around
Our hearts, our cloisters, fresh, and fair, and sweet.
We often look for her in places where
Her face was wont to be: among the flowers,
In chapel, underneath those trees. Long years
Have passed and mouldered her pure face, and yet
It seems to hover here and haunt us all.
I cannot tell you all. It is enough
To see one ray of light for us to judge
The glory of the sun; it is enough
To catch one glimpse of heaven's blue
For us to know the beauty of the sky.
It is enough to tell a little part
Of her most holy life, that you may know
The hidden grace and splendor of the whole."
"Nay, nay," he interrupted her; "all! all!
Thou'lt tell me all, kind Mother."
She went on,
Unheeding his abruptness:
"One sweet day --
A feast of Holy Virgin, in the month
Of May, at early morn, ere yet the dew
Had passed from off the flowers and grass -- ere yet
Our nuns had come from holy Mass -- there came,
With summons quick, unto our convent gate
A fair young girl. Her feet were wet with dew --
Another dew was moist within her eyes --
Her large, brown, wond'ring eyes. She asked for me
And as I went she rushed into my arms --
Like weary bird into the leaf-roofed branch
That sheltered it from storm. She sobbed and sobbed
Until I thought her very soul would rush
From her frail body, in a sob, to God.
I let her sob her sorrow all away.
My words were waiting for a calm. Her sobs
Sank into sighs -- and they too sank and died
In faintest breath. I bore her to a seat
In this same room -- and gently spoke to her,
And held her hand in mine -- and soothed her
With words of sympathy, until she seemed
As tranquil as myself.
"And then I asked:
`What brought thee hither, child? and what wilt thou?'
`Mother!' she said, `wilt let me wear the veil?
Wilt let me serve my God as e'en you serve
Him in this cloistered place? I pray to be --
Unworthy tho' I be -- to be His spouse.
Nay, Mother -- say not nay -- 'twill break a heart
Already broken;' and she looked on me
With those brown, wond'ring eyes, which pleaded more,
More strongly and more sadly than her lips
That I might grant her sudden, strange request.
`Hast thou a mother?' questioned I. `I had,'
She said, `but heaven has her now; and thou
Wilt be my mother -- and the orphan girl
Will make her life her thanks.'
`Thy father, child?'
`Ere I was cradled he was in his grave.'
`And hast nor sister nor brother?' `No,' she said,
`God gave my mother only me; one year
This very day He parted us.' `Poor child,'
I murmured. `Nay, kind Sister,' she replied,
`I have much wealth -- they left me ample means --
I have true friends who love me and protect.
I was a minor until yesterday;
But yesterday all guardianship did cease,
And I am mistress of myself and all
My worldly means -- and, Sister, they are thine
If thou but take myself -- nay -- don't refuse.'
`Nay -- nay -- my child!' I said; `the only wealth
We wish for is the wealth of soul -- of grace.
Not all your gold could unlock yonder gate,
Or buy a single thread of Virgin's veil.
Not all the coins in coffers of a king
Could bribe an entrance here for any one.
God's voice alone can claim a cell -- a veil,
For any one He sends.
Who sent you here,
My child? Thyself? Or did some holy one
Direct thy steps? Or else some sudden grief?
Or, mayhap, disappointment? Or, perhaps,
A sickly weariness of that bright world
Hath cloyed thy spirit? Tell me, which is it.'
`Neither,' she quickly, almost proudly spoke.
`Who sent you, then?'
`A youthful Christ,' she said,
`Who, had he lived in those far days of Christ,
Would have been His belov'd Disciple, sure --
Would have been His own gentle John; and would
Have leaned on Thursday night upon His breast,
And stood on Friday eve beneath His cross
To take His Mother from Him when He died.
He sent me here -- he said the word last night
In my own garden; this the word he said --
Oh! had you heard him whisper: "Ethel, dear!
Your heart was born with veil of virgin on;
I hear it rustle every time we meet,
In all your words and smiles; and when you weep
I hear it rustle more. Go -- wear your veil --
And outward be what inwardly thou art,
And hast been from the first. And, Ethel, list:
My heart was born with priestly vestments on,
And at Dream-Altars I have ofttimes stood,
And said such sweet Dream-Masses in my sleep --
And when I lifted up a white Dream-Host,
A silver Dream-Bell rang -- and angels knelt,
Or seemed to kneel, in worship. Ethel say --
Thou wouldst not take the vestments from my heart
Nor more than I would tear the veil from thine.
My vested and thy veiled heart part to-night
To climb our Calvary and to meet in God;
And this, fair Ethel, is Gethsemane --
And He is here, who, in that other, bled;
And they are here who came to comfort Him --
His angels and our own; and His great prayer,
Ethel, is ours to-night -- let's say it, then:
Father! Thy will be done! Go find your veil
And I my vestments." He did send me here.'
"She paused -- a few stray tears had dropped upon
Her closing words and softened them to sighs.
I listened, inward moved, but outward calm and cold
To the girl's strange story. Then, smiling, said:
`I see it is a love-tale after all,
With much of folly and some of fact in it;
It is a heart affair, and in such things
There's little logic, and there's less of sense.
You brought your heart, dear child, but left your head
Outside the gates; nay, go, and find the head
You lost last night -- and then, I am quite sure,
You'll not be anxious to confine your heart
Within this cloistered place.'
She seemed to wince
Beneath my words one moment -- then replied:
`If e'en a wounded heart did bring me here,
Dost thou do well, Sister, to wound it more?
If merely warmth of feelings urged me here,
Dost thou do well to chill them into ice?
And were I disappointed in yon world,
Should that debar me from a purer place?
You say it is a love-tale -- so it is;
The vase was human -- but the flower divine;
And if I break the vase with my own hands,
Will you forbid that I should humbly ask
The heart of God to be my lily's vase?
I'd trust my lily to no heart on earth
Save his who yesternight did send me here
To dip it in the very blood of Christ,
And plant it here.'
And then she sobbed outright
A long, deep sob.
I gently said to her:
`Nay, child, I spoke to test thee -- do not weep.
If thou art called of God, thou yet shalt come
And find e'en here a home. But God is slow
In all His works and ways, and slower still
When He would deck a bride to grace His court.
Go, now, and in one year -- if thou dost come
Thy veil and cell shall be prepared for thee;
Nay -- urge me not -- it is our holy rule --
A year of trial! I must to choir, and thou
Into the world to watch and wait and pray
Until the Bridegroom comes.'
She rose and went
Without a word.
"And twelvemonth after came,
True to the very day and hour, and said:
`Wilt keep thy promise made one year ago?
Where is my cell -- and where my virgin's veil?
Wilt try me more? Wilt send me back again?
I came once with my wealth and was refused:
And now I come as poor as Holy Christ
Who had no place to rest His weary head --
My wealth is gone; I offered it to him
Who sent me here; he sent me speedy word
"Give all unto the poor in quiet way --
And hide the giving -- ere you give yourself
To God!" `Wilt take me now for my own sake?
I bring my soul -- 'tis little worth I ween,
And yet it cost sweet Christ a priceless price.'
"`My child,' I said, `thrice welcome -- enter here;
A few short days of silence and of prayer,
And thou shalt be the Holy Bridegroom's bride.'
"Her novice days went on; much sickness fell
Upon her. Oft she lay for weary weeks
In awful agonies, and no one heard
A murmur from her lips. She oft would smile
A sunny, playful smile, that she might hide
Her sufferings from us all. When she was well
She was the first to meet the hour of prayer --
The last to leave it -- and they named her well:
The `Angel of the Cloister'. Once I heard
The Father of our souls say when she passed
`Beneath that veil of sacrificial black
She wears the white robe of her innocence.'
And we -- we believed it. There are sisters here
Of three-score years of service who would say:
`Within our memory never moved a veil
That hid so saintly and so pure a heart.'
And we -- we felt it, and we loved her so,
We treated her as angel and as child.
I never heard her speak about the past,
I never heard her mention e'en a name
Of any in the world. She little spake;
She seemed to have rapt moments -- then she grew
Absent-minded, and would come and ask me
To walk alone and say her Rosary
Beneath the trees. She had a voice divine;
And when she sang for us, in truth it seemed
The very heart of song was breaking on her lips.
The dower of her mind as of her heart,
Was of the richest, and she mastered art
By instinct more than study. Her weak hands
Moved ceaselessly amid the beautiful.
There is a picture hanging in our choir
She painted. I remember well the morn
She came to me and told me she had dreamt
A dream; then asked me would I let her paint
Her dream. I gave permission. Weeks and weeks
Went by, and ev'ry spare hour of the day
She kept her cell all busy with her work.
At last 'twas finished, and she brought it forth --
A picture my poor words may not portray.
But you must gaze on it with your own eyes,
And drink its magic and its meanings in;
I'll show it thee, kind sir, before you go.
"In every May for two whole days she kept
Her cell. We humored her in that; but when
The days had passed, and she came forth again,
Her face was tender as a lily's leaf,
With God's smile on it; and for days and days
Thereafter, she would scarcely ope her lips
Save when in prayer, and then her every look
Was rapt, as if her soul did hold with God
Strange converse. And, who knows? mayhap she did.
"I half forgot -- on yonder mantlepiece
You see that wondrous crucifix; one year
She spent on it, and begged to put beneath
That most mysterious word -- `Ullainee'.
"At last the cloister's angel disappeared;
Her face was missed at choir, her voice was missed --
Her words were missed where every day we met
In recreation's hour. And those who passed
The angel's cell would lightly tread, and breathe
A prayer that death might pass the angel by
And let her longer stay, for she lay ill --
Her frail, pure life was ebbing fast away.
Ah! many were the orisons that rose
From all our hearts that God might spare her still;
At Benediction and at holy Mass
Our hands were lifted, and strong pleadings went
To heaven for her; we did love her so --
Perhaps too much we loved her, and perhaps
Our love was far too human. Slow and slow
She faded like a flower. And slow and slow
Her pale cheeks whitened more. And slow and slow
Her large, brown, wondering eyes sank deep and dim.
Hope died on all our faces; but on her's
Another and a different hope did shine,
And from her wasted lips sweet prayers arose
That made her watchers weep. Fast came the end.
Never such silence o'er the cloister hung --
We walked more softly, and, whene'er we spoke,
Our voices fell to whispers, lest a sound
Might jar upon her ear. The sisters watched
In turns beside her couch; to each she gave
A gentle word, a smile, a thankful look.
At times her mind did wander; no wild words
Escaped her lips -- she seemed to float away
To far-gone days, and live again in scenes
Whose hours were bright and happy. In her sleep
She ofttimes spoke low, gentle, holy words
About her mother; and sometimes she sang
The fragments of sweet olden songs -- and when
She woke again, she timidly would ask
If she had spoken in her sleep, and what
She said, as if, indeed, her heart did fear
That sleep might open there some long-closed gate
She would keep locked. And softly as a cloud,
A golden cloud upon a summer's day,
Floats from the heart of land out o'er the sea,
So her sweet life was passing. One bright eve,
The fourteenth day of August, when the sun
Was wrapping, like a king, a purple cloud
Around him on descending day's bright throne,
She sent for me and bade me come in haste.
I went into her cell. There was a light
Upon her face, unearthly; and it shone
Like gleam of star upon a dying rose.
I sat beside her couch, and took her hand
In mine -- a fair, frail hand that scarcely seem'd
Of flesh -- so wasted, white and wan it was.
Her great, brown, wond'ring eyes had sunk away
Deep in their sockets -- and their light shone dim
As tapers dying on an altar. Soft
As a dream of beauty on me fell low,
`Mother, the tide is ebbing fast;
But ere it leaves this shore to cross the deep
And seek another, calmer, I would say
A few last words -- and, Mother, I would ask
One favor more, which thou wilt not refuse.
Thou wert a mother to the orphan girl,
Thou gav'st her heart a home, her love a vase,
Her weariness a rest, her sacrifice a shrine --
And thou didst love me, Mother, as she loved
Whom I shall meet to-morrow, far away --
But no, it is not far -- that other heaven
Touches this, Mother; I have felt its touch,
And now I feel its clasp upon my soul.
I'm going from this heaven into that,
To-morrow, Mother. Yes, I dreamt it all.
It was the sunset of Our Lady's feast.
My soul passed upwards thro' the golden clouds
To sing the second Vespers of the day
With all the angels. Mother, ere I go,
Thou'lt listen, Mother sweet, to my last words,
Which, like all last words, tell whate'er was first
In life or tenderest in heart. I came
Unto my convent cell and virgin veil,
Sent by a spirit that had touched my own
As wings of angels touch -- to fly apart
Upon their missions -- till they meet again
In heaven, heart to heart, wing to wing.
The "Angel of the Cloister" you called me --
Unworthy sure of such a beauteous name --
My mission's over -- and your angel goes
To-morrow home. This earthly part which stays
You'll lay away within a simple grave --
But, Mother, on its slab thou'lt grave this name,
"Ullainee!" (she spelt the letters out),
Nor ask me why -- tho' if thou wilt I'll tell;
It is my soul name, given long ago
By one who found it in some Eastern book,
Or dreamt it in a dream, and gave it me --
Nor ever told the meaning of the name;
And, Mother, should he ever come and read
That name upon my grave, and come to thee
And ask the tidings of "Ullainee",
Thou'lt tell him all -- and watch him if he weeps,
Show him the crucifix my poor hands carved --
Show him the picture in the chapel choir --
And watch him if he weeps; and then
There are three humble scrolls in yonder drawer;'
(She pointed to the table in her room);
`Some words of mine and words of his are there.
And keep these simple scrolls until he comes,
And put them in his hands; and, Mother, watch --
Watch him if he weeps; and tell him this:
I tasted all the sweets of sacrifice,
I kissed my cross a thousand times a day,
I hung and bled upon it in my dreams,
I lived on it -- I loved it to the last.' And then
A low, soft sigh crept thro' the virgin's cell;
I looked upon her face, and death was there."
There was a pause -- and in the pause one wave
Of shining tears swept thro' the Mother's eyes.
"And thus," she said, "our angel passed away.
We buried her, and at her last request
We wrote upon the slab, `Ullainee'.
And I -- (for she asked me one day thus,
The day she hung her picture in the choir) --
I planted o'er her grave a white rose tree.
The roses crept around the slab and hid
The graven name -- and still we sometimes cull
Her sweet, white roses, and we place them on
Then the Mother rose,
Without another word, and led him thro'
A long, vast hall, then up a flight of stairs
Unto an oaken door, which turned upon its hinge
Noiselessly -- then into a Chapel dim,
On gospel side of which there was a gate
From ceiling down to floor, and back of that
A long and narrow choir, with many stalls,
Brown-oaken; all along the walls were hung
Saint-pictures, whose sweet faces looked upon
The faces of the Sisters in their prayers.
Beside a "Mater Dolorosa" hung
The picture of the "Angel of the Choir".
He sees it now thro' vista of the years,
Which stretch between him and that long-gone day,
It hangs within his memory as fresh
In tint and touch and look as long ago.
There was a power in it, as if the soul
Of her who painted it had shrined in it
Its very self; there was a spell in it
That fell upon his spirit thro' his eyes,
And made him dream of God's own holy heart.
The shadow of the picture, in weak words,
Was this, or something very like to this:
---- A wild, weird wold,
Just like the desolation of a heart,
Stretched far away into infinity;
Above it low, gray skies drooped sadly down,
As if they fain would weep, and all was bare
As bleakness' own bleak self; a mountain stood
All mantled with the glory of a light
That flashed from out the heavens, and a cross
With such a pale Christ hanging in its arms
Did crown the mount; and either side the cross
There were two crosses lying on the rocks --
One of the whitest roses -- ULLAINEE
Was woven into it with buds of Red;
And one of reddest roses -- Merlin's name
Was woven into it with buds of white.
Below the cross and crosses and the mount
The earth-place lay so dark and bleak and drear;
Above, a golden glory seemed to hang
Like God's own benediction o'er the names.
I saw the picture once; it moved me so
I ne'er forgot its beauty or its truth;
But words as weak as mine can never paint
That Crucifixion's picture.
Merlin said to me:
"Some day -- some far-off day -- when I am dead,
You have the simple rhymings of two hearts,
And if you think it best, the world may know
A love-tale crowned by purest SACRIFICE."
Night After the Picnic
And "Happy! Happy! Happy!"
Rang the bells of all the hours;
"Shyly! Shyly! Shyly!"
Looked and listened all the flowers;
They were wakened from their slumbers,
By the footsteps of the fair;
And they smiled in their awaking
On the faces gathered there.
"Brightly! Brightly! Brightly!"
Looked the overhanging trees,
For beneath their bending branches
Floated tresses in the breeze.
And they wondered who had wandered
With such voices and so gay;
And their leaflets seemed to whisper
To each other: "Who are they?"
They were just like little children,
Not a sorrow's shade was there;
And "Merry! Merry! Merry!"
Rang their laughter thro' the air.
There was not a brow grief-darkened,
Was there there a heart in pain?
But "Happy! Happy! Happy!"
Came the happy bells' refrain.
When the stately trees were bending
O'er a simple, quiet home,
That looked humble as an altar,
Nestling 'neath a lofty dome;
Thither went they gaily! gaily!
Where their coming was a joy,
Just to pass away together
One long day without alloy.
"Slowly! Slowly! Slowly!"
Melted morning's mist away,
Till the sun, in all its splendor,
Lit the borders of the bay.
"Gladly! Gladly! Gladly!"
Glanced the waters that were gray,
While the wavelets whispered "Welcome!"
To us all that happy day.
And "Happy! Happy! Happy!"
Rang the bell in every heart,
And it chimed, "All day let no one
Think that ye shall ever part.
Go and sip from every moment
Sweets to perfume many years;
Keep your feast, and be too happy
To have thought of any tears."
There was song with one's soul in it,
And the happy hearts grew still
While they leaned upon the music
Like fair lilies o'er the rill;
Till the notes had softly floated
Into silent seas away
O'er the wavelets, where they listened
While they rocked upon the bay.
And ---- "Dreamy! Dreamy! Dreamy!"
When the song's sweet life was o'er,
Drooped the eyes that will remember
All its echoes evermore.
And "Stilly! Stilly! Stilly!"
Beat the hearts of some, I ween,
That can see the unseen mystery
Which a song may strive to screen.
Then "Gaily! Gaily! Gaily!"
Rang the laughter everywhere,
From the lips that seemed too lightsome
For the sigh of any care.
And the dance went "Merry! Merry!"
Whilst the feet that tripped along,
Bore the hearts that were as happy
As a wild bird's happy song.
And sweet words with smiles upon them,
Joy-winged, flitted to and fro,
Flushing every face they met with
With the glory of their glow.
Not a brow with cloud upon it --
Not an eye that seemed to know
What a tear is; not a bosom
That had ever nursed a woe.
And how "Swiftly! Swiftly! Swiftly!"
Like the ripples of a stream,
Did the bright hours chase each other,
Till it all seemed like a dream;
Till it seemed as if no ~Never~
Ever in this world had been,
To o'ercloud the ~brief Forever~,
Shining o'er the happy scene.
Dimly! dimly fell the shadows
Of the tranquil eventide;
But the sound of dance and laughter
Would not die, and had not died;
And still "Happy! Happy! Happy!"
Rang the voiceless vesper bells
O'er the hearts that were too happy
To remember earth's farewells.
Came the night hours -- faster! faster!
Rose the laughter and the dance,
And the eyes that should look weary
Shone the brighter in their glance:
And they stole from every minute
What no other day could lend --
They were happy! happy! happy!
But the feast must have an end.
"Children, come!" the words were cruel --
'Twas the death sigh of the feast;
And they came, still merry! merry!
At the bidding of the priest,
Who had heard the joy-bells ringing
Round him all the summer day.
"Happy! Happy! Happy! Happy!"
Did he hear an angel say?
"Happy! happy! still more happy!
Yea, the happiest are they.
I was moving 'mid the children
By the borders of the bay,
And I bring to God no record
Of a single sin this day.
"Happy! Happy! Happy!"
When your life seems lone and long,
You will hear that feast's bells ringing
Far and faintly thro' my song.
Lines ["The death of men is not the death"]
The death of men is not the death
Of rights that urged them to the fray;
For men may yield
A noble life with stainless shield,
And swords may rust
Above their dust,
But still, and still
The touch and thrill
Of freedom's vivifying breath
Will nerve a heart and rouse a will
In some hour, in the days to be,
To win back triumphs from defeat;
And those who blame us then will greet
Right's glorious eternity.
For right lives in a thousand things;
Its cradle is its martyr's grave,
Wherein it rests awhile until
The life that heroisms gave
Will rise again, at God's own will,
And right the wrong,
Which long and long
Did reign above the true and just;
And thro' the songs the poet sings,
Right's vivifying spirit rings;
Each simple rhyme
Keeps step and time
With those who marched away and fell,
And all his lines
Are humble shrines
Where love of right will love to dwell.
Death of the Prince Imperial
Waileth a woman, "O my God!"
A breaking heart in a broken breath,
A hopeless cry o'er her heart-hope's death!
Can words catch the chords of the winds that wail,
When love's last lily lies dead in the vale!
Let her alone,
Under the rod
With the infinite moan
Of her soul for God.
Ah! song! you may echo the sound of pain,
But you never may shrine,
In verse or line,
The pang of the heart that breaks in twain.
Waileth a woman, "O my God!"
Wind-driven waves with no hearts that ache,
Why do your passionate pulses throb?
No lips that speak -- have ye souls that sob?
We carry the cross -- ye wear the crest,
We have our God -- and ye, your shore,
Whither ye rush in the storm to rest;
We have the havens of holy prayer --
And we have a hope -- have ye despair?
For storm-rocked waves ye break evermore,
Adown the shores and along the years,
In the whitest foam of the saddest tears,
And we, as ye, O waves, gray waves!
Drift over a sea more deep and wide,
For we have sorrow and we have death;
And ye have only the tempest's breath;
But we have God when heart-oppressed,
As a calm and beautiful shore of rest.
O waves! sad waves! how you flowed between
The crownless Prince and the exiled Queen!
Waileth a woman, "O my God!"
Her hopes are withered, her heart is crushed,
For the love of her love is cold and dead,
The joy of her joy hath forever fled;
A starless and pitiless night hath rushed
On the light of her life -- and far away
In Afric wild lies her poor dead child,
Lies the heart of her heart -- let her alone
Under the rod
With her infinite moan,
O my God!
He was beautiful, pure, and brave,
The brightest grace
Of a royal race;
Only his throne is but a grave;
Is there fate in fame?
Is there doom in names?
Ah! what did the cruel Zulu spears
Care for the prince or his mother's tears?
What did the Zulu's ruthless lance
Care for the hope of the future France?
Crieth the Empress, "O my son!"
He was her own and her only one,
She had nothing to give him but her love.
'Twas kingdom enough on earth -- above
She gave him an infinite faith in God;
Let her cry her cry
Over her own and only one,
All the glory is gone -- is gone,
Into her broken-hearted sigh.
Moaneth a mother, "O my child!"
And who can sound that depth of woe?
Homeless, throneless, crownless -- now
She bows her sorrow-wreathed brow --
(So fame and all its grandeurs go)
Let her alone
Beneath the rod
With her infinite moan,
"O my God!"
In Memoriam (Father Keeler)
Father Keeler died February 28, 1880, in Mobile, Ala.
Inscribed to his sister.
"Sweet Christ! let him live, ah! we need his life,
And woe to us if he goes!
Oh! his life is beautiful, sweet, and fair,
Like a holy hymn, and the stillest prayer;
Let him linger to help us in the strife
On earth, with our sins and woes."
'Twas the cry of thousands who loved him so,
The Angel of Death said: "No! oh! no!"
He was passing away -- and none might save
The virgin priest from a spotless grave.
"O God! spare his life, we plead and pray,
He taught us to love You so --
So, so much -- his life is so sweet and fair --
A still, still song -- and a holy prayer;
He is our Father; oh! let him stay --
He gone, to whom shall we go?"
'Twas the wail of thousands who loved him so,
But the Angel of Death murmured low: "No, no;"
And the voice of his angel from far away,
Sang to Christ in heav'n: "He must not stay."
"O Mary! kneel at the great white throne,
And pray with your children there --
Our hearts need his heart -- 'tis sweet and fair,
Like the sound of hymns and the breath of prayer,
Goeth he now -- we are lone -- so lone,
And who is there left to care?"
'Twas the cry of the souls who loved him so --
But the Angel of Death sang: "Children, no!"
And a voice like Christ's from the far away,
Sounded sweet and low: "He may not stay."
From his sister's heart swept the wildest moan:
"O God let my brother stay --
I need him the most -- oh! me! how lone,
If he passes from earth away --
O beautiful Christ, for my poor sake
Let him live for me, else my heart will break."
But the Angel of Death wept: "Poor child! no,"
And Christ sang: "Child, I will soothe thy woe."
"O Christ! let his sister's prayer be heard,
Let her look on his face once more!
Ah! that prayer was a wail -- without a word --
She will look on him nevermore!"
The long gray distances unmoved swept
'Tween the dying eyes and the eyes that wept.
He was dying fast, and the hours went by,
Ah! desolate hours were they!
His mind had hidden away somewhere
Back of a fretted and wearied brow,
Ere he passed from life away.
And one who loved him (at dead of night),
Crept up to an altar, where the light
That guards Christ's Eucharistic sleep,
Shone strangely down on his vow:
"Spare him! O God! -- O God! for me,
Take me, beautiful Christ, instead;
Let me taste of death and come to Thee,
I will sleep for him with the dead."
The Angel of Death said: "No! Priest! No!
You must suffer and live, but he must go."
And a voice like Christ's sang far away:
"He will come to me, but you must stay."
We leaned on hope that was all in vain,
'Till the terrible word at last
Told our stricken hearts he was out of pain,
And his beautiful life had passed.
Oh! take him away from where he died;
Put him not with the common dead
(For he was so pure and fair);
And the city was stirred, and thousands cried
Whose tears were a very prayer.
No, no, no, take him home again,
For his bishop's heart beats there;
Cast him not with the common dead,
Let him go home and rest his head,
Ah! his weary and grief-worn head,
On the heart of his father -- he is mild
For he loved him as his own child.
And they brought him home to the home he blest,
With his life so sweet and fair,
He blessed it more in his deathly rest --
His face was a chiseled prayer,
White as the snow, pure as the foam
Of a weary wave on the sea,
He drifted back -- and they placed him where
He would love at last to be.
His Father in God thought over the years
Of the beautiful happy past;
Ah! me! we were happy then; but now,
The sorrow has come, and saddest tears
Kiss the dead priest's virgin brow.
Who will watch o'er the dead young priest,
People and priests and all?
No, no, no, 'tis his spirit's feast;
When the evening shadows fall,
Let him rest alone -- unwatched, alone,
Just beneath the altar's light,
The holy hosts on their humble throne
Will watch him all thro' the night.
The doors were closed -- he was still and fair,
What sound moved up the aisles?
The dead priests come with soundless prayer,
Their faces wearing smiles.
And this was the soundless hymn they sung:
"We watch o'er you to-night,
Your life was beautiful, fair, and young,
Not a cloud upon its light.
To-morrow -- to-morrow you will rest
With the virgin priests whom Christ has blest."
Kyrie Eleison! the stricken crowd
Bowed down their heads in tears
O'er the sweet young priest in his vestment shroud
(Ah! the happy, happy years!)
They are dead and gone, and the Requiem Mass
Went slowly, mournfully on,
The Pontiff's singing was all a wail,
The altars cried, and the people wept,
The fairest flower in the church's vale
(Ah! me! how soon we pass!)
In the vase of his coffin slept.
We bore him out to his resting place,
Children, priests, and all;
There was sorrow on almost ev'ry face --
And ah! what tears did fall!
Tears from hearts, for a heart asleep,
Tears from sorrow's deepest deep.
"Dust to dust," he was lowered down;
Children! kneel and pray --
"Give the white rose priest a flower and crown,
For the white rose passed away."
And we wept our tears and left him there.
And brought his memory home --
Ah! he was beautiful, sweet, and fair,
A heavenly hymn -- a sweet, still prayer,
Pure as the snow, white as the foam,
That seeks a lone, far shore.
Dead Priest! bless from amid the blest,
The hearts that will guard thy place of rest,
Forever, forever, forever more.
Mobile Mystic Societies
The olden golden stories of the world,
That stirred the past,
And now are dim as dreams,
The lays and legends which the bards unfurled
In lines that last,
All -- rhymed with glooms and gleams.
Fragments and fancies writ on many a page
By deathless pen,
And names, and deeds that all along each age,
Thrill hearts of men.
And pictures erstwhile framed in sun or shade
Of many climes,
And life's great poems that can never fade
Nor lose their chimes;
And acts and facts that must forever ring
Like temple bells,
That sound or seem to sound where angels sing
And scenes where smiles are strangely touching tears,
'Tis ever thus,
Strange Mystics! in the meeting of the years
Ye bring to us
All these, and more; ye make us smile and sigh,
Strange power ye hold!
When New Year kneels low in the star-aisled sky
And asks the Old
To bless us all with love, and life, and light,
And when they fold
Each other in their arms, ye stir the sight,
We look, and lo!
The past is passing, and the present seems
To wish to go.
Ye pass between them on your mystic way
Thro' scene and scene,
The Old Year marches through your ranks, away
To what has been,
The while the pageant moves, it scarcely seems
Apart of earth;
The Old Year dies -- and heaven crowns with gleams
The New Year's birth.
And you -- you crown yourselves with heaven's grace
To enter here;
A prayer -- ascending from an orphan face,
Or just one tear
May meet you in the years that are to be
A blessing rare.
Ye pass beneath the arch of charity,
Who passeth there
Is blest in heaven, and is blest on earth,
And God will care,
Beyond the Old Year's death and New Year's birth,
For each of you, ye Mystics! everywhere.
My feet are wearied, and my hands are tired,
My soul oppressed --
And I desire, what I have long desired --
Rest -- only rest.
'Tis hard to toil -- when toil is almost vain,
In barren ways;
'Tis hard to sow -- and never garner grain,
In harvest days.
The burden of my days is hard to bear,
But God knows best;
And I have prayed -- but vain has been my prayer
For rest -- sweet rest.
'Tis hard to plant in Spring and never reap
The Autumn yield;
'Tis hard to till, and 'tis tilled to weep
O'er fruitless field.
And so I cry a weak and human cry,
So heart oppressed;
And so I sigh a weak and human sigh,
For rest -- for rest.
My way has wound across the desert years,
And cares infest
My path, and through the flowing of hot tears,
I pine -- for rest.
'Twas always so; when but a child I laid
On mother's breast
My wearied little head; e'en then I prayed
As now -- for rest.
And I am restless still; 'twill soon be o'er;
For down the West
Life's sun is setting, and I see the shore
Where I shall rest.
The Master's voice was sweet:
"I gave My life for thee;
Bear thou this cross thro' pain and loss,
Arise and follow Me."
I clasped it in my hand --
O Thou! who diedst for me,
The day is bright, my step is light,
'Tis sweet to follow Thee!
Through the long Summer days
I followed lovingly;
'Twas bliss to hear His voice so near,
His glorious face to see.
Down where the lilies pale
Fringed the bright river's brim,
In pastures green His steps were seen --
'Twas sweet to follow Him!
Oh, sweet to follow Him!
Lord, let me here abide.
The flowers were fair; I lingered there;
I laid His cross aside --
I saw His face no more
By the bright river's brim;
Before me lay the desert way --
'Twas hard to follow Him!
Yes! hard to follow Him
Into that dreary land!
I was alone; His cross had grown
Too heavy for my hand.
I heard His voice afar
Sound thro' the night air chill;
My weary feet refused to meet
His coming o'er the hill.
The Master's voice was sad:
"I gave My life for thee;
I bore the cross thro' pain and loss,
Thou hast not followed Me."
So fair the lilies' banks,
So bleak the desert way:
The night was dark, I could not mark
Where His blessed footsteps lay.
Fairer the lilied banks
Softer the grassy lea;
"The endless bliss of those who best
Have learned to follow Me!
Canst thou not follow Me?
Hath patient love a power no more
To move thy faithless heart?
Wilt thou not follow Me?
These weary feet of Mine
Have stained, and red the pathway dread
In search of thee and thine."
O Lord! O Love divine!
Once more I follow Thee!
Let me abide so near Thy side
That I Thy face may see.
I clasp Thy pierced hand,
O Thou who diedst for me!
I'll bear Thy cross thro' pain and loss,
So let me cling to Thee.
The Poet's Child
Lines addressed to the daughter of Richard Dalton Williams.
Child of the heart of a child of sweetest song!
The poet's blood flows through thy fresh pure veins;
Dost ever hear faint echoes float along
Thy days and dreams of thy dead father's strains?
Dost ever hear,
In mournful times,
With inner ear,
The strange sweet cadences of thy father's rhymes?
Child of a child of art, which Heaven doth give
To few, to very few as unto him!
His songs are wandering o'er the world, but live
In his child's heart, in some place lone and dim;
And nights and days
With vestal's eyes
And soundless sighs
Thou keepest watch above thy father's lays.
Child of a dreamer of dreams all unfulfilled --
(And thou art, child, a living dream of him) --
Dost ever feel thy spirit all enthrilled
With his lost dreams when summer days wane dim?
When suns go down,
Thou, song of the dead singer,
Dost sigh at eve and grieve
O'er the brow that paled before it won the crown?
Child of the patriot! Oh, how he loved his land!
And how he moaned o'er Erin's ev'ry wrong!
Child of the singer! he swept with purest hand
The octaves of all agonies, until his song
Sobbed o'er the sea;
And now through thee
It cometh to me,
Like a shadow song from some Gethsemane.
Child of the wanderer! and his heart the shrine
Where three loves blended into only one --
His God's, thy mother's, and his country's; and 'tis thine
To be the living ray of such a glorious sun.
His genius gleams,
My child, within thee,
And dim thy dreams
As stars on the midnight sea.
Child of thy father, I have read his songs --
Thou art the sweetest song he ever sung --
Peaceful as Psalms, but when his country's wrongs
Swept o'er his heart he stormed. And he was young;
He died too soon --
So men will say --
Before he reached Fame's noon;
His songs are letters in a book -- thou art their ray.
Oft within our little cottage,
As the shadows gently fall,
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