Part 6 out of 6
While the sunlight touches softly
One sweet face upon the wall,
Do we gather close together,
And in hushed and tender tone
Ask each other's full forgiveness
For the wrong that each has done.
Should you wonder why this custom
At the ending of the day,
Eye and voice would quickly answer:
"It was once our mother's way."
If our home be bright and cheery,
If it holds a welcome true,
Opening wide its door of greeting
To the many -- not the few;
If we share our father's bounty
With the needy day by day,
'Tis because our hearts remember
This was ever mother's way.
Sometimes when our hands grow weary,
Or our tasks seem very long;
When our burdens look too heavy,
And we deem the right all wrong;
Then we gain a new, fresh courage,
And we rise to proudly say:
"Let us do our duty bravely --
This was our dear mother's way."
Then we keep her memory precious,
While we never cease to pray
That at last, when lengthening shadows
Mark the evening of our day,
They may find us waiting calmly
To go home our mother's way.
Feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple
The priests stood waiting in the holy place,
Impatient of delay
(Isaiah had been read),
When sudden up the aisle there came a face
Like a lost sun's ray;
And the child was led
By Joachim and Anna. Rays of grace
Shone all about the child;
Simeon looked on, and bowed his aged head --
Looked on the child, and smiled.
Low were the words of Joachim. He spake
In a tremulous way,
As if he were afraid,
Or as if his heart were just about to break,
And knew not what to say;
And low he bowed his head --
While Anna wept the while -- he, sobbing, said:
"Priests of the holy temple, will you take
Into your care our child?"
And Simeon, listening, prayed, and strangely smiled.
A silence for a moment fell on all;
They gazed in mute surprise,
Not knowing what to say,
Till Simeon spake: "Child, hast thou heaven's call?"
And the child's wondrous eyes
(Each look a lost sun's ray)
Turned toward the far mysterious wall.
(Did the veil of the temple sway?)
They looked from the curtain to the little child --
Simeon seemed to pray, and strangely smiled.
"Yes; heaven sent me here. Priests, let me in!"
(And the voice was sweet and low.)
"Was it a dream by night?
A voice did call me from this world of sin --
A spirit-voice I know,
An angel pure and bright.
`Leave father, mother,' said the voice, `and win';
(I see my angel now)
`The crown of a virgin's vow.'
I am three summers old -- a little child."
And Simeon seemed to pray the while he smiled.
"Yes, holy priests, our father's God is great,
And all His mercies sweet!
His angel bade me come --
Come thro' the temple's beautiful gate;
He led my heart and feet
To this, my holy home.
He said to me: `Three years your God will wait
Your heart to greet and meet.'
I am three summers old --
I see my angel now --
Brighter his wings than gold --
He knoweth of my vow."
The priests, in awe, came closer to the child --
She wore an angel's look -- and Simeon smiled.
As if she were the very holy ark,
Simeon placed his hand
On the fair, pure head.
The sun had set, and it was growing dark;
The robed priests did stand
Around the child. He said:
"Unto me, priests, and all ye Levites, hark!
This child is God's own gift --
Let us our voices lift
In holy praise." They gazed upon the child
In wonderment -- and Simeon prayed and smiled.
And Joachim and Anna went their way --
The little child, she shed
The tenderest human tears.
The priests and Levites lingered still to pray;
And Simeon said:
"We teach the latter years
The night is passing 'fore the coming day
(Isaiah had been read)
Of our redemption" -- and some way the child
Won all their hearts. Simeon prayed and smiled.
That night the temple's child knelt down to pray
In the shadows of the aisle --
She prayed for you and me.
Why did the temple's mystic curtain sway?
Why did the shadows smile?
The child of Love's decree
Had come at last; and 'neath the night-stars' gleam
The aged Simeon did see in dream
The mystery of the child,
And in his sleep he murmured prayer -- and smiled.
And twelve years after, up the very aisle
Where Simeon had smiled
Upon her fair, pure face,
She came again, with a mother's smile,
And in her arms a Child,
The very God of grace.
And Simeon took the Infant from her breast,
And, in glad tones and strong,
He sang his glorious song
Of faith, and hope, and everlasting rest.
Sweet heaven's smile
Gleamed o'er the isle,
That gems the dreamy sea.
One far gone day,
And flash'd its ray,
More than a thousand years away,
Pure Bridget, over thee.
White as the snow,
That falls below
To earth on Christmas night,
Thy pure face shone
On every one;
For Christ's sweet grace thy heart had won
To make thy birth-land bright.
A cloud hangs o'er
Thy Erin's shore --
Ah! God, 'twas always so.
Ah! virgin fair
Thy heaven pray'r
Will help thy people in their care,
And save them from their woe.
Thou art in light --
They are in light;
Thou hast a crown -- they a chain.
The very sod,
Made theirs by God,
Is still by tyrants' footsteps trod;
They pray -- but all in vain.
Thou! near Christ's throne,
Dost hear the moan
Of all their hearts that grieve;
Ah! virgin sweet,
Kneel at His feet,
Where angels' hymns thy prayer shall greet,
And pray for them this eve.
Each year cometh with all his days,
Some are shadowed and some are bright;
He beckons us on until he stays
Kneeling with us 'neath Christmas night.
Kneeling under the stars that gem
The holy sky, o'er the humble place,
When the world's sweet Child of Bethlehem
Rested on Mary, full of grace.
Not only the Bethlehem in the East,
But altar Bethlehem everywhere,
When the ~Gloria~ of the first great feast
Rings forth its gladness on the air.
Each year seemeth loath to go,
And leave the joys of Christmas day;
In lands of sun and in lands of snow,
The year still longs awhile to stay.
A little while, 'tis hard to part
From this Christ blessed here below,
Old year! and in thy aged heart
I hear thee sing so sweet and low.
A song like this, but sweeter far,
And yet as if with a human tone,
Under the blessed Christmas star,
And thou descendest from thy throne.
"A few more days and I am gone,
The hours move swift and sure along;
Yet still I fain would linger on
In hearing of the Christmas song.
"I bow to Him who rules all years;
Thrice blessed is His high behest;
Nor will He blame me if, with tears,
I pass to my eternal rest.
"Ah, me! to altars every day
I brought the sun and the holy Mass;
The people came by my light to pray,
While countless priests did onward pass.
"The words of the Holy Thursday night
To one another from east to west;
And the holy Host on the altar white
Would take its little half-hour's rest.
"And every minute of every hour
The Mass bell rang with its sound so sweet,
While from shrine to shrine, with tireless power,
And heaven's love, walked the nailed feet.
"I brought the hours for ~Angelus~ bells,
And from a thousand temple towers
They wound their sweet and blessed spell
Around the hearts of all the hours.
"Every day has a day of grace
For those who fain would make them so;
I saw o'er the world in every place
The wings of guardian angels glow.
"Men! could you hear the song I sing --
But no, alas! it cannot be so!
My heir that comes would only bring
Blessings to bless you here below."
* * * * *
Seven days passed; the gray, old year
Calls to his throne the coming heir;
Falls from his eyes the last, sad tear,
And lo! there is gladness everywhere.
Singing, I hear the whole world sing,
Afar, anear, aloud, alow:
"What to us will the New Year bring!"
Ah! would that each of us might know!
Is it not truth? as old as true?
List ye, singers, the while ye sing!
Each year bringeth to each of you
What each of you will have him bring.
The year that cometh is a king,
With better gifts than the old year gave;
If you place on his fingers the holy ring
Of prayer, the king becomes your slave.
Zeila (A Story from a Star)
From the mystic sidereal spaces,
In the noon of a night 'mid of May,
Came a spirit that murmured to me --
Or was it the dream of a dream?
No! no! from the purest of places,
Where liveth the highest of races,
In an unfallen sphere far away
(And it wore Immortality's gleam)
Came a Being. Hath seen on the sea
The sheen of some silver star shimmer
'Thwart shadows that fall dim and dimmer
O'er a wave half in dream on the deep?
It shone on me thus in my sleep.
Was I sleeping? Is sleep but the closing,
In the night, of our eyes from the light?
Doth the spirit of man e'en then rest?
Or doth it not toil all the more?
When the earth-wearied frame is reposing,
Is the vision then veiled the less bright?
When the earth from our sight hath been taken,
The fetters of senses off shaken,
The soul, doth it not then awaken
To the light on Infinity's shore?
And is not its vision then best,
And truest, and farthest, and clearest?
In night, is not heaven the nearest?
Ah, me! let the day have his schemers,
Let them work on their ways as they will,
And their workings, I trow, have their worth.
But the unsleeping spirits of dreamers,
In hours when the world-voice is still,
Are building, with faith without falter,
Bright steps up to heaven's high altar,
Where lead all the aisles of the earth.
Was I sleeping? I know not -- or waking?
The body was resting, I ween;
Meseems it was o'ermuch tired
With the toils of the day that had gone;
When sudden there came the bright breaking
Of light thro' a shadowy screen;
And with the brightness there blended
The voice of the Being descended
From a star ever pure of all sin,
In music too sweet to be lyred
By the lips of the sinful and mortal.
And, oh! how the pure brightness shone!
As shines thro' the summer morn's portal
Rays golden and white as the snow,
As white as the flakes -- ah, no! whiter;
Only angelic wings may be brighter
When they flash o'er the brow of some woe
That walketh this shadowed below.
The soul loseth never its seeing,
In the goings of night and of day
It graspeth the Infinite Far.
No wonder there may come some Being,
As if it had wandered astray
At times down the wonder-filled way --
As to me in the midnight of May --
From its home in some glory-crowned star,
Where evil hath never left traces;
Where dwelleth the highest of races,
Save the angels that circle the throne,
In a grace far beyond all our graces,
Whose Christ is the same as our own.
Yea! I ween the star spaces are teeming
With the gladness of life and of love.
No! no! I am not at all dreaming --
The Below's hands enclasp the Above.
'Tis a truth that is more than a seeming --
Creation is many, tho' one,
And we are the last of its creatures.
This earth bears the sign of our sin
(From the highest the evil came in);
Yet ours are the same human features
That veiled long agone the Divine.
How comes it, O holy Creator!
That we, not the first, but the latter
Of varied and numberless beings
Springing forth in Thy loving decreeings,
That we are, of all, the most Thine?
Yea! we are the least and the lowly,
The half of our history gone,
We look up the Infinite slope
In faith, and we walk on in hope;
But think ye from here to the "Holy
Of Holies" beyond yon still sky,
O'er the stars that forever move on,
I' the heavens beyond the bright Third,
In glory's ineffable light;
Where the Father, and Spirit, and Word
Reign circled by angels all bright --
Ah! think you 'tween Here and that Yonder
There is naught but the silence of death?
There's naught of love's wish or life's wonder,
And naught but an infinite night?
No! no! the great Father is fonder
Of breathing His life-giving breath
Into beings of numberless races.
And from here on and up to His throne
The Trinity's beautiful faces,
In countlessly various traces,
Are seen in more stars than our own.
This earth telleth not half the story
Of the infinite heart of our God --
The heavens proclaim of His glory
The least little part, and His power
Broke not its sceptre when earth
Was beckoned by Him into birth.
Is He resting, I wonder, to-night?
Can He rest when His love sways His will?
Will He rest ere His glory shall fill
All spaces below and above
With beings to know and to love?
Creation -- when was it begun?
Who knows its first day? Nay, none.
And then, what ken among men
Can tell when the last work is done?
Is He resting, I wonder, to-night?
Doth He ever grow weary of giving
To Darknesses rays of His light?
Doth He ever grow weary of giving
To Nothings the rapture of living
And waiting awhile for His sight?
If His will rules His glorious power,
And if love sways His beautiful will,
Is He not, e'en in this very hour,
Going on with love's wonder-work still?
* * * * *
Let me pray just awhile, for betimes
My spirit is clouded; and then
Strange darknesses creep o'er my rhymes,
Till prayer lendeth light to my pen.
And then shall I better unfold
The story to me that was told,
Of the unfallen star far away,
In the noon of the night 'mid of May,
By the beautiful Being who came,
With the pure and the beautiful name.
"Call me Zeila," the bright spirit said,
And passed from my vision afar.
With rapture I bowed down my head,
And dreamed of that unfallen star.
Better than Gold
Better than grandeur, better than gold,
Than rank and titles a thousand fold,
Is a healthy body and a mind at ease,
And simple pleasures that always please
A heart that can feel for another's woe,
With sympathies large enough to enfold
All men as brothers, is better than gold.
Better than gold is a conscience clear,
Though toiling for bread in an humble sphere,
Doubly blessed with content and health,
Untried by the lusts and cares of wealth,
Lowly living and lofty thought
Adorn and ennoble a poor man's cot;
For mind and morals in nature's plan
Are the genuine tests of a gentleman.
Better than gold is the sweet repose
Of the sons of toil when the labors close;
Better than gold is the poor man's sleep,
And the balm that drops on his slumbers deep.
Bring sleeping draughts on the downy bed,
Where luxury pillows its aching head,
The toiler simple opiate deems
A shorter route to the land of dreams.
Better than gold is a thinking mind,
That in the realm of books can find
A treasure surpassing Australian ore,
And live with the great and good of yore.
The sage's lore and the poet's lay,
The glories of empires passed away;
The world's great dream will thus unfold
And yield a pleasure better than gold.
Better than gold is a peaceful home
Where all the fireside characters come,
The shrine of love, the heaven of life,
Hallowed by mother, or sister, or wife.
However humble the home may be,
Or tried with sorrow by heaven's decree,
The blessings that never were bought or sold,
And centre there, are better than gold.
To-day a bird on wings as white as foam
That crests the blue-gray wave,
With the vesper light upon its breast, flew home
Seaward. The God who gave
To the birds the virgin-wings of snow
Somehow telleth them the ways they go.
Unto the Evening went the white-winged bird --
Gray clouds hung round the West --
And far away the tempest's tramp was heard.
The bird flew for a rest
Away from the grove, out to the sea --
Is it only a bird's mystery?
Nay! nay! lone bird! I watched thy wings of white
That cleft thy waveward way --
Past the evening and swift into the night,
Out of the calm, bright day --
And thou didst teach me, bird of the sea,
More than one human heart's history.
Only men's hearts -- tho' God shows each its way
That leadeth hence to home --
Unlike the wild sea-birds, somehow go astray,
Seeking in the far foam
Of this strange world's tempest-trampled main
A resting place -- but they seek in vain.
Only the bird can rest upon the deep,
And sleep upon the wave,
And dream its peaceful dreams where wild winds sweep.
And sweet the God who gave
The birds a rest place on the restless sea --
But this, my heart, is not His way with thee.
Over the world, ah! passion's tempests roll,
And every fleck of foam
Whitens the place where sank some sin-wrecked soul
That never shall reach home.
Ah! the tranquil shore of God's sweet, calm grace,
My heart, is thy only resting place.
Far from "where the roses rest",
Round the altar and the aisle,
Which I loved, of all, the best --
I have come to rest awhile
By the ever-restless sea --
Will its waves give rest to me?
But it is so hard to part
With my roses. Do they know
(Who knows but each has a heart?)
How it grieves my heart to go?
Roses! will the restless sea
Bring, as ye, a rest for me?
Ye were sweet and still and calm,
Roses red and roses white;
And ye sang a soundless psalm
For me in the day and night.
Roses! will the restless sea
Sing as sweet as ye for me?
Just a hundred feet away,
Seaward, flows and ebbs the tide;
And the wavelets, blue and gray,
Moan, and white sails windward glide
O'er the ever restless sea
From me, far and peacefully.
And as many feet away,
Landward, rise the moss-veiled trees;
And they wail, the while they sway
In the sad November breeze,
Echoes in the sighing sea
To me, near and mournfully.
And beside me sleep the dead,
In the consecrated ground;
Blessed crosses o'er each head.
O'er them all the Requiem sound,
Chanted by the moaning sea,
Echoed by each moss-veiled tree.
Roses! will you miss my face?
Do you know that I have gone
From your fair and restful place,
Far away where moveth on
Night and day the restless sea?
But I saw eternity
In your faces. Roses sweet!
Ye were but the virgin veils,
Hiding Him whose holy feet
Walked the waves, whose very wails
Bring to me from Galilee
Rest across the restless sea.
And who knows? mayhap some wave,
From His footstep long ago,
With the blessing which He gave
After ages ebb and flow,
Cometh in from yonder sea,
With a blessing sweet for me.
Just last night I watched the deep,
And it shone as shines a shrine,
(Vigils such I often keep)
And the stars did sweetly shine
O'er the altar of the sea;
So they shone in Galilee.
Roses! round the shrine and aisle!
Which of all I loved the best,
I have gone to rest awhile
Where the wavelets never rest --
Ye are dearer far to me
Than the ever restless sea.
I will come to you in dreams,
In the day and in the night,
When the sun's or starlight's gleams
Robe you in your red or white;
Roses! will you dream of me
By the ever restless sea?
Strange Sea! why is it that you never rest?
And tell me why you never go to sleep?
Thou art like one so sad and sin-oppressed --
(And the waves are the tears you weep) --
And thou didst never sin -- what ails the sinless deep?
To-night I hear you crying on the beach,
Like a weary child on its mother's breast --
A cry with an infinite and lonesome reach
Of unutterably deep unrest;
And thou didst never sin -- why art thou so distressed?
But, ah, sad Sea! the mother's breast is warm,
Where crieth the lone and the wearied child;
And soft the arms that shield her own from harm;
And her look is unutterably mild --
But to-night, O Sea! thy cry is wild, so wild!
What ails thee, Sea? The midnight stars are bright --
How safe they lean on heaven's sinless breast!
O Sea! is the beach too hard, tho' e'er so white,
To give thy utter weariness a rest?
(And to-night the winds are a-coming from the West).
* * * * *
Where the shadows moan o'er the day's life done,
And the darkness is waiting for the light,
Ah, me! how the shadows ever seek and shun
The sacred, radiant faces of the bright --
(And the stars are the vestal virgins of the night);
Or am I dreaming? Do I see and hear
Without me what I feel within?
Is there an inner eye and an inner ear
Thro' which the sounds and silences float in
In reflex of the spirit's calm or troublous din?
I know not. After all, what do I know?
Save only this -- and that is mystery --
Like the sea, my spirit hath its ebb and flow
In unison, and the tides of the sea
Ever reflect the ceaseless tides of thoughts in me.
Waves, are ye priests in surplices of gray,
Fringed by the fingers of the breeze with white?
Is the beach your altar where ye come to pray,
With the sea's ritual, every day and night?
And the suns and stars your only altar light?
Great Sea! the very rhythm of my song
(And the winds are a-coming from the West),
Like thy waves, moveth uncertainly along;
And my thoughts, like thy tide with a snow-white crest,
Flow and ebb, ebb and flow with thy own unrest.
The Immaculate Conception
Fell the snow on the festival's vigil
And surpliced the city in white;
I wonder who wove the pure flakelets?
Ask the Virgin, or God, or the night.
It fitted the Feast: 'twas a symbol,
And earth wore the surplice at morn,
As pure as the vale's stainless lily
For Mary, the sinlessly born;
For Mary, conceived in all sinlessness;
And the sun, thro' the clouds of the East,
With the brightest and fairest of flashes,
Fringed the surplice of white for the Feast.
And round the horizon hung cloudlets,
Pure stoles to be worn by the Feast;
While the earth and the heavens were waiting
For the beautiful Mass of the priest.
I opened my window, half dreaming;
My soul went away from my eyes,
And my heart began saying "Hail Marys"
Somewhere up in the beautiful skies,
Where the shadows of sin never rested;
And the angels were waiting to hear
The prayer that ascends with "Our Father",
And keeps hearts and the heavens so near.
And all the day long -- can you blame me?
"Hail Mary", "Our Father", I said;
And I think that the Christ and His Mother
Were glad of the way that I prayed.
And I think that the great, bright Archangel
Was listening all the day long
For the echo of every "Hail Mary"
That soared thro' the skies like a song,
From the hearts of the true and the faithful,
In accents of joy or of woe,
Who kissed in their faith and their fervor
The Festival's surplice of snow.
I listened, and each passing minute,
I heard in the lands far away
"Hail Mary", "Our Father", and near me
I heard all who knelt down to pray.
Pray the same as I prayed, and the angel,
And the same as the Christ of our love --
"Our Father", "Hail Mary", "Our Father" --
Winging just the same sweet flight above.
Passed the morning, the noon: came the even --
The temple of Christ was aflame
With the halo of lights on three altars,
And one wore His own Mother's name.
Her statue stood there, and around it
Shone the symbolic stars. Was their gleam,
And the flowerets that fragranced her altar,
Were they only the dream of a dream?
Or were they sweet signs to my vision
Of a truth far beyond mortal ken,
That the Mother had rights in the temple
Of Him she had given to men?
Was it wronging her Christ-Son, I wonder,
For the Christian to honor her so?
Ought her statue pass out of His temple?
Ask the Feast in its surplice of snow.
Ah, me! had the pure flakelets voices,
I know what their white lips would say;
And I know that the lights on her altar
Would pray with me if they could pray.
Methinks that the flowers that were fading --
Sweet virgins that die with the Feast,
Like martyrs, upon her fair altar --
If they could, they would pray with the priest;
And would murmur "Our Father", "Hail Mary",
Till they drooped on the altar in death,
And be glad in their dying for giving
To Mary their last sweetest breath.
Passed the day as a poem that passes
Through the poet's heart's sweetest of strings;
Moved the minutes from Masses to Masses --
Did I hear a faint sound as of wings
Rustling over the aisles and the altars?
Did they go to her altar and pray?
Or was my heart only a-dreaming
At the close of the Festival day?
Quiet throngs came into the temple,
As still as the flowers at her feet,
And wherever they knelt, they were gazing
Where the statue looked smiling and sweet.
"Our Fathers", "Hail Marys" were blended
In a pure and a perfect accord,
And passed by the beautiful Mother
To fall at the feet of our Lord.
Low toned from the hearts of a thousand
"Our Fathers", "Hail Marys" swept on
To the star-wreathed statue. I wonder
Did they wrong the great name of her Son.
Her Son and our Saviour -- I wonder
How He heard our "Hail Marys" that night?
Were the words to Him sweet as the music
They once were, and did we pray right?
Or was it all wrong? Will he punish
Our lips if we make them the home
Of the words of the great, high Archangel
That won Him to sinners to come.
Ah, me! does He blame my own mother,
Who taught me, a child, at her knee,
To say, with "Our Father", "Hail Mary"?
If 'tis wrong, my Christ! punish but me.
Let my mother, O Jesus! be blameless;
Let me suffer for her if You blame.
Her pure mother's heart knew no better
When she taught me to love the pure name.
O Christ! of Thy beautiful Mother
Must I hide her name down in my heart?
But, ah! even there you will see it --
With Thy Mother's name how can I part?
On Thy name all divine have I rested
In the days when my heart-trials came;
Sweet Christ, like to Thee I am human,
And I need Mary's pure human name.
Did I hear a voice? or was I dreaming?
I heard -- or I sure seemed to hear --
"Who blames you for loving My Mother
Is wronging my heart -- do not fear.
"I am human, e'en here in My heavens,
What I was I am still all the same;
And I still love My beautiful Mother --
And thou, priest of Mine, do the same."
I was happy -- because I am human --
And Christ in the silences heard
"Our Father", "Hail Mary", "Our Father",
Murmured faithfully word after word.
* * * * *
Swept the beautiful ~O Salutaris~
Down the aisles -- did the starred statue stir?
Or was my heart only a-dreaming
When it turned from her statue and her?
The door of a white tabernacle
Felt the touch of the hand of the priest --
Did he waken the Host from its slumbers
To come forth and crown the high Feast?
To come forth so strangely and silent,
And just for a sweet little while,
And then to go back to its prison.
Thro' the stars -- did the sweet statue smile?
I knew not; but Mary, the Mother,
I think, almost envied the priest --
He was taking her place at the altar --
Did she dream of the days in the East?
When her hands, and hers only, held Him,
Her Child, in His waking and rest,
Who had strayed in a love that seemed wayward
This eve to shrine in the West.
Did she dream of the straw of the manger
When she gazed on the altar's pure white?
Did she fear for her Son any danger
In the little Host, helpless, that night?
No! no! she is trustful as He is --
What a terrible trust in our race!
The Divine has still faith in the human --
What a story of infinite grace!
~Tantum Ergo~, high hymn of the altar
That came from the heart of a saint,
Swept triumph-toned all through the temple --
Did my ears hear the sound of a plaint?
'Neath the glorious roll of the singing
To the temple had sorrow crept in?
Or was it the moan of a sinner?
O beautiful Host! wilt Thou win
In the little half-hour's Benediction
The heart of a sinner again?
And, merciful Christ, Thou wilt comfort
The sorrow that brings Thee its pain.
Came a hush, and the Host was uplifted,
And It made just the sign of the cross
O'er the low-bended brows of the people.
O Host of the Holy! Thy loss
To the altar, and temple, and people
Would make this world darkest of night;
And our hearts would grope blindly on through it,
For our love would have lost all its light.
~Laudate~, what thrilling of triumph!
Our souls soared to God on each tone;
And the Host went again to Its prison,
For our Christ fears to leave us alone.
Blessed priest! strange thou art His jailor!
Thy hand holds the beautiful key
That locks in His prison love's Captive,
And keeps Him in fetters for me.
* * * * *
'Twas over -- I gazed on the statue --
"Our Father", "Hail Mary" still came;
And to-night faith and love cannot help it,
I must still pray the same -- still the same.
Written at Loyola College, Baltimore, on the Night of December 8, 1880.
Fifty Years at the Altar
"To Rev. Father E. Sourin, S.J., from A. J. Ryan; first, in memory of
some happy hours passed in his company at Loyola College, Baltimore;
next, in appreciation of a character of strange beautifulness,
known of God, but hidden from men; and last, but by no means least,
to test and tempt his humility in the (to him) proud hour
of the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination."
To-day -- fifty years at the altar --
Thou art, as of old, at thy post!
Tell us, O chasubled soldier!
Art weary of watching the Host?
Fifty years -- Christ's sacred sentry,
To-day thy feet faithful are found
When the cross on the altar is blessing
Thy heart in its sentinel-round.
The beautiful story of Thabor
Fifty years agone thrilled thy young heart,
When wearing white vestments of glory,
And up the "high mountain apart".
In the fresh, glowing grace of thy priesthood,
Thou didst climb to the summit alone,
While the Feast of Christ's Transfiguration
Was a sweet outward sign of thy own.
Old priest! on the slope of the summit
Did float down and fall on thine ear
The strong words of weak-hearted Peter.
"O Lord, it is good to be here!"
Thy heart was stronger than Peter's,
And sweeter the tone of thy prayer;
'Twas Calvary thy young feet were climbing,
And old -- thou art still standing there.
For you, as for him, on bright Thabor,
Forever to stay were not hard;
But when Calvary girdles the altar,
And garments the Eucharist's guard
With sacrifice and with its shadows --
To keep there forever a feast
Is the glory and grace of the human --
The altar, the cross, and the priest.
The crucifix's wardens and watchers,
Like Him, must be heart sacrificed --
The Christ on the crucifix lifeless
For guard needs a brave human Christ.
To guard Him three hours -- what a glory!
With sacrifice splendors aflame!
Three hours -- and He died on His Calvary --
How long hast thou lived for His name?
"Half a century," cries out thy crucifix,
Binding together thy beads;
His look, like thy life, lingers in it,
A light for men's souls in their needs.
Old priest! is thy life not a rosary?
Five decades and more have been said,
In thy heart the warm splendors of Thabor
Beneath the white snows of thy head!
Fifty years lifting the chalice --
Ah, 'tis Life in this death-darkened land!
Thy clasp may be weak, but the chrism,
Old priest! that anointed thy hand
Is as fresh and as strong in its virtue
As in the five decades agone
Thy young hands were touched with its unction,
And thy vestments of white were put on.
Fifty years! Every day passes
A part of one great, endless feast,
That moves round its orbit of Masses,
And hath nor a West nor an East;
But everywhere hath its pure altars,
At each of its altars a priest
To lift up a Host with a chalice
Till the story of grace shall have ceased.
Fifty years in the feast's orbit,
Nearly two thousand of days;
Fifty years priest in the priesthood,
Fifty years lit with its rays --
Lit them but to reflect them
When the adorers' throngs pass
Out of thy life and its glory
Shining each day from thy Mass.
Half of a century's service!
Wearing thy cassock of black
O'er thy camps, and thy battles, and triumphs!
Old soldier of Jesus! look back
To the day when thou kissed thy first altar
In love with youth's fervor athrill.
From the day when we meet and we greet thee,
So true to the old altar still.
Fifty long years! what if trials
Did oftentimes darken thy way --
They marked, like the shadows on dials,
Thy soul's brightest hour every day.
The sun in the height of his splendor,
By the mystical law of his light,
O'er his glories flings vestments of shadows,
And, sinking, leaves stars to the night.
Old priest! with the heart of a poet
Thou hast written sweet stanzas for men;
Thy life, many versed, is a poem
That puzzles the art of the pen;
The crucifix wrote it and writes it --
A scripture too deep for my ken;
A record of deeds more than sayings --
Only God reads it rightly; and then
My stanzas are just like the shadows
That follow the sun and his sheen,
To tell to the eye that will read them
Where the purest of sunshine has been.
Thy life moves in mystical eclipse,
All hidden from men and their sight;
We look, but we see but its surface,
But God sees the depth of its light.
Twenty-five years! highest honors
Were thine -- high deserved in the world:
Dawned a day with a grace in its flashing
O'er thy heart from a standard unfurled,
Whose folds bore the mystical motto:
"To the greater glory of God!"
And somehow there opened before thee
A way thou hadst never yet trod.
Twenty-five years -- still a private
In files where the humblest and last
Stands higher in rank than the highest
Of those who are passing or passed;
Twenty-five years in the vanguard,
Whose name is a spell of their strength,
The light of the folds of whose standard
Lengthens along all the length
Of the march of the Crucified Jesus.
Loyola was wiser than most
In claiming for him and his soldiers
The name of the Chief of the host;
His name, and his motto, and colors
That never shall know a defeat,
Whose banner, when others are folded,
Shall never float over retreat.
To-day when the wind wafts the wavelets
To the gray altar steps of yon shore,
Each wearing an alb foam-embroidered,
And kneeling, like priests, to adore
The God of the land -- I will mingle
My prayers, aged priest! with the sea,
While God, for thy fifty years' priesthood,
Will hear thy prayers whispered for me.
Song of the Deathless Voice
'Twas the dusky Hallowe'en --
Hour of fairy and of wraith,
When in many a dim-lit green,
'Neath the stars' prophetic sheen,
As the olden legend saith,
All the future may be seen,
And when -- an older story hath --
Whate'er in life hath ever been
Loveful, hopeful, or of wrath,
Cometh back upon our path.
I was dreaming in my room,
'Mid the shadows, still as they;
Night, in veil of woven gloom,
Wept and trailed her tresses gray
O'er her fair, dead sister -- Day.
To me from some far-away
Crept a voice -- or seemed to creep --
As a wave-child of the deep,
Frightened by the wild storm's roar
Creeps low-sighing to the shore
Very low and very lone
Came the voice with song of moan,
This, weak-sung in weaker word,
Is the song that night I heard:
How long! Alas, how long!
How long shall the Celt chant the sad song of hope,
That a sunrise may break on the long starless night of our past?
How long shall we wander and wait on the desolate slope
Of Thabors that promise our Transfiguration at last?
How long, O Lord! How long!
How long, O Fate! How long!
How long shall our sunburst reflect but the sunset of Right,
When gloaming still lights the dim immemorial years?
How long shall our harp's strings, like winds that are wearied of night,
Sound sadder than moanings in tones all a-trembling with tears?
How long, O Lord! How long!
How long, O Right! How long!
How long shall our banner, the brightest that ever did flame
In battle with wrong, droop furled like a flag o'er a grave?
How long shall we be but a nation with only a name,
Whose history clanks with the sounds of the chains that enslave?
How long, O Lord! How long!
How long! Alas, how long!
How long shall our isle be a Golgotha, out in the sea,
With a cross in the dark? Oh, when shall our Good Friday close?
How long shall thy sea that beats round thee bring only to thee
The wailings, O Erin! that float down the waves of thy woes?
How long, O Lord! How long!
How long! Alas, how long!
How long shall the cry of the wronged, O Freedom! for thee
Ascend all in vain from the valleys of sorrow below?
How long ere the dawn of the day in the ages to be,
When the Celt will forgive, or else tread on the heart of his foe?
How long, O Lord! How long!
Whence came the voice? Around me gray silence fall;
And without in the gloom not a sound is astir 'neath the sky;
And who is the singer? Or hear I a singer at all?
Or, hush! Is't my heart athrill with some deathless old cry?
Ah! blood forgets not in its flowing its forefathers' wrongs --
They are the heart's trust, from which we may ne'er be released;
Blood keeps in its throbs the echoes of all the old songs
And sings them the best when it flows thro' the heart of a priest.
Am I not in my blood as old as the race whence I sprung?
In the cells of my heart feel I not all its ebb and its flow?
And old as our race is, is it not still forever as young,
As the youngest of Celts in whose breast Erin's love is aglow?
The blood of a race that is wronged beats the longest of all,
For long as the wrong lasts, each drop of it quivers with wrath;
And sure as the race lives, no matter what fates may befall,
There's a Voice with a Song that forever is haunting its path.
Aye, this very hand that trembles thro' this very line,
Lay hid, ages gone, in the hand of some forefather Celt,
With a sword in its grasp, if stronger, not truer than mine,
And I feel, with my pen, what the old hero's sworded hand felt --
The heat of the hate that flashed into flames against wrong,
The thrill of the hope that rushed like a storm on the foe;
And the sheen of that sword is hid in the sheath of the song
As sure as I feel thro' my veins the pure Celtic blood flow.
The ties of our blood have been strained o'er thousands of years,
And still are not severed, how mighty soever the strain;
The chalice of time o'erflows with the streams of our tears,
Yet just as the shamrocks, to bloom, need the clouds and their rain,
The Faith of our fathers, our hopes, and the love of our isle
Need the rain of our hearts that falls from our grief-clouded eyes,
To keep them in bloom, while for ages we wait for the smile
Of Freedom, that some day -- ah! some day! shall light Erin's skies.
Our dead are not dead who have gone, long ago, to their rest;
They are living in us whose glorious race will not die --
Their brave buried hearts are still beating on in each breast
Of the child of each Celt in each clime 'neath the infinite sky.
Many days yet to come may be dark as the days that are past,
Many voices may hush while the great years sweep patiently by;
But the voice of our race shall live sounding down to the last,
And our blood is the bard of the song that never shall die.
To Mr. and Mrs. A. M. T.
Just when the gentle hand of spring
Came fringing the trees with bud and leaf,
And when the blades the warm suns bring
Were given glad promise of golden sheaf;
Just when the birds began to sing
Joy hymns after their winter's grief,
I wandered weary to a place;
Tired of toil, I sought for rest,
Where Nature wore her mildest grace --
I went where I was more than guest.
Strange, tall trees rose as if they fain
Would wear as crowns the clouds of skies;
The sad winds swept with low refrain
Through branches breathing softest sighs;
And o'er the field and down the lane
Sweet flowers, the dreams of Paradise,
Bloomed up into this world of pain,
Where all that's fairest soonest dies;
And 'neath the trees a little stream
Went winding slowly round and round,
Just like a poet's mystic dream,
With here a silence, there a sound.
The lowly ground, beneath the sheen
Of March day suns, now dim, now bright,
Now emeralds of golden green
In flashing or in fading light;
And here and there throughout the scene
The timid wild flowers met the sight,
While over all the sun and shade
Swept like a strangely woven veil,
Folding the flowers that else might fade,
Guarding young rosebuds from the gale.
And blossoms of most varied hue
Bedecked the forest everywhere,
While valleys wore the robes of blue,
Bright woven by the violets fair;
And there was gladness all around;
It was a place so fair to see,
And yet so simple -- there I found
How sweet a quiet home may be.
Four children -- and thro' all the day
They flung their laughter o'er the place;
Bright as the flowers in happy May,
The children shed a sweet pure grace
Around this quiet home, and they
To father and to mother brought
The smiles of purest love unsought;
It was a happy, happy spot,
Too dear to be fore'er forgot.
Farewell, sweet place! I came as guest;
From toil, in thee I found relief,
I found in thee a home and rest --
But, ah! the days are far too brief.
Farewell! I go, but with me come
Sweet memories that long will last;
I'll think of thee as of a home
That stands forever in my past.
To Virginia (on Her Birthday)
Your past is past and never to return,
The long bright yesterday of life's first years,
Its days are dead -- cold ashes in an urn.
Some held for you a chalice for your tears,
And other days strewed flowers upon your way.
They all are gone beyond your reach,
And thus they are beyond my speech.
I know them not, so that your first gone times
To me unknown, lie far beyond my rhymes.
But I can bless your soul and aims to-day,
And I can ask your future to be sweet,
And I can pray that you may never meet
With any cross, you are too weak to bear.
Virginia, Virgin name, and may you wear
Its virtues and its beauties, fore'er and fore'er.
I breathe this blessing, and I pray this prayer.
Go, words of mine! and if you live
Only for one brief, little day;
If peace, or joy, or calm you give
To any soul; or if you bring
A something higher to some heart,
I may come back again and sing
Songs free from all the arts of Art.
-- Abram J. Ryan.
In the eclipses of your soul, and when you cry
"O God! give more of rest and less of night,"
My words may rest you; and mayhap a light
Shall flash from them bright o'er thy spirit's sky;
Then think of me as one who passes by.
A few brief hours -- a golden August day,
We met, we spake -- I pass fore'er away.
Let ev'ry word of mine be golden ray
To brighten thy eclipses; and then wilt pray
That he who passes thee shall meet thee yet
In the "Beyond" where souls may ne'er forget.
A Reverie [`"O Songs!" I said:']
"O Songs!" I said:
"Stop sounding in my soul
Just for a little while and let me sleep,
Resting my head on the breast
Of Silence;" but the rhythmic roll
Of a thousand songs swept on and on,
And a far Voice said:
"When thou art dead
Thy restless heart shall rest."
And the songs will never let me sleep.
I plead with them; but o'er the deep
They still will roll
On, and on, and on,
Their music never gone.
Ah! world-tired soul!
Just for a little while,
Just like a poor, tired child
Beneath its Mother's smile --
Only to fall asleep!
Silence! be mother to me!
But -- No! No! No!
The waves will ebb and flow.
I wonder is it best
To never, never rest
Down on the shores of this strange Below?
Only a Dream
Only a Dream!
It floated thro'
The sky of a lonely sleep
As floats a gleam
Athwart the Blue
Of a golden clouded Deep.
Only a Dream!
I calmly slept.
Meseems I called a name;
I woke; and, waking, I think I wept
And called -- and called the same.
Only a Dream!
Graves have no ears;
They give not back the dead;
They will not listen to the saddest tears
That ever may be shed.
Only a Dream!
Graves keep their own;
They have no hearts to hear;
But the loved will come
From their Heaven-Home
To smile on the sleeper's tear.
The Poet is the loneliest man that lives;
Ah me! God makes him so --
The sea hath its ebb and flow,
He sings his songs -- but yet he only gives
In the waves of the words of his art
Only the ~foam~ of his heart.
Its sea rolls on forever, evermore,
Beautiful, vast, and deep;
Only his ~shallowest~ thoughts touch the shore
Of Speech; his ~deepest~ sleep.
The foam that crests the wave is pure and white;
The ~foam~ is not the ~wave~;
The wave is not the sea -- ~it rolls~ forever on;
The winding shores will crave
A kiss from ev'ry wavelet on the deep;
~Some come~; some always ~sleep~.
The Child of the Poet
The sunshine of thy Father's fame
Sleeps in the shadows of thy eyes,
And flashes sometimes when his name
Like a lost star seeks its skies.
In the horizons of thy heart
His memory shines for aye,
A light that never shall depart
Nor lose a single ray.
Thou passest thro' the crowds unknown,
So gentle, so sweet, and so shy;
Thy heart throbs fast and sometimes may grow low;
Art the star in thy Father's sky.
'Tis fame enough for thee to bear his name --
Thou couldst not ask for more;
Thou art the jewel of thy Father's fame,
He waiteth on the bright and golden shore;
He prayeth in the great Eternity
Beside God's throne for thee.
The Poet Priest
~Not~ as of one whom multitudes ~admire~,
I believe they call him great;
They throng to hear him with a strange desire;
They, silent, come and wait,
And wonder when he opens wide the gate
Of some strange, inner temple, where the fire
Is lit on many altars of many dreams --
They wait to catch the gleams --
And then they say,
In praiseful words: "'Tis beautiful and grand."
And so his way
Is strewn with many flowers, sweet and fair;
And people say:
"How happy he must be to win and wear
Praise ev'ry day!"
And all the while he stands far out the crowd,
Is it a Stole he wears? -- or mayhap a shroud --
No matter which, his spirit maketh moan;
And all the while a lonely, lonesome sense
Creeps thro' his days -- all fame's incense
Hath not the fragrance of his altar; and
He seemeth rather to kneel in lowly prayer
Than lift his head aloft amid the Grand:
If all the world would kneel down at his feet
And give acclaim --
He fain would say: "Oh! No! No! No!
The breath of fame is sweet -- but far more sweet
Is the breath of Him who lives within my heart;
God's breath, which e'en, despite of me, will creep
Along the words of merely human art;
It cometh from some far-off hidden Deep,
Far-off and from so far away --
It filleth night and day."
~Not~ as of one who ever, ever cares
For earthly praises, not as of such think thou of me,
And in the nights and days -- I'll meet with thee
In Prayers -- and thou shalt meet with me.
Wilt Pray for Me?
Wilt pray for me?
They tell me I have Fame;
I plead with thee,
Sometimes just fold my name
In beautiful "Hail Marys"!
And you give me more
Than all the world besides.
It praises Poets for the well-sung lay;
But ah! it hath forgotten how to pray.
It brings to brows of Poets crowns of Pride;
Some win such crowns and wear;
Give me, instead, a simple little Prayer.
The living child of a dead Poet is like a faintly glowing Sanctuary lamp,
which sheds its rays in the beautiful Temple whence the great Presence
-- Abram J. Ryan