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, Last words. '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 Our Chapel-Altar." 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 On battle-field 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 Vesper farewells; 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, 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?
_ Biloxi, Miss.
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.
_ Biloxi, Miss.
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; Then alone 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, Strangely alone. 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 hath departed. — Abram J. Ryan