Father Ryan's Poems
By Abram J. Ryan, (Father Ryan)
In preparing this electronic text of Father Ryan's poems, I was struck by the biased nature of the memoir included. While I will not gainsay anyone's right to their beliefs, I believe it is clearly evident from the poems themselves that Father Ryan believed strongly in the Southern Cause, and I do not believe his reaction was entirely emotional, as seems to be implied. The Memoir also makes mention of Father Ryan's poem "Reunited", as evidence of his support for the reunification of the States. To be fair to Ryan, I would note that such stanzas as "The Northern heart and the Southern heart May beat in peace again; "But still till time's last day, Whatever lips may plight, The blue is blue, but the gray is gray, Wrong never accords with Right." in 'Sentinel Songs', are much more common in his poems.
I believe it important to notice this, as it demonstrates that while Ryan loved Peace, he never forsook the Cause.
Regarding his possible dates of birth, I can do no better than the Memoir included, but I can at least match places with dates, to wit: Hagerstown, Md., on 5 February 1838; or Norfolk, Virginia, sometime in 1838 or 15 August 1839. His full name was Abram Joseph Ryan, and he was the son of Matthew and Mary (Coughlin) Ryan. He was ordained in 1856 and he taught at Niagara, N.Y. and Cape Girardeau, Missouri, before he became a chaplain in the Confederate Army in 1862. He edited several publications, including the "Pacificator", the Catholic weekly "The Star" (New Orleans), and "The Banner of the South" in Augusta, Georgia. He was the pastor of St. Mary's Church in Mobile, Alabama from 1870 to 1883. He died at a Franciscan Monastery at Louisville, Kentucky, on 22 April 1886. He is buried in Mobile.
His most famous poem is "The Conquered Banner", which had its measure inspired by a Gregorian hymn.
Alan R. Light, May, 1996, Birmingham, Alabama.
[Note on text: Italicized words or phrases are marked by tildes (~). Some obvious errors have been corrected.]
Poems: Patriotic, Religious, Miscellaneous.
By Abram J. Ryan, (Father Ryan).
Containing his posthumous poems.
"All Rests with those who Read. A work or thought Is what each makes it to himself, and may Be full of great dark meanings, like the sea, With shoals of life rushing; or like the air, Benighted with the wing of the wild dove, Sweeping miles broad o'er the far southwestern woods With mighty glimpses of the central light — Or may be nothing — bodiless, spiritless." — Festus.
[Based on the 1880 edition, the 1896 edition (New York) from which this was transcribed also includes Ryan's posthumous poems.]
THESE SIMPLE RHYMES ARE LAID AS A GARLAND OF LOVE AT THE FEET OF HIS MOTHER BY HER CHILD THE AUTHOR
These verses (which some friends call by the higher title of Poems, to which appellation the author objects) were written at random — off and on, here, there, anywhere — just when the mood came, with little of study and less of art, and always in a hurry.
Hence they are incomplete in finish, as the author is; tho' he thinks they are true in tone. His feet know more of the humble steps that lead up to the Altar and its Mysteries than of the steeps that lead up to Parnassus and the Home of the Muses. And souls were always more to him than songs. But still, somehow — and he could not tell why — he sometimes tried to sing. Here are his simple songs. He never dreamed of taking even lowest place in the rank of authors. But friends persisted; and, finally, a young lawyer friend, who has entire charge of his business in the book, forced him to front the world and its critics. There are verses connected with the war published in this volume, not for harm-sake, nor for hate-sake, but simply because the author wrote them. He could write again in the same tone and key, under the same circumstances. No more need be said, except that these verses mirror the mind of THE AUTHOR.
Memoir of Father Ryan
Song of the Mystic Reverie ["Only a few more years!"] Lines — 1875 A Memory Rhyme Nocturne ["I sit to-night by the firelight,"] The Old Year and the New Erin's Flag The Sword of Robert Lee Life A Laugh — and A Moan In Memory of My Brother "Out of the Depths" A Thought March of the Deathless Dead Reunited A Memory At Last A Land without Ruins Memories The Prayer of the South Feast of the Assumption Sursum Corda A Child's Wish Presentiment Last of May "Gone" Feast of the Sacred Heart In Memory of Very Rev. J. B. Etienne Tears Lines (Two Loves) The Land We Love In Memoriam Reverie ["We laugh when our souls are the saddest,"] I Often Wonder Why 'Tis So A Blessing July 9th, 1872 Wake Me a Song In Memoriam (David J. Ryan, C.S.A.) What? (To Ethel) The Master's Voice A "Thought-Flower" A Death The Rosary of My Tears Death What Ails the World? A Thought In Rome After Sickness Old Trees After Seeing Pius IX Sentinel Songs Fragments from an Epic Poem Lake Como "Peace! Be Still" Good Friday My Beads At Night Nocturne ["Betimes, I seem to see in dreams"] Sunless Days A Reverie ["Did I dream of a song? or sing in a dream?"] St. Mary's De Profundis When? (Death) The Conquered Banner A Christmas Chant "Far Away" Listen Wrecked Dreaming A Thought "Yesterdays" "To-Days" "To-Morrows" Inevitable Sorrow and the Flowers Hope Farewells Song of the River Dreamland Lines ["Sometimes, from the far-away,"] A Song Parting St. Stephen A Flower's Song The Star's Song Death of the Flower Singing-Bird Now M * * * God in the Night Poets A Legend Thoughts Lines ["The world is sweet, and fair, and bright,"] C.S.A. The Seen and The Unseen Passing Away The Pilgrim (A Christmas Legend for Children) A Reverie ["Those hearts of ours — how strange! how strange!"] —— Their Story Runneth Thus Night After the Picnic Lines ["The death of men is not the death"] Death of the Prince Imperial In Memoriam (Father Keeler) Mobile Mystic Societies Rest Follow Me The Poet's Child Mother's Way Feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple St. Bridget New Year Zeila (A Story from a Star) Better than Gold Sea Dreamings Sea Rest Sea Reverie The Immaculate Conception Fifty Years at the Altar Song of the Deathless Voice To Mr. and Mrs. A. M. T. To Virginia (on Her Birthday) Epilogue
In Remembrance A Reverie ['"O Songs!" I said:'] Only a Dream The Poet The Child of the Poet The Poet Priest Wilt Pray for Me?
Memoir of Father Ryan
By John Moran
It is regretted that the materials at hand at this writing are not sufficient to warrant as extended a notice as the publishers of the present enlarged volume of Father Ryan's poems would wish, and as the many friends and admirers of the dead priest and poet desire. So distinguished a character and so brilliant a man cannot be passed over lightly, or dealt with sparingly, if the demand of his friends and the public generally would be satisfied even in a moderate degree; for Father Ryan's fame is the inheritance of a great and enlightened nation, and his writings have passed into history to emblazon its pages and enrich the literature of the present and succeeding ages, since it is confidently believed that, with the lapse of time, his fame and his merits will grow brighter and more enduring. With this appreciation of his merits, and a realizing sense of what is due to his memory, and with an equal consciousness of his own want of ability to do justice to the subject, the writer bespeaks the indulgent criticism of those who may read the following remarks — admittedly far short of what are due to the illustrious dead.
The exact date and place of Father Ryan's birth are not yet definitely settled. Some assert that he was born at Norfolk, Va.; others claim Hagerstown, Md., as the place of his birth; whilst there is some ground to believe that in Limerick, Ireland, he first saw the light. The same uncertainty exists as to time. Some claim to know that he was born in 1834, whilst others fix with equal certainty, the year 1836 as the time. In the midst of these conflicting statements, the writer prefers to leave the questions at issue for future determination, when it is hoped that final and conclusive proof will be obtained to place them outside the realms of dispute. Meanwhile, he will present what may be regarded as of primary importance in forming a correct estimate of the character of the deceased, and the value of his life-work, which, after all, are the chief ends sought to be accomplished.
From the most reliable information that can be obtained, it is learned that Father Ryan went to St. Louis with his parents when a lad of some seven or eight years. There he received his early training under the Brothers of the Christian Schools. Even at that early date young Ryan showed signs of mental activity which gave promise of one day producing substantial and lasting results. He evinced rare aptitude for knowledge, and made rapid progress in its attainment. His thoughtful mien and modest look soon won for him the respect and friendship of his teachers and the esteem and affection of his companions. It was noticed that he had an instinctive reverence for sacred things and places, and a rich and ardent nature which bespoke deep spirituality. Discerning eyes soon recognized in the mild youth the germs of a future vocation to the priesthood. It was, therefore, prudently resolved to throw around him every possible safeguard in order to protect and cherish so rare and precious a gift. The youth himself corresponded to this design, and bent all his energies towards acquiring the necessary education to fit him for entering upon the still higher and more extended studies required for the exalted vocation to which he aspired. In due time he had made the necessary preparatory studies, and was deemed fitted to enter the ecclesiastical seminary at Niagara, N.Y., whither he went, having bid an affectionate farewell to his relatives and numerous friends, who fervently invoked heaven's blessing upon the pious youth who, they hoped, would return one day to their midst to offer up the "Clean Oblation" which is offered up "from the rising of the sun until the going down thereof."
The heart of the youth as he started for his future home was all aglow with the fervor that animated him in the pursuit of his high and holy purpose. He entered the seminary, leaving no regrets or attachments behind him. One thing only did he appear to regret — separation from home and the loved ones to whom he had bid so affectionate an adieu. Home and parents are ever dear to the pure of heart; for around them cluster memories too precious and associations too endearing for utterance. Father — mother — home, "trinity of joys", whose completion and perfection are to be found only in the Trinity in Heaven — these must ever remain bright recollections in the lives of all who cherish ennobling sentiments which do reverence to God and honor to humanity. But if such be the effect of these sentiments upon the hearts of men in general, they have a still deeper and more tender effect upon those who, in response to the call of the Master, "Follow thou Me," have abandoned all things for His sweet sake, that they may find a home hereafter in heaven, after having spent themselves in dispensing His riches and benefits to men.
Like nearly all great men, Father Ryan owed much to the early training and example of his truly Christian mother. Hence the deep affection he ever manifested towards her. After the lapse of long years, we find his heart still fresh and loving, pouring out upon the grave of his mother all the wealth of his rich mind and the affection of his chaste heart. He tells us that he had placed his poems upon her grave as a garland of affection. Oh! what a beautiful offering on the part of a gifted son to a devoted mother! Nature's richest and best gifts consecrated to nature's purest and holiest sentiments! May we not suppose that the endearing affection which he cherished for his mother was the source of the inspiration which drew forth the "splendid brightness of his songs"? This filial reverence and tender affection, could nothing more be said in his favor, would speak volumes in his praise. But how much more can be said, and said truly, were there pen and lips eloquent enough to proclaim his praises! Mine are unworthy of the task; yet mine be the duty of recalling some, at least, of the virtues and qualities that marked him during life; for virtues and estimable qualities he had, and they were many and conspicuous. Heaven doth know, earth doth witness, angels have recorded, that he is worthy of praise. Therefore, in no cold and measured terms shall the writer speak of the dear and venerated dead, Abram J. Ryan, priest and poet — once magic name, still revered and possessed of talismanic power. If we cannot crown thee, O child of genius, with a wreath of justice, let us, at least, endeavor to crown thee with a garland of love, composed of thy own glorious deeds and achievements.
Having passed through the usual course of studies in an ecclesiastical seminary with distinction, Father Ryan was duly ordained priest, and soon afterwards entered upon the active duties of missionary life. But little was heard of him until the breaking out of the late civil war, when he entered the Confederate army as a chaplain, and served in that capacity up to the close of the civil war. He was then stationed at Nashville, afterwards at Clarksville, Tenn., and still later at Augusta, Ga., where he founded the Banner of the South, which exercised great influence over the people of that section, and continued about five years, when Father Ryan was obliged to suspend its publication. He then removed to Mobile, Ala., where he was appointed pastor of St. Mary's Church in 1870, and continued in that position until 1883, when he obtained leave of absence from Bishop Quinlan to make an extended lecture tour of the country to further a praiseworthy and charitable undertaking of great interest to the South. Bishop Quinlan having died soon afterwards, Father Ryan's leave was extended by his successor, Bishop Manucy. It was whilst engaged in this mission that Father Ryan received his death summons.
During all these changes and journeyings, the busy brain of Father Ryan was incessantly employed, expending itself in composing those immortal poems which have won their way to all hearts and elicited widespread and unmeasured praise from critics of the highest repute. Like all true poets, Father Ryan touched the tenderest chords of the human heart, and made them respond to his own lofty feelings and sublime inspirations.
Of his priestly character but little need be said. His superiors and those whom he served know best how well and faithfully he discharged the sometimes severe and always onerous and responsible duties of his sacred calling. The merit of his life-work is now the measure of his reward. As he had in view only God's honor and glory, and the good of his fellow-men, and directed his labors and employed his talents to promote these ends, may we not hope that a merciful Judge has given him a recompense in excess of his deserts, since, in the bountifulness of His liberality, He is wont to bestow a reward exceeding our merits?
But it is not claimed that Father Ryan was without fault. This would be attributing to him angelic nature or equivalent perfection, against which, were he living, he would be the first to protest. He needs no such fulsome or exaggerated praise. He was a man, though not cast in the common mould, and as such let us view him. Doubtless he had his faults, and perhaps not a few; for "the best of men are only the least sinful." But as far as is known, he had no serious defects or blemishes that would mar the beauty or disturb the harmonious grandeur of his character in its entirety. Had his heart been cold and selfish, or his thoughts defiled with the sordid cares of earth, he never could have sung so sweetly or soared so sublimely into those serene and heavenly regions whither his chaste fancy led him. He delighted to roam in those far-off regions beyond the skies, whose spheres are ruled and whose realms are governed by those mysterious laws which have their fountain source in God, and whose operations are controlled by the exercise of His infinite power and love. His defects, then, did not seriously impair the integrity of his virtues, which were many and solid. Chief amongst his virtues may be named his zeal for the honor and glory of God, and devotion to the Mother of God — the latter the necessary outgrowth of the former. The deep and earnest piety of Father Ryan towards his "Queen and Patroness", as he loved to call her, bespeaks much in his praise; for, like all truly great men of the Catholic Church, he saw that it was not only eminently proper, but also a sublime act of Christian duty, to pay filial reverence and honor to the Mother of God. Hence Father Ryan crowned Mary with many gems of rare beauty. Amongst them may be named his beautiful poem "Last of May", dedicated to the Children of Mary, of the Cathedral of Mobile, Ala. Few Catholics will read these lines without experiencing feelings of deep and tender devotion towards their Queen and Mother.
Father Ryan's was an open, manly character, in which there was no dissimulation. His generous nature and warm heart were ever moved by kind impulses and influenced by charitable feelings, as became his priestly calling. We may readily believe him when he tells us that he never wrote a line for hate's sake. He shrank instinctively from all that was mean and sordid. Generosity was a marked trait of his character, an ennobling principle of his nature, the motive power of his actions, and the mainspring of his life. Friendship was likewise congenial to his taste, if not a necessity of his nature; and with him it meant more than a name. It was a sacred union formed between kindred spirits — a chain of affection whose binding link was fidelity. Never was he false to its claims, nor known to have violated its obligations. Hence he was highly esteemed during life by numerous persons of all classes and denominations; for his sympathies were as broad as humanity, and as far-reaching as its wants and its miseries. Yet he was a man of deep conviction and a strict adherent to principle, or what he conceived to be principle; for we find him long after the war still clinging to its memories, and slow to accept its results, which he believed were fraught with disaster to the people of his section. A Southerner of the most pronounced kind, he was unwilling to make any concession to his victorious opponents of the North which could be withheld from them. Perhaps, upon reflection, it may not appear wholly strange or inexplicable that he should have so acted. There was, at least, some foundation for his fears with regard to the ill fate of those of his section. Though peace had been proclaimed, the rainbow of hope did not encircle the heavens or cast its peaceful shadow over the South. Dark clouds loomed up over that fair and sunny land, portentous of evil; for they were surcharged with the lightning of passion. The chariot wheel of the conqueror had laid waste and desolate the land. No one knew precisely what would follow; for passion's dark spirit was abroad and ruling in high places. To make matters worse and intensify the sufferings of the people still more, they were debarred from participating in the political affairs of their own States. Non-residents, and aliens in sympathy and common interest, were appointed to rule over them, if not to oppress them. Is it to be wondered at if some refused to bow and kiss the hands that were uplifted against them? Among such was Father Ryan. All honor to the man and those who stood by him! Instead of attempting to cast obloquy upon their memory, we should do them honor for having maintained in its integrity the dignity of the manhood with which heaven had blessed them, when earth had deprived them of all else that was dear and sacred to brave and honorable men! But how differently Father Ryan acted when the oppressed people of the South were restored to their rights, and when the great heart of the North went out in sympathy towards them in their dire affliction during the awful visitation of the yellow fever, when death reaped a rich harvest in Memphis and elsewhere, and a sorrow-stricken land was once more buried in ruin and desolation! It was then, indeed, that Father Ryan and all good men beheld the grand spectacle of the whole North coming to the rescue of the afflicted South with intense and sublime admiration. He then saw for certain the rainbow of peace span the heavens; and though his section was wailing under the hand of affliction, he yet took down his harp, which for years had hung on the weeping willows of his much-loved South, and, with renewed vigor and strength of heart, again touched its chords and drew forth in rich tones and glorious melodies his grand poem, "Reunited". Then it was that the star of peace shone out in the heavens, resplendent with the brightness and purity of love, and dispelled the dark and foul spirit of hate which had poisoned the air and polluted the soil of free Columbia. Then, too, the angel of affliction and the angel of charity joined hands together and pronounced the benediction over a restored Union and a reunited people.
Before proceeding to speak of Father Ryan's poems, a few observations upon poets and poetry in general may not be deemed inappropriate. To speak of poets and their merits is by no means an easy matter, even where one is in every respect fitted to pronounce critical judgment. It requires rare qualifications for such a task; a wide range of information; extensive knowledge of the various authors; a keen sense of justice; a fine sense of appreciation of the merits and demerits of each, and a rare power of discrimination. These are qualifications seldom combined in a single person. Hence so few competent critics are to be found. The writer does not claim to possess all or any one of these powers in as eminent degree as would fit him for the work of passing judicious criticism upon the various authors and their works — or, indeed, any single one of them. What he will venture to say, therefore, is by way of preface to the remarks which he is called upon to offer upon the merits of the particular poet whose productions he is specially called upon to consider.
Of poets it may be said, that they are not like other men, though invested with similar qualities and characteristics. They differ in this: That they are not cold and calculating in their speech; they do not analyze and weigh their words with the same precision; nor are they always master of their feelings. Possessed of the subtle power of genius, which no mortal can describe, though all may experience its potent influence, they cannot be confined within the narrow limits assigned to others less gifted, nor subjected to fixed methods or unvarying processes of mental action. No; poets must roam in broader fields, amidst brighter prospects and more elevated surroundings. They must be left to themselves, to go where they choose, and evolve their thoughts according to their own ways and fancies; for ways and fancies they have which are peculiar to themselves and must be indulged. Genius is ever wont to be odd, in the sense that it does not and cannot be made to move in common ruts and channels. This is especially true of poetic genius, whose life may be said to depend upon the purity of its inspirations and the breadth and character of its surroundings.
Much has been said, and deservedly, in favor of the great poets of antiquity. Unmeasured praise has been bestowed upon the epic grandeur of Homer and the classical purity of Virgil. They have ever been considered as foremost amongst the best models of poetic excellence. Yet there was wanting to them the true sources of poetic inspiration, whence flow the loftiest conceptions and sublimest emanations of genius. Homer never rose above the summit of Olympus, nor Virgil above the level of pagan subjects and surroundings. Therefore they cannot be properly regarded as the highest and best models, certainly not the safest for Christians, who can feast their eyes and fill their minds and hearts with more perfect models and more sublime subjects. The sight of Sinai, where Jehovah, the God of Israel, is veiled in the awful splendor of His Majesty, whilst his voice is heard in the loud war and fierce thunderings amongst the clouds, as the lightnings crown its summit, is far more grand and imposing, more sublime and inspiring, than are those subjects presented to us by pagan authors, however refined and elegant may be the language employed to convey their thoughts and depict their scenes. Wherefore, the Biblical narratives furnish the highest and best models and the richest sources of poetic inspiration; and "all great poets have had recourse to those ever-living fountains to learn the secret of elevating our hearts, ennobling our affections, and finding subjects worthy of their genius."
The writer would not care to assert that Father Ryan's poems possess the majestic grandeur and elaborate finish of the great masters, whose productions have withstood the severe criticism of ages, and still stand as the highest models of poetic excellence. His style is not that of Milton, who soared aloft into the eternal mansions and opened their portals to our astonished and admiring gaze, picturing to us "God in His first frown and man in his first prevarication." Nor is it that of Shakespeare, whose deep and subtle mind fathomed "the dark abysses of the human heart," and laid bare and naked the varied doings of mankind! Nor is it, least of all, that of Dante, who, with even greater boldness than Milton, plunged into the impenetrable depths of the infernal regions, whose appalling misery and never-ending woe he has described in words of fearful and awe-inspiring grandeur. Neither is his style like unto that of any one of the several leading American poets, so far as their works are known to the writer, though some have said that his style resembles that of the highly gifted and lamented Poe.
The writer will not undertake to say what place Father Ryan will occupy in the Temple of Fame, though he believes that an enlightened public sentiment would accord to him a high position. The chief merits of his poems would seem to be the simple sublimity of his verses; the rare and chaste beauty of his conceptions; the richness and grandeur of his thoughts, and their easy, natural flow; the refined elegance and captivating force of the terms he employs as the medium through which he communicates those thoughts and the weird fancy which throws around them charms peculiarly their own. These, and perhaps other merits, will win for their author enduring fame.
For the future of Father Ryan's poems we need have no fears. They will pass down through the ages bearing the stamp of genius, impressed with the majesty of truth, replete with the power and grandeur of love; these are the purest sources of poetic inspiration; for both are attributes of the Divinity. Strip poetry of these, and nothing remains but its mutilated relics and soulless body; it becomes robbed of its highest glory and its most enduring qualities.
Though the South may claim Father Ryan as her son of genius, whose heart beat in sympathy with her hopes and her aspirations and of whose productions she may well feel proud, yet no section owns him, since he belongs to our common country, and in a certain sense to mankind, for the fame of genius is not controlled by sections or circumscribed within limits; it extends beyond the confines of earth — yea, unto eternity itself! It is proper to regard him in this light as the heritage of the nation, for in the nation's keeping his fame will be secure and appropriately perpetuated. All sections will unite in doing honor to his memory, which is associated with grand intellectual triumphs, won by the union of the highest gifts of the Creator — the union of religion and poetic genius; the former the source and inspiration of the latter.
Father Ryan also wrote several works of prose, chief amongst which is that entitled, "A Crown for Our Queen". Like his poem, "Last of May", this book was intended as a loving tribute to Mary, the Mother of God, whom he wished to honor as the highest type and grandest embodiment of womanhood. If Father Ryan failed to make this work worthy of the exalted subject — an opinion by no means expressed — it was not from any lack of good-will and earnest purpose on his part. With him tender affection for the Queen of Heaven was a pure and holy sentiment, a sublime, and ennobling act of piety. He saw in her lofty and immaculate beauty the true ideal of woman; and this explains the deep reverence and delicate sentiment of respect and sympathy which he exhibited towards all women. Poetical sentiment and religious feeling he thus happily blended, as they should ever be, directing and influencing man's action in his relations and intercourse with woman.
Three essentially poetical sentiments exist in man, says a distinguished writer: The love of God, the love of woman, and the love of country — the religious, the human, and the political sentiment. For this reason, continues the same writer, wherever the knowledge of God is darkened, wherever the face of woman is veiled, wherever the people are captive or enslaved, there poetry is like a flame which, for want of fuel, exhausts itself and dies out. On the contrary, wherever God reigns upon His throne in all the majesty of His glory, wherever woman rules by the irresistible power of her enchantments, wherever the people are free, there poetry has modest roses for the woman, glorious palms for the people, and splendid wings with which to mount up to the loftiest regions of heaven.
Father Ryan also won distinction as an orator, a lecturer, and an essayist, having contributed to several of the leading journals and magazines of the country. His oratory was not of the cold and unimpassioned kind which falls upon the ears but fails to make an impression on the heart. He did not lose sight of the fact that the chief end and aim of oratory is to arouse men to a sense of duty, deter them from the commission of evil, and inspire them with high and holy purposes and noble, generous resolves, the accomplishment of which demands that the living, breathing spirit or soul should be infused into the words. Though the unction of divine charity can alone give efficacy to man's words, yet man must not appear to be devoid of those qualities and attributes which contribute towards making a lasting impression upon the minds and hearts of those whose interests are presumed to be dear to him. This was the spirit that animated Father Ryan, and all his efforts were directed towards the accomplishment of the objects stated. It is not claimed that all his discourses were up to the highest standard of literary excellence, or above the test of exact criticism. Some of his efforts did not bear evidence of deep thought or careful and exhaustive preparation, but all exhibited warmth of soul and earnestness of purpose. It may be well to remark in connection with this, that Father Ryan's health for many years was such that it would not permit of his engaging in laborious mental work. And yet he labored much and spoke often; for his zeal and mental activity were greatly in excess of his strength. Had his physical powers corresponded to his rare mental endowments, the value of his productions — great as it now is — would have been enhanced. The marvel is that he was able to sustain those powers of mind which marked him up to the time of his death.
Though he had been ailing for years, as has been stated, yet his wonderful energy of mind made it appear to many that there was no immediate danger of his life. When the end came it was a surprise to all, even himself. To him let us hope that it was not unprovided for. We have the gratifying assurance that it was not so; for we are told that he had retired into a Franciscan monastery in Louisville, Ky., to make a retreat, intending, at its close, to finish a "Life of Christ", on which he was engaged, or purposed to undertake. Little did he think, apparently at least, that the Angel of Death pursued him and would soon deliver the final message to him. He did not fear the end. Why should he? Death has no terrors for the truly Christian soul. It is not the end, but the beginning of life; not the destroyer, but the restorer of our rights — that which puts us in possession of our eternal home in heaven. Therefore he was not gloomy nor despondent at the sight of the grave. He saw beyond it the glorious sunshine of God's presence and the cheering prospect of his love. The final moment at last came and found him prepared. On the 23d of April, 1886, the soul of Abram J. Ryan, priest and poet, beloved of all who knew him, passed quietly away, let us hope, from earth to heaven, there to sing the glorious songs whose melodies are attuned to the harps of angels, and whose mysterious harmonies ravish with delight the pure souls of the just. As the setting sun on a calm eve sinks beneath the horizon, gilding the heavens with its mild yet gorgeous splendor, so did the grand soul of Father Ryan pass into eternity, leaving behind the bright light of his genius and virtues — the one to illumine the firmament of literature, and the other to serve as a shining example to men.
Here the writer would end this imperfect tribute to a truly great character, did he not wish to remind the reader that he must not regard it as an entire portrait of the illustrious dead, though he has tried to present him clothed with some, at least, of the attributes and qualities which marked him during life. The failure, if such it be, must be ascribed to his own want of skill and ability rather than to any lack of merit in the subject. If he has not invested him with the panoply of his greatness, he has endeavored to strew some flowers over his grave; and these are love's purest and best offering, which, were he living, would be most acceptable to the heart of the poet; for love it was that inspired its tenderest promptings and holiest feelings and consecrated them to its ennobling influence.
Another thought, and the writer will bring his remarks to a close. This thought will be borrowed from the dead priest's poem, "Reunited", to suggest a sentiment in response to his prayer for a union of all sections — a sentiment which cannot fail to meet a ready and generous acceptance on the part of all true lovers of liberty. The thought is embodied in the following words, which take the form of an appeal:
Let all hearts join in the wish that the valor displayed and the sacrifices endured on both sides during the late civil war may henceforth unite all sections of our common country more closely in the bonds of fraternal affection, and cement more firmly the foundations of our political superstructure, now so vast and imposing, thus serving as a guaranty for the stability, permanence, and enduring greatness of the Republic! Thus will we respond to the prayer of the dead priest, whose poem, the "Lost Cause", and song of "The Conquered Banner", will mingle harmoniously with the soft, earnest words and sweet, placid tones of his peaceful "Reunited". So the songs of the dead poet will be music to the living until time shall be no more!
Poems: Patriotic, Religious, Miscellaneous.
Song of the Mystic
I walk down the Valley of Silence — Down the dim, voiceless valley — alone! And I hear not the fall of a footstep Around me, save God's and my own; And the hush of my heart is as holy As hovers where angels have flown!
Long ago was I weary of voices Whose music my heart could not win; Long ago was I weary of noises That fretted my soul with their din; Long ago was I weary of places Where I met but the human — and sin.
I walked in the world with the worldly; I craved what the world never gave; And I said: "In the world each Ideal, That shines like a star on life's wave, Is wrecked on the shores of the Real, And sleeps like a dream in a grave."
And still did I pine for the Perfect, And still found the False with the True; I sought 'mid the Human for Heaven, But caught a mere glimpse of its Blue: And I wept when the clouds of the Mortal Veiled even that glimpse from my view.
And I toiled on, heart-tired, of the Human, And I moaned 'mid the mazes of men, Till I knelt, long ago, at an altar And I heard a voice call me. Since then I walk down the Valley of Silence That lies far beyond mortal ken.
Do you ask what I found in the Valley? 'Tis my Trysting Place with the Divine. And I fell at the feet of the Holy, And above me a voice said: "Be mine." And there arose from the depths of my spirit An echo — "My heart shall be Thine."
Do you ask how I live in the Valley? I weep — and I dream — and I pray. But my tears are as sweet as the dewdrops That fall on the roses in May; And my prayer, like a perfume from censers, Ascendeth to God night and day.
In the hush of the Valley of Silence I dream all the songs that I sing; And the music floats down the dim Valley, Till each finds a word for a wing, That to hearts, like the Dove of the Deluge, A message of Peace they may bring.
But far on the deep there are billows That never shall break on the beach; And I have heard songs in the Silence That never shall float into speech; And I have had dreams in the Valley Too lofty for language to reach.
And I have seen Thoughts in the Valley — Ah! me, how my spirit was stirred! And they wear holy veils on their faces, Their footsteps can scarcely be heard; They pass through the Valley like virgins, Too pure for the touch of a word!
Do you ask me the place of the Valley, Ye hearts that are harrowed by Care? It lieth afar between mountains, And God and His angels are there: And one is the dark mount of Sorrow, And one the bright mountain of Prayer.
Reverie ["Only a few more years!"]
Only a few more years! Weary years! Only a few more tears! Bitter tears! And then — and then — like other men, I cease to wander, cease to weep, Dim shadows o'er my way shall creep; And out of the day and into the night, Into the dark and out of the bright I go, and Death shall veil my face, The feet of the years shall fast efface My very name, and every trace I leave on earth; for the stern years tread — Tread out the names of the gone and dead! And then, ah! then, like other men, I close my eyes and go to sleep, Only a few, one hour, shall weep: Ah! me, the grave is dark and deep!
Alas! Alas! How soon we pass! And ah! we go So far away; When go we must, From the light of Life, and the heat of strife, To the peace of Death, and the cold, still dust, We go — we go — we may not stay, We travel the lone, dark, dreary way; Out of the day and into the night, Into the darkness, out of the bright. And then, ah! then, like other men, We close our eyes and go to sleep; We hush our hearts and go to sleep; Only a few, one hour, shall weep: Ah! me, the grave is lone and deep!
I saw a flower, at morn, so fair; I passed at eve, it was not there. I saw a sunbeam, golden bright, I saw a cloud the sunbeam's shroud, And I saw night Digging the grave of day; And day took off her golden crown, And flung it sorrowfully down. Ah! day, the Sun's fair bride! At twilight moaned and died. And so, alas! like day we pass: At morn we smile, At eve we weep, At morn we wake, In night we sleep. We close our eyes and go to sleep: Ah! me, the grave is still and deep!
But God is sweet. My mother told me so, When I knelt at her feet Long — so long — ago; She clasped my hands in hers. Ah! me, that memory stirs My soul's profoundest deep — No wonder that I weep. She clasped my hands and smiled, Ah! then I was a child — I knew not harm — My mother's arm Was flung around me; and I felt That when I knelt To listen to my mother's prayer, God was with my mother there.
Yea! "God is sweet!" She told me so; She never told me wrong; And through my years of woe Her whispers soft, and sad, and low, And sweet as Angel's song, Have floated like a dream.
And, ah! to-night I seem A very child in my old, old place, Beneath my mother's blessed face, And through each sweet remembered word, This sweetest undertone is heard: "My child! my child! our God is sweet, In Life — in Death — kneel at his feet — Sweet in gladness, sweet in gloom, Sweeter still beside the tomb." Why should I wail? Why ought I weep? The grave — it is not dark and deep; Why should I sigh? Why ought I moan? The grave — it is not still and lone; Our God is sweet, our grave is sweet, We lie there sleeping at His feet, Where the wicked shall from troubling cease, And weary hearts shall rest in peace!
Lines — 1875
Go down where the wavelets are kissing the shore, And ask of them why do they sigh? The poets have asked them a thousand times o'er, But they're kissing the shore as they kissed it before, And they're sighing to-day, and they'll sigh evermore. Ask them what ails them: they will not reply; But they'll sigh on forever and never tell why! Why does your poetry sound like a sigh? The waves will not answer you; neither shall I.
Go stand on the beach of the blue boundless deep, When the night stars are gleaming on high, And hear how the billows are moaning in sleep, On the low lying strand by the surge-beaten steep. They're moaning forever wherever they sweep. Ask them what ails them: they never reply; They moan, and so sadly, but will not tell why Why does your poetry sound like a sigh? The waves will not answer you; neither shall I.
Go list to the breeze at the waning of day, When it passes and murmurs "Good-bye." The dear little breeze — how it wishes to stay Where the flowers are in bloom, where the singing birds play; How it sighs when it flies on its wearisome way. Ask it what ails it: it will not reply; Its voice is a sad one, it never told why. Why does your poetry sound like a sigh? The breeze will not answer you; neither shall I.
Go watch the wild blasts as they spring from their lair, When the shout of the storm rends the sky; They rush o'er the earth and they ride thro' the air And they blight with their breath all the lovely and fair, And they groan like the ghosts in the "land of despair". Ask them what ails them: they never reply; Their voices are mournful, they will not tell why. Why does your poetry sound like a sigh? The blasts will not answer you; neither shall I.
Go stand on the rivulet's lily-fringed side, Or list where the rivers rush by; The streamlets which forest trees shadow and hide, And the rivers that roll in their oceanward tide, Are moaning forever wherever they glide; Ask them what ails them: they will not reply. On — sad voiced — they flow, but they never tell why. Why does your poetry sound like a sigh? Earth's streams will not answer you; neither shall I.
Go list to the voices of air, earth and sea, And the voices that sound in the sky; Their songs may be joyful to some, but to me There's a sigh in each chord and a sigh in each key, And thousands of sighs swell their grand melody. Ask them what ails them: they will not reply. They sigh — sigh forever — but never tell why. Why does your poetry sound like a sigh? Their lips will not answer you; neither shall I.
One bright memory shines like a star In the sky of my spirit forever; And over my pathway it flashes afar A radiance that perishes never.
One bright memory — only one; And I walk by the light of its gleaming; It brightens my days, and when days are done It shines in the night o'er my dreaming.
One bright memory, whose golden rays Illumine the gloom of my sorrows, And I know that its lustre will gladden my gaze In the shadows of all my to-morrows.
One bright memory; when I am sad I lift up my eyes to its shining, And the clouds pass away, and my spirit grows glad, And my heart hushes all its repining.
One bright memory; others have passed Back into the shadows forever; But it, far and fair, bright and true to the last, Sheds a light that will pass away never.
Shine on, shine always, thou star of my days! And when Death's starless night gathers o'er me, Beam brighter than ever adown on my gaze, And light the dark valley before me.
One idle day — A mile or so of sunlit waves off shore — In a breezeless bay, We listless lay — Our boat a "dream of rest" on the still sea — And — we were four.
The wind had died That all day long sang songs unto the deep; It was eventide, And far and wide Sweet silence crept thro' the rifts of sound With spells of sleep.
Our gray sail cast The only cloud that flecked the foamless sea; And weary at last Beside the mast One fell to slumber with a dreamy face, And — we were three.
No ebb! no flow! No sound! no stir in the wide, wondrous calm; In the sunset's glow The shore shelved low And snow-white, from far ridges screened with shade Of drooping palm.
Our hearts were hushed; All light seemed melting into boundless blue; But the west was flushed Where sunset blushed, Thro' clouds of roses, when another slept And — we were two.
How still the air! Not e'en a sea-bird o'er us waveward flew; Peace rested there! Light everywhere! Nay! Light! some shadows fell on that fair scene, And — we are two.
Some shadows! Where? No matter where! all shadows are not seen; For clouds of care To skies all fair Will sudden rise as tears to shining eyes, And dim their sheen.
We spake no word, Tho' each I ween did hear the other's soul. Not a wavelet stirred, And yet we heard The loneliest music of the weariest waves That ever roll.
Yea! Peace, you swayed Your sceptre jeweled with the evening light; And then you said: "Here falls no shade, Here floats no sound, and all the seas and skies Sleep calm and bright."
Nay! Peace, not so! The wildest waves may feel thy sceptre's spell And fear to flow, But to and fro — Beyond their reach lone waves on troubled seas Will sink and swell.
No word e'en yet; Were our eyes speaking while they watched the sky? And in the sunset Infinite regret Swept sighing from the skies into our souls — I wonder why?
A half hour passed — 'Twas more than half an age; 'tis ever thus. Words came at last, Fluttering and fast As shadows veiling sunsets in the souls Of each of us.
The noiseless night Sped flitting like a ghost where waves of blue Lost all their light, As lips once bright Whence smiles have fled; we or the wavelets sighed, And — we were two.
The day had gone: And on the dim, high altar of the dark, Stars, one by one, Far, faintly shone; The moonlight trembled, like a mother's smile, Upon our bark.
We softly spoke: The waves seemed listening on the lonely sea, The winds awoke; Our whispers broke The spell of silence; and two eyes unclosed, And — we were three.
"The breeze blows fair," He said; "the waking waves set towards the shore." The long brown hair Of the other there, Who slumbered near the mast with dreamy face Stirred — we were four.
That starry night, A mile or so of shadows from the shore, Two faces bright With laughter light Shone on two souls like stars that shine on shrines; And — we were four.
Over the reach Of dazzling waves our boat like wild bird flew; We reached the beach, Nor song, nor speech Shall ever tell our sacramental thought When — we were two.
Nocturne ["I sit to-night by the firelight,"]
I sit to-night by the firelight, And I look at the glowing flame, And I see in the bright red flashes A Heart, a Face, and a Name.
How often have I seen pictures Framed in the firelight's blaze, Of hearts, of names, and of faces, And scenes of remembered days!
How often have I found poems In the crimson of the coals, And the swaying flames of the firelight Unrolled such golden scrolls.
And my eyes, they were proud to read them, In letters of living flame, But to-night, in the fire, I see only One Heart, one Face, and one Name.
But where are the olden pictures? And where are the olden dreams? Has a change come over my vision? Or over the fire's bright gleams?
Not over my vision, surely; My eyes — they are still the same, That used to find in the firelight So many a face and name.
Not over the firelight, either, No change in the coals or blaze That flicker and flash, as ruddy To-night as in other days.
But there must be a change — I feel it. To-night not an old picture came; The fire's bright flames only painted One Heart, one Face, and one Name.
Three pictures? No! only one picture; The Face belongs to the Name, And the Name names the Heart that is throbbing Just back of the beautiful flame.
Who said it, I wonder: "All faces Must fade in the light of but one; The soul, like the earth, may have many Horizons, but only one sun?"
Who dreamt it? Did I? If I dreamt it 'Tis true — every name passes by Save one; the sun wears many cloudlets Of gold, but has only one sky.
And out of the flames have they faded, The hearts and the faces of yore? Have they sunk 'neath the gray of the ashes To rise to my vision no more?
Yes, surely, or else I would see them To-night, just as bright as of old, In the white of the coal's silver flashes, In the red of the restless flames' gold.
Do you say I am fickle and faithless? Else why are the old pictures gone? And why should the visions of many Melt into the vision of one?
Nay! list to the voice of the Heavens, "One Eternal alone reigns above." Is it true? and all else are but idols, So the heart can have only one love?
Only one, all the rest are but idols, That fall from their shrines soon or late, When the Love that is Lord of the temple, Comes with sceptre and crown to the gate.
To be faithless oft means to be faithful, To be false often means to be true; The vale that loves clouds that are golden Forgets them for skies that are blue.
To forget often means to remember What we had forgotten too long; The fragrance is not the bright flower, The echo is not the sweet song.
Am I dreaming? No, there is the firelight, Gaze I ever so long, all the same I only can see in its glowing A Heart, a Face, and a Name.
Farewell! all ye hearts, names, and faces! Only ashes now under the blaze, Ye never again will smile on me, For I'm touching the end of my days.
And the beautiful fading firelight Paints, now, with a pencil of flame, Three pictures — yet only one picture — A Heart, a Face, and a Name.
The Old Year and the New
How swift they go, Life's many years, With their winds of woe And their storms of tears, And their darkest of nights whose shadowy slopes Are lit with the flashes of starriest hopes, And their sunshiny days in whose calm heavens loom The clouds of the tempest — the shadows of the gloom!
And ah! we pray With a grief so drear, That the years may stay When their graves are near; Tho' the brows of To-morrows be radiant and bright, With love and with beauty, with life and with light, The dead hearts of Yesterdays, cold on the bier, To the hearts that survive them, are evermore dear.
For the hearts so true To each Old Year cleaves; Tho' the hand of the New Flowery garlands weaves. But the flowers of the future, tho' fragrant and fair, With the past's withered leaflets may never compare; For dear is each dead leaf — and dearer each thorn — In the wreaths which the brows of our past years have worn.
Yea! men will cling With a love to the last, And wildly fling Their arms round their past! As the vine that clings to the oak that falls; As the ivy twines round the crumbled walls; For the dust of the past some hearts higher prize Than the stars that flash out from the future's bright skies.
And why not so? The old, Old Years, They knew and they know All our hopes and fears; We walked by their side, and we told them each grief, And they kissed off our tears while they whispered relief; And the stories of hearts that may not be revealed In the hearts of the dead years are buried and sealed.
Let the New Year sing At the Old Year's grave: Will the New Year bring What the Old Year gave? Ah! the Stranger-Year trips over the snows, And his brow is wreathed with many a rose: But how many thorns do the roses conceal Which the roses, when withered, shall so soon reveal?
Let the New Year smile When the Old Year dies; In how short a while Shall the smiles be sighs? Yea! Stranger-Year, thou hast many a charm, And thy face is fair and thy greeting warm, But, dearer than thou — in his shroud of snows — Is the furrowed face of the Year that goes.
Yea! bright New Year, O'er all the earth, With song and cheer, They will hail thy birth; They will trust thy words in a single hour, They will love thy face, they will laud thy power; For the New has charms which the Old has not, And the Stranger's face makes the Friend's forgot.
Unroll Erin's flag! fling its folds to the breeze! Let it float o'er the land, let it flash o'er the seas! Lift it out of the dust — let it wave as of yore, When its chiefs with their clans stood around it and swore That never! no, never! while God gave them life, And they had an arm and a sword for the strife, That never! no, never! that banner should yield As long as the heart of a Celt was its shield: While the hand of a Celt had a weapon to wield And his last drop of blood was unshed on the field.
Lift it up! wave it high! 'tis as bright as of old! Not a stain on its green, not a blot on its gold, Tho' the woes and the wrongs of three hundred long years Have drenched Erin's sunburst with blood and with tears! Though the clouds of oppression enshroud it in gloom, And around it the thunders of Tyranny boom. Look aloft! look aloft! lo! the clouds drifting by, There's a gleam through the gloom, there's a light in the sky, 'Tis the sunburst resplendent — far, flashing on high! Erin's dark night is waning, her day-dawn is nigh!
Lift it up! lift it up! the old Banner of Green! The blood of its sons has but brightened its sheen; What though the tyrant has trampled it down, Are its folds not emblazoned with deeds of renown? What though for ages it droops in the dust, Shall it droop thus forever? No, no! God is just! Take it up! take it up! from the tyrant's foul tread, Let him tear the Green Flag — we will snatch its last shred, And beneath it we'll bleed as our forefathers bled, And we'll vow by the dust in the graves of our dead, And we'll swear by the blood which the Briton has shed, And we'll vow by the wrecks which through Erin he spread, And we'll swear by the thousands who, famished, unfed, Died down in the ditches, wild-howling for bread; And we'll vow by our heroes, whose spirits have fled, And we'll swear by the bones in each coffinless bed, That we'll battle the Briton through danger and dread; That we'll cling to the cause which we glory to wed, 'Til the gleam of our steel and the shock of our lead Shall prove to our foe that we meant what we said — That we'll lift up the green, and we'll tear down the red!
Lift up the Green Flag! oh! it wants to go home, Full long has its lot been to wander and roam, It has followed the fate of its sons o'er the world, But its folds, like their hopes, are not faded nor furled; Like a weary-winged bird, to the East and the West, It has flitted and fled — but it never shall rest, 'Til, pluming its pinions, it sweeps o'er the main, And speeds to the shores of its old home again, Where its fetterless folds o'er each mountain and plain Shall wave with a glory that never shall wane.
Take it up! take it up! bear it back from afar! That banner must blaze 'mid the lightnings of war; Lay your hands on its folds, lift your gaze to the sky, And swear that you'll bear it triumphant or die, And shout to the clans scattered far o'er the earth To join in the march to the land of their birth; And wherever the Exiles, 'neath heaven's broad dome, Have been fated to suffer, to sorrow and roam, They'll bound on the sea, and away o'er the foam, They'll sail to the music of "Home, Sweet Home!"
The Sword of Robert Lee
Forth from its scabbard, pure and bright, Flashed the sword of Lee! Far in the front of the deadly fight, High o'er the brave in the cause of Right, Its stainless sheen, like a beacon light, Led us to Victory!
Out of its scabbard, where, full long, It slumbered peacefully, Roused from its rest by the battle's song, Shielding the feeble, smiting the strong, Guarding the right, avenging the wrong, Gleamed the sword of Lee!
Forth from its scabbard, high in air Beneath Virginia's sky — And they who saw it gleaming there, And knew who bore it, knelt to swear That where that sword led they would dare To follow — and to die!
Out of its scabbard! Never hand Waved sword from stain as free, Nor purer sword led braver band, Nor braver bled for a brighter land, Nor brighter land had a cause so grand, Nor cause a chief like Lee!
Forth from its scabbard! How we prayed That sword might victor be; And when our triumph was delayed, And many a heart grew sore afraid, We still hoped on while gleamed the blade Of noble Robert Lee!
Forth from its scabbard all in vain Bright flashed the sword of Lee; 'Tis shrouded now in its sheath again, It sleeps the sleep of our noble slain, Defeated, yet without a stain, Proudly and peacefully!
A baby played with the surplice sleeve Of a gentle priest; while in accents low, The sponsors murmured the grand "I believe," And the priest bade the mystic waters to flow In the name of the Father, and the Son, And Holy Spirit — Three in One.
Spotless as a lily's leaf, Whiter than the Christmas snow; Not a sign of sin or grief, And the babe laughed, sweet and low.
A smile flitted over the baby's face: Or was it the gleam of its angel's wing Just passing then, and leaving a trace Of its presence as it soared to sing? A hymn when words and waters win To grace and life a child of sin.
Not an outward sign or token, That a child was saved from woe; But the bonds of sin were broken, And the babe laughed, sweet and low.
A cloud rose up to the mother's eyes, And out of the cloud grief's rain fell fast; Came the baby's smiles, and the mother's sighs, Out of the future, or the past? Ah! gleam and gloom must ever meet, And gall must mingle with the sweet.
Yea, upon the baby's laughter Trickled tears: 'tis ever so — Mothers dread the dark hereafter; But the babe laughed sweet and low.
And the years like waves broke on the shore Of the mother's heart, and her baby's life; But her lone heart drifted away before Her little boy knew an hour of strife; Drifted away on a Summer's eve, Ere the orphaned child knew how to grieve
Her humble grave was gently made Where roses bloomed in Summer's glow; The wild birds sang where her heart was laid, And her boy laughed sweet and low.
He drifted away from his mother's grave, Like a fragile flower on a great stream's tide, Till he heard the moan of the mighty wave, That welcomed the stream to the ocean wide. Out from the shore and over the deep, He sailed away and learned to weep.
Furrowed grew the face once fair, Under storms of human woe; Silvered grew the dark brown hair, And he wailed so sad and low.
The years swept on as erst they swept, Bright wavelets once, dark billows now; Wherever he sailed he ever wept, A cloud hung over the darkened brow — Over the deep and into the dark, But no one knew where sank his bark.
Wild roses watched his mother's tomb, The world still laughed, 'tis ever so — God only knows the baby's doom, That laughed so sweet and low.
A Laugh — and A Moan
The brook that down the valley So musically drips, Flowed never half so brightly As the light laugh from her lips.
Her face was like the lily, Her heart was like the rose, Her eyes were like a heaven Where the sunlight always glows.
She trod the earth so lightly Her feet touched not a thorn; Her words wore all the brightness Of a young life's happy morn.
Along her laughter rippled The melody of joy; She drank from every chalice, And tasted no alloy.
Her life was all a laughter, Her days were all a smile, Her heart was pure and happy, She knew not gloom nor guile.
She rested on the bosom Of her mother, like a flower That blooms far in a valley Where no storm-clouds ever lower.
And — "Merry, merry, merry!" Rang the bells of every hour, And — "Happy, happy, happy!" In her valley laughed the flower.
There was not a sign of shadow, There was not a tear nor thorn, And the sweet voice of her laughter Filled with melody the morn.
* * * * *
Years passed — 'twas long, long after, And I saw a face at prayer; There was not a sign of laughter, There was every sign of care.
For the sunshine all had faded From the valley and the flower, And the once fair face was shaded In life's lonely evening hour.
And the lips that smiled with laughter In the valley of the morn, In the valley of the evening They were pale and sorrow-worn.
And I read the old, old lesson In her face and in her tears, While she sighed amid the shadows Of the sunset of her years.
All the rippling streams of laughter From our hearts and lips that flow, Shall be frozen, cold years after, Into icicles of woe.
In Memory of My Brother
Young as the youngest who donned the Gray, True as the truest that wore it, Brave as the bravest he marched away, (Hot tears on the cheeks of his mother lay) Triumphant waved our flag one day — He fell in the front before it.
Firm as the firmest, where duty led, He hurried without a falter; Bold as the boldest he fought and bled, And the day was won — but the field was red — And the blood of his fresh young heart was shed On his country's hallowed altar.
On the trampled breast of the battle plain Where the foremost ranks had wrestled, On his pale, pure face not a mark of pain, (His mother dreams they will meet again) The fairest form amid all the slain, Like a child asleep he nestled.
In the solemn shades of the wood that swept The field where his comrades found him, They buried him there — and the big tears crept Into strong men's eyes that had seldom wept. (His mother — God pity her — smiled and slept, Dreaming her arms were around him.)
A grave in the woods with the grass o'ergrown, A grave in the heart of his mother — His clay in the one lies lifeless and lone; There is not a name, there is not a stone, And only the voice of the winds maketh moan O'er the grave where never a flower is strewn But — his memory lives in the other.
"Out of the Depths"
Lost! Lost! Lost! The cry went up from a sea — The waves were wild with an awful wrath, Not a light shone down on the lone ship's path; The clouds hung low: Lost! Lost! Lost! Rose wild from the hearts of the tempest-tossed.
Lost! Lost! Lost! The cry floated over the waves — Far over the pitiless waves; It smote on the dark and it rended the clouds; The billows below them were weaving white shrouds Out of the foam of the surge, And the wind-voices chanted a dirge: Lost! Lost! Lost! Wailed wilder the lips of the tempest-tossed.
Lost! Lost! Lost! Not the sign of a hope was nigh, In the sea, in the air, or the sky; And the lifted faces were wan and white, There was nothing without them but storm and night And nothing within but fear. But far to a Father's ear: Lost! Lost! Lost! Floated the wail of the tempest-tossed.
Lost! Lost! Lost! Out of the depths of the sea — Out of the night and the sea; And the waves and the winds of the storm were hushed, And the sky with the gleams of the stars was flushed. Saved! Saved! Saved! And a calm and a joyous cry Floated up through the starry sky, In the dark — in the storm — "Our Father" is nigh.
The summer rose the sun has flushed With crimson glory may be sweet; 'Tis sweeter when its leaves are crushed Beneath the wind's and tempest's feet.
The rose that waves upon its tree, In life sheds perfume all around; More sweet the perfume floats to me Of roses trampled on the ground.
The waving rose with every breath Scents carelessly the summer air; The wounded rose bleeds forth in death A sweetness far more rich and rare.
It is a truth beyond our ken — And yet a truth that all may read — It is with roses as with men, The sweetest hearts are those that bleed.
The flower which Bethlehem saw bloom Out of a heart all full of grace, Gave never forth its full perfume Until the cross became its vase.
March of the Deathless Dead
Gather the sacred dust Of the warriors tried and true, Who bore the flag of a Nation's trust And fell in a cause, though lost, still just, And died for me and you.
Gather them one and all, From the private to the chief; Come they from hovel or princely hall, They fell for us, and for them should fall The tears of a Nation's grief.
Gather the corpses strewn O'er many a battle plain; From many a grave that lies so lone, Without a name and without a stone, Gather the Southern slain.
We care not whence they came, Dear in their lifeless clay! Whether unknown, or known to fame, Their cause and country still the same; They died — and wore the Gray.
Wherever the brave have died, They should not rest apart; Living, they struggled side by side, Why should the hand of Death divide A single heart from heart?
Gather their scattered clay, Wherever it may rest; Just as they marched to the bloody fray, Just as they fell on the battle day, Bury them, breast to breast.
The foeman need not dread This gathering of the brave; Without sword or flag, and with soundless tread, We muster once more our deathless dead, Out of each lonely grave.
The foeman need not frown, They all are powerless now; We gather them here and we lay them down, And tears and prayers are the only crown We bring to wreathe each brow.
And the dead thus meet the dead, While the living o'er them weep; And the men by Lee and Stonewall led, And the hearts that once together bled, Together still shall sleep.
[Written after the yellow fever epidemic of 1878.]
Purer than thy own white snow, Nobler than thy mountains' height; Deeper than the ocean's flow, Stronger than thy own proud might; O Northland! to thy sister land, Was late thy mercy's generous deed and grand.
Nigh twice ten years the sword was sheathed: Its mist of green o'er battle plain For nigh two decades Spring had breathed; And yet the crimson life-blood stain From passive swards had never paled, Nor fields, where all were brave and some had failed.
Between the Northland, bride of snow, And Southland, brightest sun's fair bride, Swept, deepening ever in its flow, The stormy wake, in war's dark tide: No hand might clasp across the tears And blood and anguish of four deathless years.
When Summer, like a rose in bloom, Had blossomed from the bud of Spring, Oh! who could deem the dews of doom Upon the blushing lips could cling? And who could believe its fragrant light Would e'er be freighted with the breath of blight?
Yet o'er the Southland crept the spell, That e'en from out its brightness spread, And prostrate, powerless, she fell, Rachel-like, amid her dead. Her bravest, fairest, purest, best, The waiting grave would welcome as its guest.
The Northland, strong in love, and great, Forgot the stormy days of strife; Forgot that souls with dreams of hate Or unforgiveness e'er were rife. Forgotten was each thought and hushed; Save — she was generous and her foe was crushed.
No hand might clasp, from land to land; Yea! there was one to bridge the tide! For at the touch of Mercy's hand The North and South stood side by side: The Bride of Snow, the Bride of Sun, In Charity's espousals are made one.
"Thou givest back my sons again," The Southland to the Northland cries; "For all my dead, on battle plain, Thou biddest my dying now uprise: I still my sobs, I cease my tears, And thou hast recompensed my anguished years.
"Blessings on thine every wave, Blessings on thine every shore, Blessings that from sorrow save, Blessings giving more and more, For all thou gavest thy sister land, O Northland, in thy generous deed and grand."
Adown the valley dripped a stream, White lilies drooped on either side; Our hearts, in spite of us, will dream In such a place at eventide.
Bright wavelets wove the scarf of blue That well became the valley fair, And grassy fringe of greenest hue Hung round its borders everywhere.
And where the stream, in wayward whirls, Went winding in and winding out, Lay shells, that wore the look of pearls Without their pride, all strewn about.
And here and there along the strand, Where some ambitious wave had strayed, Rose little monuments of sand As frail as those by mortals made.
And many a flower was blooming there In beauty, yet without a name, Like humble hearts that often bear The gifts, but not the palm of fame.
The rainbow's tints could never vie With all the colors that they wore; While bluer than the bluest sky The stream flowed on 'tween shore and shore.
And on the height, and down the side Of either hill that hid the place, Rose elms in all the stately pride Of youthful strength and ancient race.
While here and there the trees between — Bearing the scars of battle-shocks, And frowning wrathful — might be seen The moss-veiled faces of the rocks.
And round the rocks crept flowered vines, And clomb the trees that towered high — The type of a lofty thought that twines Around a truth — to touch the sky.
And to that vale, from first of May Until the last of August went, Beauty, the exile, came each day In all her charms, to cast her tent.
'Twas there, one long-gone August day, I wandered down the valley fair: The spell has never passed away That fell upon my spirit there.
The summer sunset glorified The clouded face of dying day, Which flung a smile upon the tide And lilies, ere he passed away.
And o'er the valley's grassy slopes There fell an evanescent sheen, That flashed and faded, like the hopes That haunt us of what might have been.
And rock and tree flung back the light Of all the sunset's golden gems, As if it were beneath their right To wear such borrowed diadems.
Low in the west gleam after gleam Glowed faint and fainter, till the last Made the dying day a living dream, To last as long as life shall last.
And in the arches of the trees The wild birds slept with folded wing; And e'en the lips of the summer breeze That sang all day, had ceased to sing.
And all was silent, save the rill That rippled round the lilies' feet, And sang, while stillness grew more still To listen to the murmur sweet.
And now and then it surely seemed The little stream was laughing low, As if its sleepy wavelets dreamed Such dreams as only children know.
So still that not the faintest breath Did stir the shadows in the air; It would have seemed the home of Death, Had I not felt Life sleeping there.
And slow and soft, and soft and slow, From darkling earth and darkened sky Wide wings of gloom waved to and fro, And spectral shadows flitted by.
And then, methought, upon the sward I saw — or was it starlight's ray? Or angels come to watch and guard The valley till the dawn of day?
Is every lower life the ward Of spirits more divinely wrought? 'Tis sweet to believe 'tis God's, and hard To think 'tis but a poet's thought.
But God's or poet's thought, I ween, My senses did not fail me when I saw veiled angels watch that scene And guard its sleep, as they guard men.
Sweet sang the stream as on it pressed, As sorrow sings a heart to sleep; As a mother sings one child to rest, And for the dead one still will weep.
I walked adown the singing stream, The lilies slept on either side; My heart — it could not help but dream At eve, and after eventide.
Ah! dreams of such a lofty reach With more than earthly fancies fraught, That not the strongest wings of speech Could ever touch their lowest thought.
Dreams of the Bright, the Fair, the Far — Heart-fancies flashing Heaven's hue — That swept around, as sweeps a star The boundless orbit of the True.
Yea! dreams all free from earthly taint, Where human passion played no part, As pure as thoughts that thrill a saint, Or hunt an archangelic heart.
Ah! dreams that did not rise from sense, And rose too high to stoop to it, And framed aloft like frankincense In censers round the infinite.
Yea! dreams that vied with angels' flight! And, soaring, bore my heart away Beyond the far star-bounds of night, Unto the everlasting day.
How long I strolled beside the stream I do not know, nor may I say; But when the poet ceased to dream The priest went on his knees to pray.
I felt as sure a seraph feels When in some golden hour of grace God smiles, and suddenly reveals A new, strange glory in His face.
Ah! starlit valley! Lilies white! The poet dreamed — ye slumbered deep! But when the priest knelt down that night And prayed, why woke ye from your sleep?
* * * * *
The stream sang down the valley fair, I saw the wakened lilies nod, I knew they heard me whisper there, "How beautiful art Thou, my God!"
Into a temple vast and dim, Solemn and vast and dim, Just when the last sweet Vesper Hymn Was floating far away, With eyes that tabernacled tears — Her heart the home of tears — And cheeks wan with the woes of years, A woman went one day.
And, one by one, adown the aisles, Adown the long, lone aisles, Their faces bright with holy smiles That follow after prayer, The worshipers in silence passed, In silence slowly passed away; The woman knelt until the last Had left her lonely there.
A holy hush came o'er the place, O'er the holy place, The shadows kissed her woe-worn face, Her forehead touched the floor; The wreck that drifted thro' the years — Sin-driven thro' the years — Was floating o'er the tide of tears, To Mercy's golden shore.
Her lips were sealed, they could not pray, They sighed, but could not pray, All words of prayer had died away From them long years ago; But ah! from out her eyes there rose — Sad from her eyes there rose — The prayer of tears, which swiftest goes To Heaven — winged with woe.
With weary tears, her weary eyes, Her joyless, weary eyes, Wailed forth a rosary; and her sighs And sobs strung all the beads; The while before her spirit's gaze — Her contrite spirit's gaze — Moved all the mysteries of her days, And histories of her deeds.
Still as a shadow, while she wept, So desolately wept, Up thro' the long, lone aisle she crept Unto an altar fair; "Mother!" — her pale lips said no more — Could say no more — The wreck, at last, reached Mercy's shore, For Mary's shrine was there.
A Land without Ruins
"A land without ruins is a land without memories — a land without memories is a land without history. A land that wears a laurel crown may be fair to see; but twine a few sad cypress leaves around the brow of any land, and be that land barren, beautiless and bleak, it becomes lovely in its consecrated coronet of sorrow, and it wins the sympathy of the heart and of history. Crowns of roses fade — crowns of thorns endure. Calvaries and crucifixions take deepest hold of humanity — the triumphs of might are transient — they pass and are forgotten — the sufferings of right are graven deepest on the chronicle of nations."
Yes give me the land where the ruins are spread, And the living tread light on the hearts of the dead; Yes, give me a land that is blest by the dust, And bright with the deeds of the down-trodden just. Yes, give me the land where the battle's red blast Has flashed to the future the fame of the past; Yes, give me the land that hath legends and lays That tell of the memories of long vanished days; Yes, give me a land that hath story and song! Enshrine the strife of the right with the wrong! Yes, give me a land with a grave in each spot, And names in the graves that shall not be forgot; Yes, give me the land of the wreck and the tomb; There is grandeur in graves — there is glory in gloom; For out of the gloom future brightness is born, As after the night comes the sunrise of morn; And the graves of the dead with the grass overgrown May yet form the footstool of liberty's throne, And each single wreck in the war path of might Shall yet be a rock in the temple of right.
They come, as the breeze comes over the foam, Waking the waves that are sinking to sleep — The fairest of memories from far-away home, The dim dreams of faces beyond the dark deep.
They come as the stars come out in the sky, That shimmer wherever the shadows may sweep, And their steps are as soft as the sound of a sigh And I welcome them all while I wearily weep.
They come as a song comes out of the past A loved mother murmured in days that are dead, Whose tones spirit-thrilling live on to the last, When the gloom of the heart wraps its gray o'er the head.
They come like the ghosts from the grass shrouded graves, And they follow our footsteps on life's winding way; And they murmur around us as murmur the waves That sigh on the shore at the dying of day.
They come, sad as tears to the eyes that are bright; They come, sweet as smiles to the lips that are pale; They come, dim as dreams in the depths of the night; They come, fair as flowers to the summerless vale.
There is not a heart that is not haunted so, Though far we may stray from the scenes of the past, Its memories will follow wherever we go, And the days that were first sway the days that are last.
The Prayer of the South
My brow is bent beneath a heavy rod! My face is wan and white with many woes! But I will lift my poor chained hands to God, And for my children pray, and for my foes. Beside the graves where thousands lowly lie I kneel, and weeping for each slaughtered son, I turn my gaze to my own sunny sky, And pray, O Father, let Thy will be done!
My heart is filled with anguish, deep and vast! My hopes are buried with my children's dust! My joys have fled, my tears are flowing fast! In whom, save Thee, our Father, shall I trust? Ah! I forgot Thee, Father, long and oft, When I was happy, rich, and proud, and free; But conquered now, and crushed, I look aloft, And sorrow leads me, Father, back to Thee.
Amid the wrecks that mark the foeman's path I kneel, and wailing o'er my glories gone, I still each thought of hate, each throb of wrath, And whisper, Father, let Thy will be done! Pity me, Father of the desolate! Alas! my burdens are so hard to bear; Look down in mercy on my wretched fate, And keep me, guard me, with Thy loving care.
Pity me, Father, for His holy sake, Whose broken heart bled at the feet of grief, That hearts of earth, whenever they shall break, Might go to His and find a sure relief. Ah, me, how dark! Is this a brief eclipse? Or is it night with no to-morrow's sun? O Father! Father! with my pale, sad lips, And sadder heart, I pray Thy will be done.
My homes are joyless, and a million mourn Where many met in joys forever flown; Whose hearts were light, are burdened now and torn, Where many smiled, but one is left to moan. And ah! the widow's wails, the orphan's cries, Are morning hymn and vesper chant to me; And groans of men and sounds of women's sighs Commingle, Father, with my prayer to Thee.
Beneath my feet ten thousand children dead — Oh! how I loved each known and nameless one! Above their dust I bow my crownless head And murmur: Father, still Thy will be done. Ah! Father, Thou didst deck my own loved land With all bright charms, and beautiful and fair; But foeman came, and with a ruthless hand, Spread ruin, wreck, and desolation there.
Girdled with gloom, of all my brightness shorn, And garmented with grief, I kiss Thy rod, And turn my face, with tears all wet and worn, To catch one smile of pity from my God. Around me blight, where all before was bloom, And so much lost, alas! and nothing won Save this — that I can lean on wreck and tomb And weep, and weeping, pray Thy will be done.
And oh! 'tis hard to say, but said, 'tis sweet; The words are bitter, but they hold a balm — A balm that heals the wounds of my defeat, And lulls my sorrow into holy calm. It is the prayer of prayers, and how it brings, When heard in heaven, peace and hope to me! When Jesus prayed it did not angels' wings Gleam 'mid the darkness of Gethsemane?
My children, Father, Thy forgiveness need; Alas! their hearts have only place for tears! Forgive them, Father, ev'ry wrongful deed, And every sin of those four bloody years; And give them strength to bear their boundless loss, And from their hearts take every thought of hate; And while they climb their Calvary with their cross, Oh! help them, Father, to endure its weight.
And for my dead, my Father, may I pray? Ah! sighs may soothe, but prayer shall soothe me more! I keep eternal watch above their clay; Oh! rest their souls, my Father, I implore; Forgive my foes — they know not what they do — Forgive them all the tears they made me shed; Forgive them, though my noblest sons they slew, And bless them, though they curse my poor, dear dead.
Oh! may my woes be each a carrier dove, With swift, white wings, that, bathing in my tears, Will bear Thee, Father, all my prayers of love, And bring me peace in all my doubts and fears. Father, I kneel, 'mid ruin, wreck, and grave — A desert waste, where all was erst so fair — And for my children and my foes I crave Pity and pardon. Father, hear my prayer!
Feast of the Assumption
"A Night Prayer"
Dark! Dark! Dark! The sun is set; the day is dead: Thy Feast has fled; My eyes are wet with tears unshed; I bow my head; Where the star-fringed shadows softly sway I bend my knee, And, like a homesick child, I pray, Mary, to thee.
Dark! Dark! Dark! And, all the day — since white-robed priest In farthest East, In dawn's first ray — began the Feast, I — I the least — Thy least, and last, and lowest child, I called on thee! Virgin! didst hear? my words were wild; Didst think of me?
Dark! Dark! Dark! Alas! and no! The angels bright, With wings as white As a dream of snow in love and light, Flashed on thy sight; They shone like stars around thee, Queen! I knelt afar — A shadow only dims the scene Where shines a star!
Dark! Dark! Dark! And all day long, beyond the sky, Sweet, pure, and high, The angel's song swept sounding by Triumphantly; And when such music filled thy ear, Rose round thy throne, How could I hope that thou wouldst hear My far, faint moan?
Dark! Dark! Dark! And all day long, where altars stand, Or poor or grand, A countless throng from every land, With lifted hand, Winged hymns to thee from sorrow's vale In glad acclaim; How couldst thou hear my lone lips wail Thy sweet, pure name?
Dark! Dark! Dark! Alas! and no! Thou didst not hear Nor bend thy ear, To prayer of woe as mine so drear; For hearts more dear Hid me from hearing and from sight This bright Feast-day; Wilt hear me, Mother, if in its night I kneel and pray?
Dark! Dark! Dark! The sun is set, the day is dead; Thy Feast hath fled; My eyes are wet with the tears I shed; I bow my head; Angels and altars hailed thee, Queen, All day; ah! be To-night what thou hast ever been — A mother to me!
Dark! Dark! Dark! Thy queenly crown in angels' sight Is fair and bright; Ah! lay it down; for, oh! to-night Its jeweled light Shines not as the tender love-light shines, O Mary! mild, In the mother's eyes, whose pure heart pines For poor, lost child!
Dark! Dark! Dark! Sceptre in hand, thou dost hold sway Fore'er and aye In angel-land; but, fair Queen! pray Lay it away. Let thy sceptre wave in the realms above Where angels are; But, Mother! fold in thine arms of love Thy child afar!
Dark! Dark! Dark! Mary, I call! Wilt hear the prayer My poor lips dare? Yea! be to all a Queen most fair, Crown, sceptre, bear! But look on me with a mother's eyes From heaven's bliss; And waft to me from the starry skies A mother's kiss!
Dark! Dark! Dark! The sun is set; the day is dead; Her Feast has fled; Can she forget the sweet blood shed, The last words said That evening — "Woman! behold thy Son! Oh! priceless right, Of all His children! The last, least one, Is heard to-night.
Weary hearts! weary hearts! by the cares of life oppressed, Ye are wand'ring in the shadows — ye are sighing for a rest: There is darkness in the heavens, and the earth is bleak below, And the joys we taste to-day may to-morrow turn to woe. Weary hearts! God is Rest.
Lonely hearts! lonely hearts! this is but a land of grief; Ye are pining for repose — ye are longing for relief: What the world hath never given, kneel and ask of God above, And your grief shall turn to gladness, if you lean upon His love. Lonely hearts! God is Love.
Restless hearts! restless hearts! ye are toiling night and day, And the flowers of life, all withered, leave but thorns along your way: Ye are waiting, ye are waiting, till your toilings all shall cease, And your ev'ry restless beating is a sad, sad prayer for peace. Restless hearts! God is Peace.
Breaking hearts! broken hearts! ye are desolate and lone, And low voices from the past o'er your present ruins moan! In the sweetest of your pleasures there was bitterest alloy, And a starless night hath followed on the sunset of your joy. Broken hearts! God is Joy.
Homeless hearts! homeless hearts! through the dreary, dreary years, Ye are lonely, lonely wand'rers, and your way is wet with tears; In bright or blighted places, wheresoever ye may roam, Ye look away from earth-land, and ye murmur, "Where is home?" Homeless hearts! God is Home.
A Child's Wish
Before an Altar
I wish I were the little key That locks Love's Captive in, And lets Him out to go and free A sinful heart from sin.
I wish I were the little bell That tinkles for the Host, When God comes down each day to dwell With hearts He loves the most.
I wish I were the chalice fair, That holds the Blood of Love, When every flash lights holy prayer Upon its way above.
I wish I were the little flower So near the Host's sweet face, Or like the light that half an hour Burns on the shrine of grace.
I wish I were the altar where, As on His mother's breast, Christ nestles, like a child, fore'er In Eucharistic rest.
But, oh! my God, I wish the most That my poor heart may be A home all holy for each Host That comes in love to me.
Cometh a voice from a far-land! Beautiful, sad, and low; Shineth a light from the star-land! Down on the night of my woe; And a white hand, with a garland, Biddeth my spirit to go.
Away and afar from the night-land, Where sorrow o'ershadows my way, To the splendors and skies of the light-land, Where reigneth eternity's day; To the cloudless and shadowless bright-land, Whose sun never passeth away.
And I knew the voice; not a sweeter On earth or in Heaven can be; And never did shadow pass fleeter Than it and its strange melody; And I know I must hasten to meet her, "Yea, Sister! thou callest to me!"
And I saw the light; 'twas not seeming, It flashed from the crown that she wore, And the brow, that with jewels was gleaming, My lips had kissed often of yore! And the eyes, that with rapture were beaming, Had smiled on me sweetly before.
And I saw the hand with the garland, Ethel's hand — holy and fair; Who went long ago to the far-land To weave me the wreath I shall wear; And to-night I look up to the star-land, And pray that I soon may be there.
Last of May
To the Children of Mary of the Cathedral of Mobile
In the mystical dim of the temple, In the dream-haunted dim of the day, The sunlight spoke soft to the shadows, And said: "With my gold and your gray, Let us meet at the shrine of the Virgin, And ere her fair feast pass away, Let us weave there a mantle of glory, To deck the last evening of May."
The tapers were lit on the altar, With garlands of lilies between; And the steps leading up to the statue Flashed bright with the roses' red sheen; The sun-gleams came down from the heavens Like angels, to hallow the scene, And they seemed to kneel down with the shadows That crept to the shrine of the Queen.
The singers, their hearts in their voices, Had chanted the anthems of old, And the last trembling wave of the Vespers On the far shores of silence had rolled. And there — at the Queen-Virgin's altar — The sun wove the mantle of gold While the hands of the twilight were weaving A fringe for the flash of each fold.
And wavelessly, in the deep silence, Three banners hung peaceful and low — They bore the bright blue of the heavens, They wore the pure white of the snow And beneath them fair children were kneeling, Whose faces, with graces aglow, Seemed sinless, in land that is sinful, And woeless, in life full of woe.
Their heads wore the veil of the lily, Their brows wore the wreath of the rose, And their hearts like their flutterless banners, Were stilled in a holy repose. Their shadowless eyes were uplifted, Whose glad gaze would never disclose That from eyes that are most like the heavens The dark rain of tears soonest flows.
The banners were borne to the railing, Beneath them, a group from each band; And they bent their bright folds for the blessing That fell from the priest's lifted hand. And he signed the three fair, silken standards, With a sign never foe could withstand. What stirred them? The breeze of the evening? Or a breath from the far angel-land?
Then came, two by two, to the altar, The young, and the pure, and the fair, Their faces the mirror of Heaven, Their hands folded meekly in prayer; They came for a simple blue ribbon, For love of Christ's Mother to wear; And I believe, with the Children of Mary, The Angels of Mary were there.
Ah, faith! simple faith of the children! You still shame the faith of the old! Ah, love! simple love of the little, You still warm the love of the cold! And the beautiful God who is wandering Far out in the world's dreary wold, Finds a home in the hearts of the children And a rest with the lambs of the fold.
Swept a voice: was it wafted from Heaven? Heard you ever the sea when it sings Where it sleeps on the shore in the night time? Heard you ever the hymns the breeze brings From the hearts of a thousand bright summers? Heard you ever the bird, when she springs To the clouds, till she seems to be only A song of a shadow on wings?
Came a voice: and an "Ave Maria" Rose out of a heart rapture-thrilled; And in the embrace of its music The souls of a thousand lay stilled. A voice with the tones of an angel, Never flower such a sweetness distilled; It faded away — but the temple With its perfume of worship was filled.
Then back to the Queen-Virgin's altar The white veils swept on, two by two; And the holiest halo of heaven Flashed out from the ribbons of blue; And they laid down the wreaths of the roses Whose hearts were as pure as their hue; Ah! they to the Christ are the truest, Whose loves to the Mother are true!
And thus, in the dim of the temple, In the dream-haunted dim of the day, The Angels and Children of Mary Met ere their Queen's Feast passed away, Where the sun-gleams knelt down with the shadows And wove with their gold and their gray A mantle of grace and of glory For the last lovely evening of May.
S. M. A.
Gone! and there's not a gleam of you, Faces that float into far away; Gone! and we can only dream of you Each as you fade like a star away. Fade as a star in the sky from us, Vainly we look for your light again; Hear ye the sound of a sigh from us? "Come!" and our hearts will be bright again.
Come! and gaze on our face once more, Bring us the smiles of the olden days; Come! and shine in your place once more, And change the dark into golden days. Gone! gone! gone! Joy is fled for us; Gone into the night of the nevermore, And darkness rests where you shed for us A light we will miss forevermore.
Faces! ye come in the night to us; Shadows! ye float in the sky of sleep; Shadows! ye bring nothing bright to us; Faces! ye are but the sigh of sleep. Gone! and there's not a gleam of you, Faces that float into the far away; Gone! and we only can dream of you Till we sink like you and the stars away.
Feast of the Sacred Heart
Two lights on a lowly altar; Two snowy cloths for a Feast; Two vases of dying roses; The morning comes from the east, With a gleam for the folds of the vestments And a grace for the face of the priest.
The sound of a low, sweet whisper Floats over a little bread, And trembles around a chalice, And the priest bows down his head! O'er a sign of white on the altar — In the cup — o'er a sign of red.
As red as the red of roses, As white as the white of snows! But the red is a red of a surface Beneath which a God's blood flows; And the white is the white of a sunlight Within which a God's flesh glows.
Ah! words of the olden Thursday! Ye come from the far-away! Ye bring us the Friday's victim In His own love's olden way; In the hand of the priest at the altar His Heart finds a home each day.
The sight of a Host uplifted! The silver-sound of a bell! The gleam of a golden chalice. Be glad, sad heart! 'tis well; He made, and He keeps love's promise, With thee all days to dwell.
From his hand to his lips that tremble, From his lips to his heart a-thrill, Goes the little Host on its love-path, Still doing the Father's will; And over the rim of the chalice The blood flows forth to fill
The heart of the man anointed With the waves of a wondrous grace; A silence falls on the altar — An awe on each bended face — For the Heart that bled on Calvary Still beats in the holy place.
The priest comes down to the railing Where brows are bowed in prayer; In the tender clasp of his fingers A Host lies pure and fair, And the hearts of Christ and the Christian Meet there — and only there!