STREW before our Lady's Picture
Roses—flushing like the sky
Where the lingering western cloudlets
Watch the daylight die.
Violets steeped in dreamy odours,
Humble as the Mother mild,
Blue as were her eyes when watching
O'er her sleeping Child.
Strew white Lilies, pure and spotless,
Bending on their stalks of green,
Bending down with tender pity—
Like our Holy Queen.
Let the flowers spend their fragrance
On our Lady's own dear shrine,
While we claim her gracious helping
Near her Son divine.
Strew before our Lady's picture
Gentle flowers, fair and sweet;
Hope, and Fear, and Joy, and Sorrow,
Place, too, at her feet.
Hark! the Angelus is ringing—
Ringing through the fading light,
In the heart of every Blossom
Leave a prayer to-night.
All night long will Mary listen,
While our pleadings fond and deep
On their scented breath are rising
For us—while we sleep.
Scarcely through the starry silence
Shall one trembling petal stir,
While they breathe their own sweet fragrance
And our prayers—to Her.
Peace to every heart that loves her!
All her children shall be blest:
While She prays and watches for us,
We will trust and rest.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
THE moon that now is shining
In skies so blue and bright,
Shone ages since on Shepherds
Who watched their flocks by night.
There was no sound upon the earth,
The azure air was still,
The sheep in quiet clusters lay,
Upon the grassy hill.
When lo! a white winged Angel
The watchers stood before,
And told how Christ was born on earth
Far mortals to adore;
He bade the trembling Shepherds
Listen, nor be afraid,
And told how in a manger
The glorious Child was laid.
When suddenly in the Heavens
Appeared an Angel band—
(The while in reverent wonder
The Syrian Shepherds stand,)
And all the bright host chanted
Words that shall never cease
Glory to God in the highest,
On earth good will and peace!
The vision in the heavens
Faded, and all was still,
And the wondering shepherds left their flocks
To feed upon the hill:
Towards the blessed city
Quickly their course they held,
And in a lowly stable
Virgin and Child beheld.
Beside a humble manger
Was the Maiden Mother mild,
And in her arms her Son divine,
A new-born Infant, smiled.
No shade of future sorrow
From Calvary then was cast;
Only the glory was revealed,
The suffering was not past.
The Eastern kings before him knelt,
And rarest offerings brought;
The shepherds worshipped and adored
The wonders God had wrought:
They saw the crown for Israel's King,
The future's glorious part—
But all these things the Mother kept
And pondered in her heart.
Now we that Maiden Mother
The Queen of Heaven call;
And the Child we call our Jesus,
Saviour and Judge of all,—
But the star that shone in Bethlehem
Shines still, and shall not cease,
And we listen still to the tidings
Of Glory and of Peace.
we not Nobles? we who trace
Our pedigree so high
That God for us and for our race
Created Earth and Sky
And Light and Air and Time and Space,
To serve us and then die.
Are we not Princes? we who stand
As heirs beside the Throne;
We who can call the promised Land
Our Heritage, our own;
And answer to no less command
Than God's, and His alone.
Are we not Kings? both night and day
From early until late,
About our bed, about our way,
A guard of Angels wait;
And so we watch and work and pray
In more than royal state.
Are we not holy? Do not start:
It is God's sacred will
To call us Temples set apart
His Holy Ghost may fill:
Our very food . . . oh, hush my Heart,
Adore IT and be still!
Are we not more? our Life shall be
Immortal and divine.
The nature Mary gave to Thee,
Dear Jesus, still is Thine;
Adoring in Thy Heart, I see
Blood such as beats in mine.
O God, that we can dare to fail,
And dare to say we must!
O God, that we can ever trail
Such banners in the dust,
Can let such starry honours pale,
And such a Blazon rust!
Shall we upon such Titles bring
The taint of sin and shame?
Shall we—the children of the King
Who hold so grand a claim
Tarnish by any meaner thing
The glory of our name?
of light, spread your bright wings and keep
Near me at morn:
Nor in the starry eve, nor midnight deep,
Leave me forlorn.
From all dark spirits of unholy power
Guard my weak heart.
Circle around me in each perilous hour,
And take my part.
From all foreboding thoughts and dangerous fears
Keep me secure;
Teach me to hope, and through the bitterest tears
Still to endure.
If lonely in the road so fair and wide
My feet should stray,
Then through a rougher, safer pathway guide
Me day by day.
Should my heart faint at its unequal strife,
Oh, still be near—
Shadow the perilous sweetness of this life
With holy fear.
Then leave me not alone in this bleak world,
Where'er I roam,
And at the end, with your bright wings unfurled,
Oh, take me home!
THE SHRINES OF MARY
are many shrines of our Lady,
In different lands and climes,
Where I can remember kneeling
In old and beloved times.
They arise now like stars before me
Through the long, long night of years;
Some are bright with a heavenly radiance,
And others shine out through tears.
They arise too like mystical flowers,
All different, and all the same,—
As they lie in my heart like a garland
That is wreathed round Mary's name.
Thus each shrine has two consecrations;
One all the faithful can trace,
But one is for me and me only,
Holding my soul with its grace.
A shrine in a quaint old Chapel
Defaced and broken with years,
Where the pavement is worn with kneeling,
And the step with kisses and tears.
She is there in the dawn of morning,
When the day is blue and bright,
In the shadowy evening twilight,
And the silent, starry night.
Through the dim old painted window
The Hours look down, and shed
A different glory upon her,
Violet, purple and red.
And there—in that quaint old Chapel
As I stood one day alone—
Came a royal message from Mary,
That claimed my life as her own.
I remember a vast Cathedral
Which holds the struggle and strife
Of a grand and powerful city,
As the heart holds the throb of a life.
Where the ebb and the flow of passion,
And sin in its rushing tide
Have dashed on that worn stone chapel,
Dashed, and broken, and died.
And above the voices of sorrow
And the tempter's clamorous din,
The voice of Mary has spoken
And conquered the pain and the sin:
For long ages and generations.
Have come there to strive and to pray;
She watched and guided them living,
And does not forget them to-day.
And once, in that strange, vast City
I stood in its great stone square,
Alone in the crowd and the turmoil
Of the pitiless southern glare;
And a grief was upon my spirit,
Which I could not cast away,
It weighed on my heart all the night-time,
And it fretted my life all day.
So then to that calm cool refuge
I turned from the noisy street,
And I carried my burden of sorrow—
And left it at Mary's feet.
I remember a lonely chapel
With a tender claim upon me,
It was built for the sailors only,
And they call it the Star of the Sea.
And the murmuring chant of the Vespers
Seems caught up by the wailing breeze,
And the throb of the organ is echoed
By the rush of the silver seas.
And the votive hearts and the anchors
Tell of danger and peril past;
Of the hope deferred and the waiting,
And the comfort that came at last.
I too, had a perilous venture,
On a stormy and treacherous main,
And I too was pleading to Mary
From the depths of a heart in pain.
It was not a life in peril—
Oh, God ! it was far, far more;
And the whirlpool of Hell's temptations,
Lay between the wreck and the shore. 80
Thick mists hid the light of the beacon,
And the voices of warning were dumb—
So I knelt by the Altar of Mary,
And told her Her hour was come.
For she waits till Earth's aid forsakes us,
Till we know our own efforts are vain;
And we wait, in our faithless blindness,
Till no chance but her prayers remain.
And now in that sea-side chapel
By that humble village shrine
Hangs a Heart of silver, that tells her
Of the love and the gladness of mine.
There is one far shrine I remember
In the years that are fled away,
Where the grand old mountains are guarding
The glories of night and day.
Where the earth in her rich, glad beauty
Seems made for our Lady's throne,
And the stars in their radiant clusters
Seem fit for her crown alone.
Where the balmy breezes of summer
On their odorous pinions bear
The fragrance of orange blossoms,
And the chimes of the Convent prayer.
There I used to ask for Her blessing
As each summer twilight was grey;
There I used to kneel at her Altar
At each blue, calm dawn of day.
There in silence was Victory granted,
And the terrible strife begun,
That only with Her protection,
Could be dared, or suffered, or won.
If I love the name of that Altar,
And the thought of those days gone by,
It is only the Heart of Mary
And my own that remember why.
Where long ages of toil and of sorrow,
And Poverty's weary doom,
Have clustered together so closely
That life seems shadowed with gloom, 120
Where crime that lurks in the darkness
And vice that glares at the day
Make the spirit of hope grow weary,
And the spirit of love decay,
Where the feet of the wretched and sinful
Have closest and oftenest trod,
Is a house, as humble as any,
Yet we call it the House of' God.
It is one of our Lady's Chapels ;
And though poorer than all the rest,
Just because of the sin and the sorrow,
I think she loves it the best.
There are no rich gifts on the Altar,
The shrine is humble and bare,
Yet the poor and the sick and the tempted
Think their home and their heaven is there.
And before that humble Altar
Where Our Lady of Sorrow stands,
I knelt with a weary longing
And I laid a vow in her hands.
And I know when I enter softly
And pause at that shrine to pray,
That the fret and the strife and the burden
Will be softened and laid away.
And the Prayer and the Vow that sealed it
Have bound my soul to that shrine,
For the Mother of Sorrows remembers
Her promise, and waits for mine.
It is one long chaplet of memories
Tender and true and sweet
That gleam in the Past and the Distance
Like lamps that burn at her feet.
Like stars that will shine for ever,
For time cannot touch or stir
The graces that Mary has given
Or the trust that we give to Her.
Past griefs are perished and over,
Past joys have vanished and died,
Past loves are fled and forgotten,
Past hopes have been laid aside.
Past fears have faded in daylight,
Past sins have melted in tears—
One Love and Remembrance only
Seems alive in those dead old years.
So wherever I look in the distance,
And whenever I turn to the Past,
There is always a shrine of Mary
Each brighter still than the last.
I will ask for one grace, O Mother!
And will leave the rest to thy will,
From one shrine of thine to another,
Let my Life be a Pilgrimage still!
At each one, O Mother of Mercy!
Let still more of thy love be given,
Till I kneel at the last and brightest—
The Throne of the Queen of Heaven.
THE HOMELESS POOR
the City lay in midnight silence,
Deep on streets and roofs the snow lay white;
Then I saw an Angel spread his pinions
Rising up to Heaven to meet the nigh.
In his hands he bore two crowns of lilies,
Sweet with sweetness not of earthly flowers,
But a coronal of prayers for Heaven,
He had gathered through the evening hours.
He had gathered in that mighty City
Through whose streets and pathways he had trod,
Till he wove into a winter garland
Prayers that faithful hearts had sent to God.
Through the azure midnight he was rising;
As I watched, I saw his upward flight
Checked by a mighty Angel, whose stern challenge,
Like a silver blast, rang through the night.
Then strange words upon the silence broke,
And I listened as the Angels spoke.
The Angel of
'I have come from wandering through the city,
I have been to seek a garland meet
To be placed before His Throne in Heaven,
To be laid at His dear Mother's feet.
'I have been to one of England's Havens—
To a HOME for peace and honour planned,
Where the kindly lights of joy and duty
Meet and make the glory of the land.
'There I heard the ring of children's laughter
Hushed to eager silence; I could see
How the father stroked their golden tresses
As they clustered closer round his knee.
'And I heard him tell, with loving honour,
How the wanderers to Bethlehem came,
And I saw each head in reverence bowing
When he named the Holy Child's dear name.
'Then he told how houseless, homeless, friendless,
They had wandered wearily and long—
Of the manger where our Lord was cradled,
Of the Shepherds listening to our song.
'As he spoke I heard his accents falter,
And I saw each childish heart was stirred
With a loving throb of tender pity
At the sorrowful, sweet tale they heard.
'As the children sang their Christmas carol
I could see the mother's eyes grow dim,
And she held her baby closer—feeling
Most for Mary through her love for him.
'So I gathered from that home, as flowers
All the tender, loving words I heard
Given this night to Jesus and to Mary—
Look at them, and say if I have erred.'
The Angel of
'In that very street, at that same hour,
In the bitter air and drifting sleet,
Crouching in a doorway was a mother,
With her children shuddering at her feet.
'She was silent—who would hear her pleading?
Men and beasts were housed—but she must stay
Houseless in the great and pitiless city,
Till the dawning of the winter day.
'Homeless—while her fellow-men are resting
Calm and blest: their very dogs are fed,
Warm and sheltered, and their sleeping children
Safely nestled in each little bed.
'She can only draw her poor rags closer
Round her wailing baby—closer hold
One, the least and sickliest—while the others
Creep together, tired, hungry, cold.
'What are these poor flowers thou hast gathered?
Cast such fragile, worthless tokens by:
Will He prize mere words of love and honour
While His Homeless Poor are left to die ?
'He has said—His truths are all eternal—
What He said both has been and shall be
What ye have not done to these My poor ones
Lo! ye have not done it unto Me.'
Then I saw the Angel with the flowers
Bow his head and answer, 'It is well,'
As he cast a wreath of lilies earthward,
And I saw them wither as they fell.
Once again the Angel raised his head;
Smiled and showed the ether wreath and said:— 80
The Angel of
'I have been where kneeling at the Altar,
Hushed in reverent awe, a faithful throng
Have this night adored the Holy Presence,
Worshipping with incense, prayer, and song.
'Every head was bowed in loving honour,
Every heart with loving awe was thrilled;
Earth and things of earth seemed all forgotten;
He was there—and meaner thoughts were stilled,
'There on many souls in strait and peril
Did that gracious Benediction fall,
With the strength or peace or joy or warning,
He could give, who loved and knew them all.
'There was silence, but all hearts were speaking:
When the deepest hush of silence fell,
On the fragrant air and breathless longing
Came the echo of one silver bell.
'On each spirit such a flood of sweetness
Broke as we who dwell in Heaven feel,
Then the Adoremus in eternum,
Jubilant and strong, rolled peal on peal.
'They had given holy adoration,
Tender words of love and praise; all bright
With the dew of contrite tears—such blossoms
I am bearing to His throne to-night.'
The Angel of
'Pause again—these flowers are fair and lovely,
Radiant in their perfume and their bloom:
But not far from where you plucked this garland
Is a squalid place in ghastly gloom.
'There black waters in their luring silence
Under loathsome arches crawl and creep,
There the rats and vermin herd together....
There God's poor ones sometimes come to sleep.
'There the weary come, who through the daylight
Pace the town, and crave for work in vain;
There they crouch in cold and rain and hunger,
Waiting for another day of pain.
'In slow darkness creeps the dismal river;
From its depths looks up a sinful rest;
Many a weary, baffled, hopeless wanderer
Has it drawn into its treacherous breast.
'There is near another River flowing,
Black with guilt, and deep as hell and sin;
On its brink even sinners stand and shudder—
Cold and hunger goad the homeless in.
'Yet these poor ones to His heart are dearer
For their grief and peril: dear indeed
Would have been the love that sought and fed them,
Gave them warmth and shelter in their need.
'For His sake those tears and prayers are offered
Which you bear as flowers to His throne;
Better still would be the food and shelter,
Given for Him and given to His own.
'Praise with loving deeds is dear and holy,
Words of praise will never serve instead:
Lo! you offer music, hymn, and incense—
When He has not where to lay His head.'
Then once more the Angel with the Flowers
Bowed his head, and answered, 'It is well,'
As he cast a breath of lilies earthwards,
And I saw them wither as they fell.
So the Vision faded, and the Angels
Melted far into the starry sky;
By the light upon the eastern Heaven
I could see another day was nigh.
Was it quite a dream? O God! we love Him;
All our love, though weak, is given to Him—
Why is it our hearts have been so hardened?
Why is it our eyes have been so dim?
Still as for Himself the Infant Jesus
In His little ones asks food and rest—
Still as for His Mother He is pleading
Just as when He lay upon her breast.
Jesus, then, and Mary still are with us—
Night will find the Child and Mother near,
Waiting for the shelter we deny them,
While we tell them that we hold them dear.
Help us, Lord! not these Thy poor ones only,
They are with us always, and shall be:
Help the blindness of our hearts, and teach us,
In Thy homeless ones to succour Thee.
THE PRIEST'S STORY
are times when all these terrors
Seem to fade, and fade away,
Like a nightmare's ghastly presence
In the truthful dawn of day.
There are times, too, when before me
They arise, and seem to hold
In their grasp my very being
With the deadly strength of old,
Till my spirit quails within me,
And my very heart grows cold.
For I watched when Cold and Hunger,
Like wild-beasts that sought for prey,
With a savage glare crept onward
Until men were turned at bay.
You have never seen those hunters,
Who have never known that fear,
When life costs a crust, and costing
Even that is still too dear :
But, you know, I lived in Ireland
In the fatal famine year.
Yes, those days are now forgotten;
God be thanked! men can forget;
Time's great gift can heal the fevers
Called Remembrance and Regret.
Man despises such forgetting;
But I think the Angels know,
Since each hour brings new burdens,
We must let the old ones go—
Very weak, or very noble,
Are the few who cling to woe.
As a child, I lived in Connaught,
And from dawn till set of sun
Played with all the peasant-children,
So I knew them every one.
There was not a cabin near us
But I had my welcome there;
Though of money-help in those days
We had none ourselves to spare,
Yet the neighbours had no trouble
That I did not know and share.
Oh, that great estate! the Landlord
Was abroad, a good man too;
And the agent was not cruel,
But he had hard things to do.
As a child I saw great suffering,
Which I could not understand,
So I went back as a man there
With redress and helping planned;
But I found, on reaching Connaught,
There was famine in the land.
Well, I worked, I toiled, I laboured;
So, thank God, did many more;
But I had a special pity
For the place I knew before.
It was changed; the old were vanished;
Those who had been workers there
Were grown old now; and the children,
With their sunny eyes and hair,
Were a ragged army, fighting
Hand to hand with black despair.
There were some I sought out, longing
For the old familiar face,
For the hearty Irish welcome
To the well-known corner place;
So I saw them, and I found it.
But of all whom I had known,
I cared most to see the Connors:
Their poor cabin stood alone
In the deep heart of the valley,
By the old grey fairy stone.
They were decent people, holding,
Though no richer than the rest,
Still a place beyond their neighbours,
With a tacit, unconfessed
Pride—it may have been—that held them
From complaint when things went ill:
I might guess when work was slacker,
But no shadow seemed to chill
The warm welcome which they offered;
It was warm and cheerful still.
Yet their home was changed: the father
And the mother were no more;
And the brothers, Phil and Patrick,
Kept starvation from the door.
There were many little faces
Gathered round the old hearthstone;
But the children I had played with
Were the men and women grown;
Phil and Patrick, Kate and Milly,
Were the ones whom I had known.
Kate was grown, but little altered,
Just the sunburnt, rosy face,
With its merry smile, whose shining
Seemed to light the darkest place.
But all, young and old, held Milly
As their dearest and their best,
From the baby orphan-sisters
Whom she hushed upon her breast—
She it was who bore the burdens,
Love and sorrow, for the rest.
Yes, I knew the tall slight figure,
And the face so pale and fair,
Crowned with long, long plaited tresses
Of her shining yellow hair;
She was very calm and tender,
Warm and brave, yet just and wise,
Meeting grief with tender pity,
Sin with sorrowful surprise:
I have fancied Angels watch us
With such sad and loving eyes.
Well, I questioned past and future,
Heard of plans and hopes and fears:
How all prospects grew still darker
With the shade of coming years.
Milly still deferred her marriage;
But the brothers urged of late
She would leave them and old Ireland,
And at least secure her fate;
Michael pleaded too—but vainly;
Milly chose to wait and wait.
Though all liked her cousin Michael—
He was steady, a good son—
Yet we wondered at the treasure
Which his careless heart had won.
Ah, he was not worth her! Milly
Must have guessed our thought in part,
For she feigned such special deference
For his judgement and his heart:
The defiance and the answer
Of instinctive woman's art.
But my duties would not let me
Stay in one place; I must go
Where the want and need were greatest;
So I travelled to and fro.
And I could not give the bounty
Which was meant for all to share,
Save in scanty portions, counting
What each hamlet had to bear;
So my old home and old comrades
Had to struggle with despair.
I could note at every visit
How all suffered more and more;
How the rich were growing poorer,
The poor, poorer than before.
And each time that I returned there,
I could see the famine spread;
Till I heard of each fresh horror,
Each new tale of fear and dread,
With more pity for the living,
More rejoicing for the dead.
Yet through all the bitter trials
Of that long and fearful time,
Still the suffering came untended
By its hideous sister, Crime.
Earthly things seemed grown less potent,
Fellow-sufferers grown more dear,
Murmurs even hushed in silence,
Just as if, in listening fear,
While God spoke so loud in sorrow,
They all felt He must be near.
But one day—I well remember
How the warm soft autumn breeze,
And the gladness of the sunshine,
And the calmness of the seas,
Seemed in strange unnatural contrast
To the tale of woe and dread
Which I heard with painful wonder—
That the agent—I have said
That he was not harsh or cruel—
Had been shot at, and was dead.
For I felt in that small hamlet
More or less I knew them all,
And on some I cared for, surely,
Must this bitter vengeance fall;
But I little dreamed how bitter,
And the grief how great and wide,
Till I heard that Michael Connor
Was accused, and would be tried
For this base and bloody murder;
Then I cried out that they lied!
He, who might be weak and reckless,
Yet was gentle and humane;
He who scarcely had the courage
To inflict a needful pain—
Why, it could not be!
And Milly, With her honest, noble pride,
And her faith and love, God help her!
It were better she had died.
So I thought, and thought, and pondered,
Till I knew they must have lied.
There was want and death and hunger
Near me then; but this great crime
Seemed to haunt me with its terror,
And grow worse and worse with time,
Till I could not bear it longer,
And I turned my steps once more
To the hamlet; did not slacken
Till I reached the cabin-door:
Then I paused; I never dreaded
The kind welcome there before.
So I entered. Kate was sitting
By the empty hearth; around
Were the children, ragged, hungry,
Crouching silent on the ground.
But a wail of grief and sorrow
Rose, and Katie hid her face,
Sobbing out she had no welcome,
For a curse was on the place,
And their honest name was covered
With another's black disgrace.
Then I soothed her; asked for Milly;
And was told she was away;
Gone as witness to the trial,
And the trial was that day.
But all knew, so Katie told me,
Hope or comfort there was none;
They were sure to find him guilty,
And before to-morrow's sun
He must die. I dared not loiter,
For the trial had begun.
Yet I asked how Milly bore it;
And Kate told me some strange gleam
Of wild hope seemed living in her,
But all knew it was a dream.
Then I mounted; rode on faster,
Faster still; the way was long;
Hope and anger, fear and pity,
Each by turns were loud and strong,
And above all, infinite pity
For the sorrow and the wrong.
So I rode and rode, and entered
On the crowded market-place.
There was wonder, too, and pity
Upon many a hungry face;
But I pushed on quicker, quicker,
Every moment held a fate.
As the great town-clock struck mid-day,
I alighted at the gate:
No, the trial was not over;
I was not, thank God, too late.
For I hoped—the chance was meagre—
That my true and earnest word
Might avail him, if the question
Of his former life was stirred;
So the crowd believed: they parted;
Let me take a foremost place,
Till I saw a shaking figure
And a terror-stricken face:
Was it guilt, or only terror?
Fear of death, or of disgrace?
But a sudden breathless silence
Hushed the lowest whisper there,
And I saw a slight young figure,
Crowned with yellow plaited hair,
Rise, and answer as they called her:
Rise before them all, and stand
With no quiver in her accent,
And no trembling in her hand,
Just a flush upon her forehead
Like a burning crimson brand.
Slowly, steadily, and calmly,
Then the awful words were said,
Calling God in Heaven to witness
To the truth of what she said.
As the oath in solemn order
On the reverent silence broke,
Some strange terror and misgiving
With a sudden start awoke:
What fear was it seized upon me
As I heard the words she spoke?
As she stood there, looking onward,
Onward, neither left nor right,
Did she see some deadly purpose
Buried, hidden out of sight?
Did she see a blighting shadow
From the cloudy future cast?
Or reluctant fading from her
Right and honour,—fading fast
All her youth's remembered lessons,
All the honest, noble past?
But her accents never faltered,
As she swore the day and time,
At the hour of the murder,
At the moment of the crime,
She had spoken with the prisoner. . . ,
Then a gasping joyful sigh
Ran though all the court; they knew it—
Now the prisoner would not die. . . .
And I knew that God in Heaven
Had been witness to a lie!
Then I turned and looked at Michael;
Saw a rush of wonder stir
Through his soul; perplexed, bewildered,
He looked strangely up at her.
Would he speak? could he have courage?
Where she fell, could he be strong?
Where she sinned„ and sinned to save him,
Could he thrust away the wrong?
That one moment's strange revulsion
Seemed to me an hour long.
And I saw the sudden shrinking
In her brothers; wondering scorn
In the glance they cast upon her
Showed they knew she was forsworn.
They were stern, by want made sterner;
But the spot where Milly came
In their hearts was soft and tender
For her dear and honoured name:
Now the very love was hardened,
And the honour turned to shame.
So I left the place, nor lingered
To see Michael, or to feign
Joy where joy was mixed so strangely
Both with pity and with pain.
Many weeks I toiled and laboured
Far from there, but night and day
One sad memory dwelt beside me,
On my heart one shadow lay;
Light was faded, glory tarnished,
And a soul was cast away.
It was evening; and the sunset
Glowed and glittered on the seas,
When a great ship heaved its anchor,
Loosed its sails to meet the breeze,
Sailing, sailing to the westward.
Eyes were wet and hearts were sore;
Many a heart that left its country,
Many a heart upon the shore,
Knew that parting was for ever,
Said farewell for evermore.
In that sad and silent evening,
On the sunny quiet beach,
Lingered little groups of watchers,
But with hearts too full for speech.
As I passed, I knew so many,
That my heart ached too that night,
For the yearning love, that gazing,
Strained to see the last faint sight
Of the great ship, sailing westward,
Down the track of evening light.
None were lonely though, one sorrow
Drew that evening heart to heart;
Only far from all the others
One lone woman stood apart.
There was something in the figure,
Tall and slender, standing there,
That I knew—yet no, I doubted—
That forlorn and helpless air;
When a gleam of sunset glory
Showed her yellow braided hair.
It was Milly: ere I sought her,
One who knew her, standing by,
Said, 'Her people sailed from Ireland,
And she stayed, but none knew why.
They were strong; in that far country
Work such men were sure to find;
They had offered to take Milly,
Pressed her often, and been kind;
They had taken the young children,
Only she was left behind.
'Michael, too, was with them: doubly
Had his fame been cleared by time;
For the murderer, lately dying,
Had confessed and owned the crime:
And yet Milly, none knew wherefore,
Broke her plighted troth to him;
Parted, too, with all her loved ones
For some strange and selfish whim.' . . .
Oh, my heart was sore for Milly,
And I felt my eyes grow dim.
She is still in Ireland; dwelling
Near the old place, and alone;
Just the same kind loving spirit,
But the old light heart is flown.
When the humble toil is over
For her scanty daily bread,
Then she turns to nurse the suffering,
Or to pray beside the dead:
Many, many thankful blessings
Fall each day upon her head.
There is no distress or sorrow
Milly does not try to cheer;
There is never fever raging
But you always find her near:
And she knows—at least I think so,
That I guess her secret pain,
Why her Love and why her Sorrow
Need be purified from stain,
Need in special consecration
Be restored to God again.
A CASTLE IN THE AIR
BUILT myself a castle,
So noble, grand and fair;
I built myself a castle,
A castle—in the air.
The fancies of my twilights
That fade in sober truth,
The longing of my sorrow,
And the vision of my youth;
The plans of joyful futures;
So dear they used to seem,
The prayer that rose unbidden,
Half prayer—and half a dream;
The hopes that died unuttered
Within this heart of mine;
For all these tender treasures
My castle was the shrine.
I looked at all the castles
That rise to grace the land,
But I never saw another
So stately or so grand.
And now you see it shattered,
My castle in the air;
It lies, a dreary ruin,
All desolate and bare.
I cannot build another,
I saw that one decay ;
And strength and heart and courage
Died out the self-same day.
Yet still, beside that ruin,
With hopes as deep and fond, 30
I wait with an infinite longing,
Only—I look beyond.
PER PACEM AD LUCEM
I DO not ask, O Lord, that life may be
A pleasant road;
I do not ask that Thou wouldst take from me
Aught of its load;
I do not ask that flowers should always spring
Beneath my feet;
I know too well the poison and the sting
Of things too sweet.
For one thing, only Lord, dear Lord, I plead,
Lead me aright—
Though strength should falter, and though heart should
Through Peace to Light.
I do not ask, O Lord, that Thou shouldst shed
Full radiance here;
Give but a ray of peace, that I may tread
Without a fear.
I do not ask my cross to understand,
My way to see—
Better in darkness just to feel Thy hand
And follow Thee.
Joy is like restless day; but peace divine
Like quiet night:
Lead me, O Lord—till perfect Day shall shine,
Through Peace to Light.
Monk was preaching: strong his earnest word,
From the abundance of his heart he spoke,
And the flame spread—in every soul that heard
Sorrow and love and good resolve awoke:—
The poor lay Brother, ignorant and old,
Thanked God that he had heard such words of gold.
'Still let the glory, Lord, be thine alone,'
So prayed the Monk; his heart absorbed in praise:
'Thine be the glory: if my hands have sown,
The harvest ripened in Thy mercy's rays:
It was Thy Blessing, Lord, that made my word
Bring light and love to every soul that heard.
'O Lord, I thank Thee that my feeble strength
Has been so blest; that sinful hearts and cold
Were melted at my pleading—knew at length
How sweet Thy service and how safe Thy fold:
While souls that loved Thee saw before them rise
Still holier heights of loving sacrifice.'
So prayed the Monk: when suddenly he heard
An Angel speaking thus—'Know, O my Son,
Thy words had all been vain, but hearts were stirred,
And Saints were edified and sinners won
By his, the poor lay Brother's, humble aid
Who sat upon the Pulpit stair and prayed.'
(FOR A CHILD)
do you look sad, my Minnie?
Tell me darling—for to-day
Is the birthday of Our Lady,
And Her children should be gay.
What?—You say that all the others,
Alice, Cyril, Effie, Paul,
All had got a gift to give Her,
Only you had none at all.
Well dear, that does seem a pity:
Tell me how it came about
That the others bring a present,
And my Minnie comes without.
Alice has a lovely Banner
All embroidered blue and gold:
Then you know that Sister Alice
Is so clever and so old.
Cyril has his two camellias;
One deep red, and one pure white:
They will stand at Benediction
On the Altar steps to-night.
Effie, steady little Effie,
Stitching many an hour away,
She has clothed a little orphan
All in honour of to-day.
With the skill the good Nuns taught her
Angela herself has made
Two tall stems of such real lilies,
They do all but smell—and fade.
Then with look of grave importance
Comes our quiet little Paul 30
With the myrtle from his garden:
He himself is not as tall.
Even Baby Agnes, kneeling
With half shy, half solemn air,
Held up one sweet rose to Mary,
Lisping out her tiny prayer.
Well my Minnie—say—how was it?
Shall I guess? I think I know
All the griefs. Well, I will count them—
First your rose-tree would not blow; 40
Then the fines have been so many
All the pennies melt away;
Then for work—I know my Minnie
Cares so very much for play,
That these little clumsy fingers
Scarcely yet have learnt to sew,
Still less all the skilful fancies
Angela and Alice know.
Yet my Minnie can't be treated
Quite as Baby was to-day,
When Mamma or Alice gave her
Something just to give away.
Well my darling, there are many
Who have neither time nor skill,
Gold nor silver, yet they offer
Gifts to Mary if they will.
There are ways—our Lady knows them,
And Her children all should know
How to find a flower for Mary
Underneath the deepest snow;
How to make a lovely garland,
Winter though it be and cold;
How to buy the rarest offering,
Costing—something—but not gold;
How to buy, and buy it dearly,
Gifts that She will love to take;
Nor to grudge the cost, but give it
Cheerfully for Mary's sake.
Does that seem so strange, my Darling?
Nay dear, it is nothing new;
All can give Her noble presents—
Shall I tell you of a few?
What were those the Magi offered
Frankincense and gold and myrrh:—
Minnie thinks that Saints and Monarchs
Are quite different from her!
. . . Sometimes it is hard to listen
To a word unkind or cold
And to smile a loving answer:
Do it—and you give Her gold.
Thoughts of Her in work or playtime—
Those small grains of incense rare,
Cast upon a burning censer,
Rise in perfumed clouds of prayer.
There are sometimes bitter fancies,
Little murmurs that will stir
Even a loving heart:—but crush them
And you give Our Lady myrrh.
Give your little crosses to her,
Which each day, each hour befall, 90
They remind Her of Her Jesus,
So she loves them best of all.
Some seem very poor and worthless,
Yet however small and slight,
Given to her by one who loves her
They are precious in Her sight.
One may be so hard to carry
That your hands will bleed and smart:—
Go and take it to Her Altar,
Go and place it in Her heart;
Check your tears and try to love it,
Love it as His sacred will—
So you set the cross with jewels,
Make your gift more precious still.
There are souls—alas! too many
Who forget that Jesus died,
Who forget that sin for ever
Is the lance to pierce His side.
Hearts that turn away from Jesus;
Sins that scourge Him and betray; 110
Cold and cruel souls that even
Crucify Him day by day.
Ah! poor sinners! Mary loves them,
And she knows no royal gem
Half so noble or so precious
As the prayer you say for them;
Or resign some little pleasure,
Give it her instead, to win
Help for some poor soul in peril,
Grace for some poor heart in sin,
Mercy for poor sinners—pleading
For their souls as for your own—
So you make a crown of jewels
Fit to lay before Her throne.
Flowers—why I should never finish
If I tried to count them too—
If I told you how to know them,
In what garden-plot they grew.
Yet I think my darling guesses
They are emblems and we trace
In the rarest and the loveliest
Acts of love and gifts of grace.
Modest violets—meek snowdrops,
Holy lilies white and pure,
Faithful tendrils—herbs for healing—
If they only would endure!
And they will—such flowers fade not;
They are not of mortal birth—
And such garlands given to Mary
Die not like the gifts of Earth.
Well, my Minnie—can you tell me
You have still no gift to lay
At the feet of your dear Mother,
Any hour, any day?
Give Her now—to-day—for ever,
One great gift—the first, the best—
Give your heart to Her, and ask
Her How to give Her all the rest.
I BEG of you, I beg of you, my brothers,
For my need is very sore;
Not for gold and not for silver do I ask you,
But for something even more:
From the depths of your hearts pity let it be—
Pray for me.
I beg of you whose robes of radiant whiteness
Have been kept without a stain;
Of you who, stung to death by serpent Pleasure,
Found the healing Angel Pain:
Whether holy or forgiven you may be—
Pray for me.
I beg of you calm souls whose wondering pity
Looks at paths you never trod:
I beg of you who suffer—for all sorrow
Must be very near to God—
And the need is even greater than you see—
Pray for me.
I beg of you, O children, for He loves you,
And He loves your prayers the best:
Fold your little hands together, and ask Jesus
That the weary may have rest,
That a bird caught in a net may be set free—
Pray for me.
I beg of you who stand before the Altar,
Whose anointed hands upraise
All the sin and all the sorrow of the Ages,
All the love and all the praise,
And the glory which was always and shall be—
Pray for me.
I beg of you—of you who through Life's battle
Our dear Lord has set apart,
That while we who love the peril are made captives,
Still the Church may have its Heart
Which is fettered that our souls may be set free
Pray for me.
I beg of you, I beg of you my brothers,
For an alms this very day;
I am standing on your doorstep as a Beggar
Who will not be turned away,
And the Charity you give my soul shall be—
Pray for me!
LINKS WITH HEAVEN
God in Heaven, from that holy place,
To each of us an Angel guide has given;
But Mothers of dead children have more grace—
For they give Angels to their God and Heaven.
How can a Mother's heart feel cold or weary
Knowing her dearer self safe, happy, warm?
How can she feel her road too dark or dreary
Who knows her treasure sheltered from the storm?
How can she sin? Our hearts may be unheeding—
Our God forgot—our holy Saints defied—
But can a mother hear her dead child pleading
And thrust those little angel hands aside?
Those little hands stretched down to draw her ever
Nearer to God by mother love:—we all
Are blind and weak—yet surely She can never,
With such a stake in Heaven, fail or fall.
She knows that when the mighty Angels raise
Chorus in Heaven, one little silver tone
is hers for ever—that one little praise,
One little happy voice is all her own.
We may not see her sacred crown of honour,
But all the Angels flitting to and fro
Pause smiling as they pass—they look upon her
As mother of an angel whom they know,
One whom they left nestled at Mary's feet—
The children's place in Heaven—who softly sings
A little chant to please them, slow and sweet,
Or smiling strokes their little folded wings.
Or gives them Her white lilies or Her beads
To play with:—yet, in spite of flower or song
They often lift a wistful look that pleads
And asks Her why their mother stays so long.
Then our dear Queen makes answer she will call
Her very soon: meanwhile they are beguiled
To wait and listen while She tells them all
A story of Her Jesus as a child.
All saints in Heaven may pray with earnest will
And pity for their weak and erring brothers:
Yet there is prayer in Heaven more tender still—
The little Children pleading for their mothers.
is cold dark midnight, yet listen
To that patter of tiny feet!
Is it one of your dogs, fair lady,
Who whines in the bleak cold street
Is it one of your silken spaniels
Shut out in the snow and the sleet?
My dogs sleep warm in their baskets,
Safe from the darkness and snow;
All the beasts in our Christian England,
Find pity wherever they go—
(Those are only the homeless children
Who are wandering to and fro.)
Look out in the gusty darkness—
I have seen it again and again,
That shadow, that flits so slowly
Up and down past the window pane
It is surely some criminal lurking
Out there in the frozen rain?
Nay, our Criminals all are sheltered,
They are pitied and taught and fed:
That is only a sister-woman
Who has got neither food nor bed—
And the Night cries 'sin to be living',
And the River cries 'sin to be dead'.
Look out at that farthest corner
Where the wall stands blank and bare:
Can that be a pack which a Pedlar
Has left and forgotten there?
His goods lying out unsheltered
Will be spoilt by the damp night air.
Nay;—goods in our thrifty England
Are not left to lie and grow rotten,
For each man knows the market value
Of silk or woollen or cotton . . .
But in counting the riches of
England I think our Poor are forgotten.
Our Beasts and our Thieves and our Chattels
Have weight for good or for ill;
But the Poor are only His image,
His presence, His word, His will—
And so Lazarus lies at our doorstep
And Dives neglects him still.