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So sat they once at Christmas,
And bade the goblet pass; In their beards the red wine glistened
Like dew-drops in the grass.
They drank to the soul of Witlaf,
They drank to Christ the Lord, And to each of the Twelve Apostles,
Who had preached his holy word.
They drank to the Saints and Martyrs
Of the dismal days of yore,
They remembered one Saint more.
And the reader droned from the pulpit,
Like the murmur of many bees, The legend of good Saint Guthlac,
And Saint Basil's homilies;
Till the great bells of the convent,
From their prison in the tower, Guthlac and Bartholomæus,
Proclaimed the midnight hour.
And the Yule-log cracked in the chimney,
And the Abbot bowed his head, And the flamelets flapped and flickered,
But the Abbot was stark and dead.
Yet still in his pallid fingers
He clutched the golden bowl, In which, like a pearl dissolving,
Had sunk and dissolved his soul.
But not for this their revels
The jovial monks forbore,
We must drink to one Saint more!"
By his evening fire the artist
Pondered o'er his secret shame; Baffled, weary, and disheartened,
Still he mused, and dreamed of fame.
’T was an image of the Virgin
That had tasked his utmost skill ; But alas ! his fair ideal
Vanished and escaped him still.
From a distant Eastern island
Had the precious wood been brought; Day and night the anxious master
At his toil untiring wrought;
Till, discouraged and desponding,
Sat he now in shadows deep, And the day's humiliation
Found oblivion in sleep.
Then a voice cried, “ Rise, O master!
From the burning brand of oak Shape the thought that stirs within thee!”
And the startled artist woke, —
Woke, and from the smoking embers
Seized and quenched the glowing wood; And therefrom he carved an image,
And he saw that it was good.