Page images
PDF
EPUB

Then amid his exaltation,
Loud the convent bell appalling,
From its belfry calling, calling,
Rang through court and corridor
With persistent iteration
He had never heard before.
It was now the appointed hour
When alike in shine or shower,
Winter's cold or summer's heat,
To the convent portals came
All the blind and halt and lame,
All the beggars of the street,
For their daily dole of food
Dealt them by the brotherhood ;
And their almoner was he
Who upon his bended knee,
Rapt in silent ecstasy
Of divinest self-surrender,
Saw the Vision and the Splendor.
Deep distress and hesitation
Mingled with his adoration ;
Should he go, or should he stay?
Should he leave the poor to wait
Hungry at the convent gate,
Till the Vision passed away?
Should he slight his radiant guest,
Slight this visitant celestial,
For a crowd of ragged, bestial
Beggars at the convent gate ?
Would the Vision there remain ?
Would the Vision come again?
Then a voice within his breast
Whispered, audible and clear

As if to the outward ear : “Do thy duty ; that is best ;

Leave unto thy Lord the rest !”

Straightway to his feet he started,
And with longing look intent
On the Blessed Vision bent,
Slowly from his cell departed,
Slowly on his errand went.

At the gate the poor were waiting,
Looking through the iron grating,
With that terror in the eye
That is only seen in those
Who amid their wants and woes
Hear the sound of doors that close,
And of feet that pass them by ;
Grown familiar with disfavor,
Grown familiar with the savor
Of the bread by which men die !
But to-day, they knew not why,
Like the gate of Paradise
Seemed the convent gate to rise,
Like a sacrament divine
Seemed to them the bread and wine.
In his heart the Monk was praying,
Thinking of the homeless poor,
What they suffer and endure;
What we see not, what we see ;

And the inward voice was saying:
“ Whatsoever thing thou doest
To the least of mine and lowest,
That thou doest unto me!

Unto me! but had the Vision
Come to him in beggar's clothing,
Come a mendicant imploring,
Would he then have knelt adoring,
Or have listened with derision,
And have turned away with loathing ?

Thus his conscience put the question,
Full of troublesome suggestion,
As at length, with hurried pace,
Towards his cell he turned his face,
And beheld the convent bright
With a supernatural light,
Like a luminous cloud expanding
Over floor and wall and ceiling.

But he paused with awe-struck feeling At the threshold of his door, For the Vision still was standing As he left it there before, When the convent bell appalling, From its belfry calling, calling, Summoned him to feed the poor. Through the long hour intervening It had waited his return, And he felt his bosom burn, Comprehending all the meaning, When the Blessed Vision said, “ Hadst thou stayed, I must have fled !

22

THE STUDENT'S TALE.

THE BARON OF ST. CASTINE.

BARON CASTINE of St. Castine
Has left his château in the Pyrenees,
And sailed across the western seas.
When he went away from his fair demesne
The birds were building, the woods were green ;
And now the winds of winter blow
Round the turrets of the old château,
The birds are silent and unseen,
The leaves lie dead in the ravine,
And the Pyrenees are white with snow.

His father, lonely, old, and gray,
Sits by the fireside day by day,
Thinking ever one thought of care ;
Through the southern windows, narrow and tall,
The sun shines into the ancient hall,
And makes a glory round his hair.
The house-dog, stretched beneath his chair,
Groans in his sleep as if in pain,
Then wakes, and yawns, and sleeps again,
So silent is it everywhere, —
So silent you can hear the mouse
Run and rummage along the beams
Behind the wainscot of the wall;
And the old man rouses from his dreams,
And wanders restless through the house,
As if he heard strange voices call.

His footsteps echo along the floor
Of a distant passage, and pause awhile ;

He is standing by an open door
Looking long, with a sad, sweet smile,
Into the room of his absent son.
There is the bed on which he lay,
There are the pictures bright and gay,
Horses and hounds and sun-lit seas;
There are his powder-flask and gun,
And his hunting knives in shape of a fan;
The chair by the window where he sat,
With the clouded tiger-skin for a mat,
Looking out on the Pyrenees,
Looking out on Mount Marboré
And the Seven Valleys of Lavedan.
Ah me! he turns away and sighs ;
There is a mist before his eyes.

At night, whatever the weather be,
Wind or rain or starry heaven,
Just as the clock is striking seven,
Those who look from the windows see
The village Curate, with lantern and maid,
Come through the gateway from the park
And cross the courtyard damp and dark, -
A ring of light in a ring of shade.

1

And now at the old man's side he stands,
His voice is cheery, his heart expands,
He gossips pleasantly, by the blaze
Of the fire of fagots, about old days,
And Cardinal Mazarin and the Fronde,
And the Cardinal's nieces fair and fond,
And what they did, and what they said,
When they heard his Eminence was dead.

1 The Opposition party under Mazarin, 1648.

« PreviousContinue »