Page images
[blocks in formation]

You say your body is so foul — then here

I stand apart,
Who yearn to lay my loving head upon

your leprous breast. The leper plague may scale my skin but

never taint my heart; Your body is not foul to me, and body

is foul at best.

And once I worshipt all too well this

creature of decay, For Age will chink the face, and Death

will freeze the supplest limbs Yet you in your mid manhood — O the

grief when yesterday They bore the Cross before you to the

chant of funeral hymns.

[blocks in formation]


-) foolish dreams, that you, that I, would

slight our marriage oath : I held you at that moment even dearer

than before; Tow God has made you leper in His

loving care for both, · That we might cling together, never

doubt each other more.


'he Priest, who join'd you to the dead,

has join'd our hands of old; If man and wife be but one flesh, let

mine be leprous too, is dead from all the human race as if

beneath the mould; If you be dead, then I am dead, who

only live for you.


Vould Earth tho' hid in cloud not be

follow'd by the Moon? The leech forsake the dying bed for

terror of his life? "he shadow leave the Substance in the

brooding light of noon? Or if I had been the leper would you

have left the wife?

[Dean Milman has remarked that the protection and care afforded by the Church to this blighted race of lepers was among the most beautiful of its offices during the Middle Ages. The leprosy of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries was supposed to be a legacy of the crusades, but was in all probability the offspring of meagre and unwholesome diet, miserable lodging and clothing, physical and moral degradation. The ser. vices of the Church in the seclusion of these unhappy sufferers were most affecting. The stern duty of looking to the public welfare is tempered with exquisite compassion for the victims of this loathsome disease. The ritual for the sequestration of the leprous differed little from the burial service. After the leper had been sprinkled with holy water, the priest conducted him into the church, the leper singing the psalm ‘Libera me domine,' and the crucifix and bearer going before. In the church a black cloth was stretched over two trestles in front of the altar, and the leper leaning at its side devoutly heard mass. The priest, taking up a little earth in his cloak, threw it on one of the leper's feet, and put him out of the church, if it did not rain too heavily; took him to his hut in the midst of the fields, and then uttered the prohibitions: 'I forbid you entering the church .... or entering the company of others. I forbid you quitting your home without your leper's dress.' He concluded: "Take this dress, and wear it in token of humility: take these gloves, take this clapper, as a sign that you are forbidden to speak to any one. You are not to be indignant at being thus separated from others, and as to your little wants, good people will provide for you, and God will not desert you.' Then in this old ritual follow these sad words: “When it shall come to pass that the leper shall pass out of this world, he shall be buried in his hut, and not in the churchyard.' At first there was a doubt whether wives should follow their husbands who had been leprous, or remain in the world and marry again. The Church decided that the marriage-tie was indissoluble, and so bestowed on these unhappy beings this immense source of consolation. With a love stronger than this living death, lepers were followed into banishment from the haunts of men by their faithful wives. Readers of Sir J. Stephen's Essays on Ecclesiastical Biography will recollect the description of the founder of the Franciscan order, how, controlling his involuntary disgust, St. Francis of Assisi washed the feet and dressed the sores of the lepers, once at least reverently applying his lips to their wounds. - BOUCHER-JAMES.)

This ceremony of quasi-burial varied consider. ably at different times and in different places


Jot take them! Still you wave me off

- poor roses — must I go. I have worn them year by year

from the bush we both had set -Vhat? fling them to you? — well — that

were hardly gracious. No! Your plague but passes by the touch.

A little nearer yet!


here, there! he buried you, the Priest;

the Priest is not to blame, He joins us once again, to his either

office true: thank him. I am happy, happy. Kiss me.

In the name Of the everlasting God, I will live and die with you.

[blocks in formation]

And see my cedar green, and there

My giant ilex keeping leaf
When frost is keen and days are

Or marvel how in English air


My yucca, which no winter quells,

Altho' the months have scarce begun,

Has push'd toward our faintest sun A spike of half-accomplish'd bells —

1'Ulysses,' the title of a number of essays? W. G. Palgrave. He died at Monte Video be seeing my poem.

2 Garibaldi said to me, alluding to his bar island, ‘I wish I had your trees.

3 The tale of Nejd. • The Philippines. 5 In Dominica.

6 The Shadow of the Lord. Certain obs markings on a rock in Siam, which express * image of Buddha to the Buddhist more or les distinctly according to his faith and his na worth,

: The footstep of the Lord on another rock 8 The monastery of Sumelas.

Anatolian Spectre stories. 10 The Three Cities. 11 Travels in Egypt.


Or watch the waving pine which here

The warrior of Caprera set,

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »