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- The Legends of Saint Patrick - 10/30 -


Together dashed, thundered the Avenger's praise. At last the tide of that fierce tumult ebbed O'er shores of silence. From her lowly seat Beside her husband's spake the gentle Queen: "My daughters, from your childhood ye were still A voice of music in your father's house - Not wrathful music. Sing that song ye made Or found long since, and yet in forest sing, If haply Power Unknown may hear and help." She spake, and at her word her daughters sang.

"Lost, lost, all lost! O tell us what is lost? Behold, this too is hidden! Let him speak, If any knows. The wounded deer can turn And see the shaft that quivers in its flank; The bird looks back upon its broken wing; But we, the forest children, only know Our grief is infinite, and hath no name. What woman-prophet, shrouded in dark veil, Whispered a Hope sadder than Fear? Long since, What Father lost His children in the wood? Some God? And can a God forsake? Perchance His face is turned to nobler worlds new-made; Perchance his palace owns some later bride That hates the dead Queen's children, and with charm Prevails that they are exiled from his eyes, The exile's winter theirs--the exile's song.

"Blood, ever blood! The sword goes raging on O'er hill and moor; and with it, iron-willed, Drags on the hand that holds it and the man To slake its ceaseless thirst for blood of men; Fire takes the little cot beside the mere, And leaps upon the upland village: fire Up clambers to the castle on the crag; And whom the fire has spared the hunger kills; And earth draws all into her thousand graves.

"Ah me! the little linnet knows the branch Whereon to build; the honey-pasturing bee Knows the wild heath, and how to shape its cell; Upon the poisonous berry no bird feeds; So well their mother, Nature, helps her own. Mothers forsake not;--can a Father hate? Who knows but that He yearns--that Sire Unseen - To clasp His children? All is sweet and sane, All, all save man! Sweet is the summer flower, The day-long sunset of the autumnal woods; Fair is the winter frost; in spring the heart Shakes to the bleating lamb. O then what thing Might be the life secure of man with man, The infant's smile, the mother's kiss, the love Of lovers, and the untroubled wedded home? This might have been man's lot. Who sent the woe? Who formed man first? Who taught him first the ill way? One creature, only, sins; and he the highest!

"O Higher than the highest! Thou Whose hand Made us--Who shaped'st that hand Thou wilt not clasp, The eye Thou open'st not, the sealed-up ear! Be mightier than man's sin: for lo, how man Seeks Thee, and ceases not: through noontide cave And dark air of the dawn-unlighted peak To Thee how long he strains the weak, worn eye If haply he might see Thy vesture's hem On farthest winds receding! Yea, how oft Against the blind and tremulous wall of cliff Tormented by sea surge, he leans his ear If haply o'er it name of Thine might creep; Or bends above the torrent-cloven abyss, If falling flood might lisp it! Power unknown! He hears it not: Thou hear'st his beating heart That cries to Thee for ever! From the veil That shrouds Thee, from the wood, the cloud, the void, O, by the anguish of all lands evoked, Look forth! Though, seeing Thee, man's race should die, One moment let him see Thee! Let him lay At least his forehead on Thy foot in death!"

So sang the maidens: but the warriors frowned; And thus the blind king muttered, "Bootless weed Is plaint where help is none!" But wives and maids And the thick-crowding poor, that many a time Had wailed on war-fields o'er their brethren slain, Went down before that strain as river reeds Before strong wind, went down when o'er them passed Its last word, "Death;" and grief's infection spread From least to first; and weeping filled the hall. Then on Saint Patrick fell compassion great; He rose amid that concourse, and with voice And words now lost, alas, or all but lost, Such that the chief of sight amerced, beheld The imagined man before him crowned with light, Proclaimed that God who hideth not His face, His people's King and Father; open flung The portals of His realm, that inward rolled, With music of a million singing spheres Commanded all to enter. Who was He Who called the worlds from nought? His name is Love! In love He made those worlds. They have not lost, The sun his splendour, nor the moon her light: THAT miracle survives. Alas for thee! Thou better miracle, fair human love, That splendour shouldst have been of home and hearth, Now quenched by mortal hate! Whence come our woes But from our lusts? O desecrated law By God's own finger on our hearts engraved, How well art thou avenged! No dream it was, That primal greatness, and that primal peace: Man in God's image at the first was made, A God to rule below!

He told it all - Creation, and that Sin which marred its face; And how the great Creator, creature made, God--God for man incarnate--died for man: Dead, with His Cross he thundered on the gates Of Death's blind Hades. Then, with hands outstretched His Holy Ones that, in their penance prison From hope in Him had ceased not, to the light Flashed from His bleeding hands and branded brow Through darkness soared: they reign with Him in heaven: Their brethren we, the children of one Sire. Long time he spake. The winds forbore their wail; The woods were hushed. That wondrous tale complete, Not sudden fell the silence; for, as when A huge wave forth from ocean toiling mounts High-arched, in solid bulk, the beach rock-strewn, Burying his hoar head under echoing cliffs, And, after pause, refluent to sea returns Not all at once is stillness, countless rills Or devious winding down the steep, or borne In crystal leap from sea-shelf to sea-well, And sparry grot replying; gradual thus With lessening cadence sank that great discourse, While round him gazed Saint Patrick, now the old Regarding, now the young, and flung on each In turn his boundless heart, and gazing longed As only Apostolic heart can long To help the helpless.

"Fair, O friends, the bourn We dwell in! Holy King makes happy land: Our King is in our midst. He gave us gifts; Laws that are Love, the sovereignty of Truth. What, sirs, ye knew Him not! But ye by signs Foresaw His coming, as, when buds are red Ye say, 'The spring is nigh us.' Him, unknown, Each loved who loved his brother! Shepherd youths, Who spread the pasture green beneath your lambs And freshened it with snow-fed stream and mist? Who but that Love unseen? Grey mariners, Who lulled the rough seas round your midnight nets, And sent the landward breeze? Pale sufferers wan, Rejoice! His are ye; yea, and His the most! Have ye not watched the eagle that upstirs Her nest, then undersails her falling brood And stays them on her plumes, and bears them up Till, taught by proof, they learn their unguessed powers And breast the storm? Thus God stirs up His people; Thus proves by pain. Ye too, O hearths well-loved! How oft your sin-stained sanctities ye mourned! Wives! from the cradle reigns the Bethelem Babe! Maidens! henceforth the Virgin Mother spreads Her shining veil above you!

"Speak aloud, Chieftains world-famed! I hear the ancient blood That leaps against your hearts! What? Warriors ye! Danger your birthright, and your pastime death! Behold your foes! They stand before you plain: Ill passions, base ambitions, falsehood, hate: Wage war on these! A King is in your host! His hands no roses plucked but on the Cross: He came not hand of man in woman's tasks To mesh. In woman's hand, in childhood's hand, Much more in man's, He lodged His conquering sword; Them too His soldiers named, and vowed to war. Rise, clan of Kings, rise, champions of man's race, Heaven's sun-clad army militant on earth, One victory gained, the realm decreed is ours. The bridal bells ring out, for Low with High Is wed in endless nuptials. It is past, The sin, the exile, and the grief. O man, Take thou, renewed, thy sister-mate by hand; Know well thy dignity, and hers: return, And meet once more Thy Maker, for He walks Once more within thy garden, in the cool Of the world's eve!"

The words that Patrick spake Were words of power, not futile did they fall: But, probing, healed a sorrowing people's wound. Round him they stood, as oft in Grecian days, Some haughty city sieged, her penitent sons Thronging green Pnyx or templed Forum hushed Hung listening on that People's one true Voice, The man that ne'er had flattered, ne'er deceived, Nursed no false hope. It was the time of Faith; Open was then man's ear, open his heart:


The Legends of Saint Patrick - 10/30

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