by Patience Worth
Oh, ye mighty walls and towering spires!
Astride the cowled gabled ways;
Thy emblazoned scripts depicting
Fanciful reaction of ancient times;
Smoking altars upon which yellow candles flare,
Burning the sacred air, to send aloft
A pungent scent of mouldering decay,
Blackening with slow, sure touch
The placid faces of the saints, who,
With stony visages gaze down the aisles,
Unseeing man's exultant joy or his despair.
Vaultlike, in cold aloofness, proudly
Dost thou stand, re-echoing the chants,
That flow from out cold tombs, the unlit
Hearts of priesthood and of saintly nuns.
For this did saints ope up their veins?
Did martyrs writhe? And did holy writs
By their tedious array enslave
The humble sanctity of men?
Or did men, to do their will
Write with unalterable tracery,
Law, that ran new within the fluid
Pressed in fervid troth to God?
While blood in lapping waves,
Washed thy very doors, did Mary stand
Dumb, harkening to some litany,
Mumbled in a limped tongue,
And priest send incense up, or light a taper
In thy pit-like dark?
Oh, everlasting God! I am dismayed,
That thy very stones did not gape
And fall apart; that every scarlet line
Within thy illumined records,
Did not spurt in anguish, and bleeding-
Wipe the "Law" from off the page!
Oh, holy structure, revered by man, upheld
Through ages through thy claim of part with Him!
Already is that morning come,
And quaking earth upheaving!
Already doth thy mellow chime
Whisper its eerie knell! Already doth
That King whom thou acclaimest, sit
In regal glory upon the mighty seat!
Oh, crumbling vestment of the egot, Man-
Make way! His host proceeds!
No altar yet upraised but shall give way
To that his Sire hath flung from His
Prolific hand! He, the High-priest lights
The taper Day, each morning with the sun,
And incense flings across the valley way
In silver mists, filling the night
With litanies, lighting each star
In memory of some holy soul;
Defying mould and ravages of time,
The festival of worm upon
The festering flesh.
Exultant doth this God erect
Anew each coming day and night,
An altar upon which to burn our hearts,
While thou dost re-echo dead prayers,
Burning incense yet before
Thy embered fire of Hope.
While thy dimming tapers die,
And the carved saints stand mute before
Thy suppliants, what, should His holy step
Be heard naked upon thy stones-
With the pattering of sheep beside?
Last updated January 14, 2019