The Angel

THE Angel .

N OW the bells have ceased to ring,
And the priest begins to pray,
And the loaded censers swing,
And the answers die away—
Wandering through those arches grey,
As the choir responsive sing.

 Lady Bertha sweepeth in
With a sadly-troubled brow,
Velvet-robed from foot to chin,
And the points of delicate lace
Laid abouTher wither'd face.
Serf and soldier all make room,
And the pages kneel in order
In the stately lady's train.
Dim the window's pictured pane,
Dim its deep-stain'd flowery border—
All the chancel lies in gloom;
Lower down along the floor
Gleams of glorious radiance pour,
Not in rays of green or blue
From some old apostle's vest,
Not with light of warmer hue
Won from martyrs' crimson breast,
But the sunset's own soft gleaming
Through the western entrance streaming
Like a line of silver spears
Levell'd when the leader cheers.

 Not a bell is ringing now,
But the priest is praying loud,
And the choir is answering,
And the people murmur low,
And the incense, like a cloud,
Curls along the chapel proud,
As the loaded censers swing.
Who is this that comes to pray?
Is it priest with stole of white,
In a silver amice dight,
Or a chorister gone astray,
With a bended golden head
Kneeling on the cushion red,
Where the lady knelt alway?
Stay, O priest, thy solemn tone;
A strange voice is join'd to thine:
O sweet Lady cut in stone,
Lift for once those marble eyes
From the gilded carven shrine
Where thy silent warrior lies
In the dim-lit chancel air;
Never, 'mid the kneeling throng
Come to share thy vigil long,
Was worshipper so rare.
Ah, fair saint! she looks not back,
And the priest unto a Higher
Than the whole angelic choir
Calleth; so he doth not slack.
But the people pause and stare,
Even the pages dare not wink,
And the rustling ladies shrink,
And the women low are saying,
Each into a hooded face,
“'Tis a blessed angel praying
In our sainted lady's place.”

 But not one of all the host
That beheld and wonder'd most,
After, could the semblance trace
Of that bright angelic creature;
Though they look'd into his feature,
They but saw a bright face glowing,
Golden tresses like a crown,
And the white wings folded down,
And a silver vesture flowing;
Like a dream of poet's weaving,
Or some painter's fond conceiving
Never to his canvas known;
Or the sculptor's warm ideal,
Never wrought into the real
Cold, unbreathing stone.

 But a little maiden saith:—
“I have seen it on the day
When my tender mother lay
Struggling with the pangs of death;
Such a creature came to stand
At the bed-side, palm in hand,
And a crown upon his wand,
Beckoning as he heavenward flew;
Then she slept, and left me too.”

 “I have seen it,” whispering loud,
Saith a mother in the crowd,
“When my christen'd babe did lie
Drest for death, and I sat by
In a trance of grief and pain:—
Cold the forehead without stain,
Dark the dimple and the eye
That was light and love to mine—
Faded every rosy line
Round the sweet mouth stiff and dumb—
He was there, I saw him come;
Laid aside the coffin-lid
Where my broken flower lay hid,
And he took it to his breast,
In his two arms closely prest,
Upward—upward—through the blue,
With a carol sweet and wild,
Bore my darling, and I knew
Christ had sent him for my child.”

 Still the angel saith his prayers,
Reading from Beata's book;
Every time the pages shook
A most wondrous fragrance took
All the creeping chapel air,
Like the scent in woods below
When the limes are all a-blow.
He is gone—the prayers are over—
By the altar, on the stair,
Folded in its vellum cover,
He hath laid the missal rare;
Every prayer the angel told
On its page had turn'd to gold.
Sweet Beata found it there
As the early morning gleam'd,
When she came to thank the Lord
For that weary soul redeem'd,
Trembling at the story quaint
Of her angel visitant.
And she saw each changèd word—
Then she knew that through Heaven's door
Many a gift the angel bears,
And cast it on the crystal floor,
Where love-deeds are golden prayers.
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