Easter Lilies

Twilight — the ancient city lies asleep;
Below, the waters blackly sullen creep,
Above, the stars in countless thousands peep.

Silent the lesser light now holds her sway,
Nor vanquished sighs, when at to-morrow's ray
This quiet cloud of rest will float away.

Few are the wanderers on the streets to-night,
Flick'ring and dim reflects the corner light,
Beyond the gloom that lurks on left and right.

There lingers still along the alleys quaint,
The echoes of the bells so far and faint,
That crown the night like halo round a saint.

And saint-like, standing there in vestal power,
Peace as her birthright, and God's grace her dower,
Church of St Agnes lifts her grey stone tower.

The portals stand ajar, as one by one
The pilgrims, who the toils of day have done,
Kneel, say a prayer — then seek repose at home.

And enters there with faltering feet and slow,
A girl, whose heart is steeped in secret woe,
Whose hand bears calla lilies, pure as snow.

Up through arched aisles of faintly incensed air,
The Everlasting Lamp is burning, where
She bends her knee below the altar stair.

Only a girl, unknown to you and me,
Only a leaf on Heaven's favoured tree,
Only a drop within the world's great sea.

Only a girl who seeks this one retreat,
To leave her sorrows, with life's bitter-sweet,
Entwined with lilies at her Saviour's feet.

With Easter lilies that she leaves alone
Within that consecrated pile of stone
That stands by moss and lichen overgrown.

That stands, unsullied by surrounding crime,
The gate to Heaven, and the bridge sublime,
The pilgrim treads, that spans the seas of Time.

Ah! weary child of prayers and lily bloom
Would that thy buds could bear on their perfume
The prayers of other hearts enwrapped in gloom.

For as she threads the streets so cold and grey
And in the night St Agnes fades away,
She feels the faith God's Own can hold alway.

It may be, in afflictions hard to bear,
— Her prayers too human for her God to hear —
He sends her Peace, that queen without a peer.

St Agnes with her glories all replete
Will some day take the bitter from the sweet,
And leave her life no longer incomplete.

Twilight — young day is slumbering in the West,
His tissue wings athwart his waxen breast,
Beneath his feet, the city wrapped in rest.
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