Mrs. James Sadlier.

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"He who says the Mass-rite for the soul of that Knight,
May as well say Mass for me."

Then changed, I trow, was that bold baron's brow,
From dark to the blood-red high;
"Now tell me the mien of the Knight thou hast seen,
For by Mary he shall die."

"O hear but my word, my noble lord,
For I heard her name his name,
And that lady bright, she called the Knight
Sir Richard of Coldinghame."

The bold baron's brow then chang'd, I trow,
From high blood-red to pale -
"The grave is deep and dark - and the corpse is stiff and stark -
So I may not trust thy tale.

"The varying light deceived thy sight,
And the wild winds drown'd the name,
For the Dryburgh bells ring, and the white monks do sing,
For Sir Richard of Coldinghame."

It was near the ringing of matin-bell,
The night was well-nigh done,
When the lady looked through the chamber fair,
On the eve of good St. John.

The lady looked through the chamber fair,
By the light of a dying flame;
And she was aware of a knight stood there -
Sir Richard of Coldinghame.

"By Eildon-tree for long nights three,
In bloody grave have I lain,
The Mass and the death-prayer are said for me,
But, lady, they are said in vain.

"By the baron's hand, near Tweed's fair stand,
Most foully slain I fell;
And my restless sprite on the beacon's height,
For a space is doom'd to dwell."

He laid his left palm on an oaken beam,
His right upon her hand;
The lady shrunk, and fainting sunk,
For it scorched like a fiery brand.


[From "A Collection of Spiritual Hymns and Songs on Various Religious
Subjects," published by Chalmers & Co., of Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1802.
Its quaint and touching simplicity, redolent of old-time faith, will
commend it to the reader]

From lake where water does not go,
A prisoner of hope below,
To mortal ones I push my groans,
In hopes they'll pity me.

O mortals that still live above,
Your faith, hope, prayers, and alms, and love,
Still merit place With God's sweet grace;
O faithful, pity me.

My fervent groans don't merit here,
Strict justice only doth appear,
My smallest faults,
And needless talks Heap chains and flames on me.

Though mortal guilt doth not remain,
I still am due the temp'ral pain, I did delay
To satisfy,
Past coldness scorcheth me.

Tepidity and good works done
With imperfections mixt, here come;
All these neglects
And least defects, -
Great anguish bring on me.

Though my defects here be not spared,
Yet endless glory for me's prepared,
I love in flames,
And hope in chains;
O friends, then, pity me!

My God, my Father, is most dear,
For me your sighs and prayers He'll hear;
Though just laws scourge,
His mercies urge,
That you would pity me.

Through pains and flames
I'll come to Him,
They purge me both from stain and sin;
When I'm set free,
Their friends I'll be
Who now do pity me.

The smallest thing that could defile
Keeps me from bliss in this exile.
God loves to see
That you me free;
For His love pity me!

For me who alms give, fast, or pray,
Great store of grace will come their way;
Try this good thought -
Great help is brought,
And souls from sin set free.

If you for me now do not pray,
The utmost farthing I must pay;
The time is hid
That I'll be rid,
Unless you pity me.

In mortal sin who yields his breath,
Pray not for him behind his death.
All mortal crime
I quit in time;
O faithful, pity me!

For me good works may be practised,
Thus some were for the dead baptized.
Suet pains endure
For me, and sure
You'll help and pity me!

For his good friend, as Scriptures say,
Onesiphorus, Paul did pray, [1]
His words, you see,
Urge, then, for me;
And thus you'll pity me.

[Footnote 1: II. Tim., i. 16, 18.]

This third place clear in writ you spy,
Where all your works the fire will try,
From death game rose,
Sure then all those
From third place were set free.

In hell there's no redemption found;
God ne'er degrades whom
He once crowned - These judgments both
Confirmed by oath
And absolute decree.

For all the Saints prayer should be made,
Who stand in need, alive or dead.
I stand in need
That you with speed
Should help and pity me.

In presence of our sweetest Lord,
For dead they, prayed, as all accord.
Christ did not blame
What I now claim;
Oh! haste and pity me!

To a third place Christ's soul did go.
And preached to spirits there below;
This in the Creed
And Writ you read,
That you may pity me.

When Christ on earth would stay no more,
These captives freed He brought to glore;
There I will be,
And soon set free,
If you would pity me.

Mind, then, Communion of the Saints;
All should supply each other's wants:
In pains and chains,
And scorching flames,
I languish; pity me!

Eternal rest, eternal glore,
Eternal light, eternal store,
To them accord,
O sweetest Lord!
There's mercy still with Thee!

Let mercy stay Thy just revenge,
Their scorching flames to glory change;
The precious flood
Of Thine own blood
For them we offer Thee!



FOR all the cold and silent clay
That once, alive with youth and hope,
Rushed proudly to the western slope-
O brothers, pray!

For all who saw the orient day
Rise on the plain, the camp, the flood,
The sudden discord drowned in blood-
O brothers, pray!

For all the lives that ebbed away
In darkness down the gulf of tears;
For all the gray departed years-
O brothers, pray!

For all the souls that went astray
In deserts hung with double gloom;
For all the dead without a tomb-
O brothers, pray!

For we have household peace; but they
Who led the way, and held the land,
Are homeless as the heaving sand-
Oh! let us pray!


(From the French of Octave Cremacie.)


O dead, ye sleep within your tranquil graves;
No more ye bear the burden that enslaves
Us in this world of ours.
For you outshine no stars, no storms rave loud,
No buds has spring, the horizon no cloud,
The sun marks not the hours.

The while, with anxious thought oppress'd, we go,
Each weary day but bringing deeper woe,
Silently and alone
Ye list the sanctuary chant arise,
That downwards first to you, remounts the skies,
Sweet pity's monotone.

The vain delights whereto our souls incline,
Are naught beside the prayer to love divine,
Alms-giving of the heart,
Which reaching to you warms your chilly dust
And brings your name enshrined a sacred trust,
Swift to the throne of God!

Alas! love's warmest memory will fade
Within the heart, ere yet the mourning shade
Has ceased to mark the garb.
Forgetfulness, our meed to you, outweighs
The leaded coffin as it dully lays
Upon your lifeless bones.

Our selfish hearts but to the present look,
And see in you the pages of a book
Now laid aside long read.
For loving in our fev'rish joy or pain
But those who serve our hate, pride, love of gain,
No more can serve the dead.

To cold ambition or to joy's sweet store,
Ye dusty corpses minister no more,
We give to you neglect.
Nor reck we of that suff'ring world's pale bourne
Where you beyond the bridgeless barrier mourn
O'erpast the wall of death.

'Tis said that when our coldness grieves you sore,
Ye quit betimes that solitude's cold shore
Where ye forsaken dwell,
And flit about in darkness' sad constraint,
The while from spectral lips your mournful plaint
Upon the winds outswell.

When nightingales their woodland nests have left,
The autumn sky of gray, white-capped, cloud-reft,
Prepares the shroud which Winter soon shall spread
On frozen fields; there comes a day thrice blest,
When earth forgetting, all our musings rest
On those who are no more the dreamless dead.

The dead their graves forsake upon this day,
As we have seen doves mount with joyous grace,
Escape an instant from their prison drear,
Their coming brings us no repellent fear.
Their mien is dreamy, passing sweet their face,
Their fixed and hollow eyes cannot betray.

When spectral coming thus unseen they gaze
On crowds who, kneeling in the temple, pray
Forgiveness for them, one faint, joyful ray,
As light upon the opal, glittering plays,
On faces pale and calm an instant rests,
And brings a moment's warmth to clay-cold breasts.

They, the elect of God, with souls of saints,
Who bear each destined load without complaints,

Who walk all day beneath God's watching eye,
And sleep the night 'neath angels' ministry,
Nor made the sport of visions that arise
To show th' abyss of fire to dreaming eyes.

All they who while on earth, the pure of heart,
The heav'nly echoes hear, and who in part
Make smooth for man rude ways he has to tread,
And knowing earthly vanity, outspread
Their virtue like a carpet rich and rare,
And walk o'er evil, touching it nowhere.

When come sad guests from off that suff'ring shore,
Which Dante saw in dream sublime of yore,
Appearing midst us here that day most blessed,
'Tis but to those; for they alone have guessed
The secrets of the grave; alone they understand
The pallid mendicants, who ask for heav'n.

Of Israel's King the psalms, inspired cries,
With Job's sublime distress, commingled rise;
The sanctuary sobs them through the naves
While wak'ning subtle fear, the bell's deep toll
With fun'ral sounds, demanding pity's dole
For wand'ring ghosts, as countless as the waves.

Give on this day, when over all the earth
The Church to God makes moan for parted worth;
Your own remorse, regret at least to calm
Awak'ning memory's dying flame, give balm,
Flow'rs for their graves, and prayer for each loved soul,
Those gifts divine can yet the dead console.

Pray for your friends, and for your mother pray,
Who made less drear for you life's desert way,
For all the portions of your heart that lie
Shut in the tomb, alas, each youthful tie
Is lost within the coffin's close constraint,
Where, prey of worms, the dead send up their plaint

For exiles far from home and native land,
Who dying hear no voice, nor touch no hand
In life alone, more lonely still in death.
With none for their repose, to breathe one prayer,
Cast alms of tears upon an alien grave,
Or heed the stranger lonely even there;

For those whose wounded souls when here below,
But anxious thought and bitter fancies know,
With days all joyless, nights of dull unrest;
For those who in night's calm find all so blest
And meet, in place of hope with morning beams,
A horrid wak'ning to their golden dreams;

For all the pariahs of human kind
Who, heavy burdens bearing, find
How high the steeps of human woe they scale.
Oh, let your heart some off'ring make to these,
One pious thought, one holy word of peace,
Which shall twixt them and God swift rend the veil.

The tribute bring of prayers and holy tears,
That when your hour draws nigh of nameless fears,
When reached their term shall be your numbered days,
Your name made known above with grateful praise,
By those whose suff'rings it was yours to end,
Arriving there find welcome as a friend!

Your loving tribute, white-winged angels take,
Ere bearing it unto eternal spheres,
An instant lay it on the grass-grown graves,
While dying flow'rs in church-yards raise each head
To life, refreshed by breath of prayer, awake
And shed their fragrance on the sleeping dead.



No sound was made, no word was spoke,
Till noble Angus silence broke;
And he a solemn sacred plight
Did to St. Bryde of Douglas make,
That he a pilgrimage would take
To Melrose Abbey, for the sake
Of Michael's restless sprite.
Then each, to ease his troubled breast,
To some blessed saint his prayers addressed-
Some to St. Modan made their vows,
Some to St. Mary of the Lowes,
Some to the Holy Rood of Lisle,
Some to our Lady of the Isle;
Each did his patron witness make,
That he such pilgrimage would take,
And monks should sing, and bells should toll,
All for the weal of Michael's soul,
While vows were ta'en, and prayers were prayed.

Most meet it were to mark the day
Of penitence and prayer divine,
When pilgrim-chiefs, in sad array,
Sought Melrose, holy shrine.
With naked foot, and sackcloth vest,
And arms enfolded on his breast,
Did every pilgrim go;
The standers-by might hear aneath,
Footstep, or voice, or high-drawn breath.
Through all the lengthened row;
No lordly look, no martial stride,
Gone was their glory, sunk their pride,

Forgotten their renown;
Silent and slow, like ghosts, they glide,
To the high altar's hallowed side,
And there they kneeled them down;
Above the suppliant chieftains wave
The banners of departed brave;
Beneath the lettered stones were laid
The ashes of their fathers dead;
From many a garnished niche around,
Stern saint and tortured martyr frowned,
And slow up the dim aisle afar,
With sable cowl and scapular,
And snow-white stoles, in order due,
The holy Fathers, two and two,
In long procession came;
Taper, and host, and book they bare,
And holy banner, flourished fair
With the Redeemer's name;
Above the prostrate pilgrim band
The mitred Abbot stretched his hand,
And blessed them as they kneeled;
With holy cross he signed them all,
And prayed they might be sage in hall,
And fortunate in field.

The Mass was sung, and prayers were said,
And solemn requiem for the dead;
And bells tolled out their mighty peal,
For the departed spirit's weal;
And ever in the office close
The hymn of intercession rose;
And far the echoing aisles prolong
The awful burthen of the song -
_Dies Irae, Dies Illa,
Salvet SÆlum in Favilla;_
While the pealing organ rung,
Thus the holy father sung:


The day of wrath, that dreadful day,
When heaven and earth shall pass away,
What power shall be the sinner's stay?
How shall he meet that dreadful day?
When, shrivelling like a parched scroll,
The flaming heavens together roll;
While louder yet, and yet more dread,
Swells the high trump that wakes the dead;
O! on that day, that wrathful day,
When man to judgment wakes from clay,
Be Thou the trembling sinner's stay,
Though heaven and earth shall pass away.



In Normandy, the most sinister associations still remain connected with
the name of Robert the Devil. By the people, who change historical
details, but yet preserve the moral thereof, it is believed that Robert
is undergoing his penance here below, on the theatre of his crimes, and
that, after a thousand years, it is not yet ended. Messrs. Taylor and
Charles Nodier have mentioned this tradition in their "Voyage
Pittoresque de l'Ancienne France" ("Picturesque Journey through Old

"On the left shore of the Seine," say they, "not far from Moulineaux,
are seen the colossal ruins, which are said to be the remains of the
castle, or fortress, of Robert the Devil. Vague recollections, a
ballad, some shepherd's tales - these are all the chronicles of those
imposing ruins. Nevertheless, the fame of Robert the Devil's doings
still survives in the country which he inhabited. His very name still
excites that sentiment of fear which ordinarily results only from
recent impressions.

"In the vicinity of the castle of Robert the Devil every one knows his
misdeeds, his violent conquests, and the rigor of his penance. The
cries of his victims still reecho through the vaults, and come to
terrify himself in his nocturnal wanderings, for Robert is condemned to
visit the ruins and the dungeons of his castle.

"Sometimes, if the old traditions of the country are to be believed,
Robert has been seen, still clad in the loose tunic of a hermit, as on
the day of his burial, wandering in the neighborhood of his castle, and
visiting, barefoot and bareheaded, the little corner of the plain where
the cemetery must have been. Sometimes, a shepherd straying through the
adjoining copse in search of his flock, scattered by an evening storm,
has been frightened by the fearful aspect of the phantom, seen by the
glare of the lightning, flitting about amongst the graves. He has heard
him, in the pauses of the tempest, imploring the pity of their mute
inhabitants; and on the morrow he shunned the place in horror, because
the earth, freshly turned up, had opened on every side to terrify the

But there is another tradition which we cannot omit.

A band of those Northmen who, during the troubled reign of Charles III.
of France - without any sufficient reason called Charles the Simple - had
invaded that part of Neustria where Robert the Devil was born; a group
of these fierce warriors were one evening warming themselves around a
fire of brambles, and, joyous in a country more genial than their own,
they sang, to a wild melody, the great deeds of their princes, when
they saw, leaning against the trunk of a tree, an old man poorly clad,
and of a sad, yet resigned aspect. They called to him as he passed
along before the fortress of Robert the Devil, then only half ruined.

"Good man," said they, "sing us some song of this country."

The old man, advancing slowly, chanted in an humble yet manly voice,
the beautiful prose of St. Stephen. It told how the first of the
martyrs paid homage till the end to Jesus Christ, Our Lord; and how,
expiring under their blows, he besought Heaven to forgive his

But this hymn displeased the rude band, who began brutally to insult
the old man. The latter fell on one knee and uttered no complaint.

At this moment appeared a young man, before whom all the soldiers rose
to their feet. His lofty mien and his tone of authority indicated the
son of a mighty lord.

"You who insult a defenceless old man," said he, "your conduct is base
and cowardly. Away with you! those who insult women or old men are
unworthy to march with the brave. For you, good old man, come and share
my meal. It is for the chief to repair the wrong-doings of those he

"Young man," said the stranger, "what you have just done is pleasing to
God, who loveth justice; but it concerneth not me, who can bear no ill-
will to any one."

He then told his name; related the hideous story of his crimes, then
his conversion through the prayers of his mother, and his penance,
which was to last yet a long time. He showed how the grace of faith and
of repentance had entered into his heart.

"Exhausted with emotion," said he, "I sat down on a stone amid some
ruins; I slept. Oh! blessed be my good angel for having sent me that
sleep! Scarcely had I closed mine eyes when I had a vision. It seemed
to me that the mountain on which rises the Castle of Moulinets darted
up to heaven and formed a staircase. Up the steps went slowly a crowd
of phantoms, in which I, alas! recognized my crimes. There were women
and young maidens, whose death was my doing, hardworking vassals
dishonored, old men driven from their dwellings, and forced to ask the
bread of charity. I saw thus ascending not only men, but things, houses
burned, crops destroyed, flocks, the hope and the care of a whole life
of toil, sacrificed at a moment in some wild revel.

"And I saw an angel rising rapidly. Then did my limbs quiver like the
leaves of the aspen. I said to that ascending angel:

"'Whither goest thou?' He answered: 'I bring thy crimes before the
Lord, that they may bear testimony against thee.'

"Then all my members became as it were burning grass. 'O good angel!' I
cried, 'could I not at least efface some of these images?' He replied:
'All, if thou wilt.' 'And how?' 'Confess them; the breath of thy avowal
will disperse them. Weep them in penance, and thy tears will efface
even the traces thereof.'"

The old man then told how he had made his confession, and what penance
he did, wandering about in rags, without other food than that which he
shared with the dogs.

"I had known," he added, "all the pleasures of the earth, and had known
some of its joys. But I found them still more in the miseries, the
life-long fatigue, the hard humiliations of penance, because they were
expiating my faults. Thus, then, O strangers, whatever fate Heaven may
decree for you, if you desire happiness, find Our Lord Jesus Christ,
and practice His justice."

The old man was silent; the barbarians remained motionless. He,
however, taking the young chief by the hand, led him to the esplanade
of the castle, and showing him all that vast country which is watered
by the Seine: "Young man," said he, "for as much as thou hast protected
a poor old man, God will reward the noble heart within thee. Thou seest
these lands so rich - they were once mine; and even now, after God, they
have no other lawful owner. I give them to thee; make faith and equity
reign there. I will rejoice in thy reign."

Now this chief, to whom the penitent Robert thus bequeathed his faith
and his inheritance, was Rollo, first Duke of the Normans.


Where the tombstones gray and browned,
And the broken roods around,
And the vespers' solemn sound,
Told an old church near;
I sat me in the eve,
And I let my fancy weave
Such a vision as I leave
With a frail pen here.

Methought I heard a trail
Like to slowly-falling hail
And the sadly-plaintive wail
Of a misty file of souls,
As they glided o'er the grass,
Sighing low: "Alas! alas!
How the laggard moments pass
In purgatorial doles!"

Through their garments' glancing sheen,
As if nothing were between,
Pierced the moon's benignant beam
To a grove of stunted pines;
In whose distant lightsome shade,
With their gilded coats arrayed,

Danced a fairy cavalcade,
To a fairy poet's rhymes.

Then a cloud obscured the moon,
And the fairy dance and rune
Faded down behind the gloom
Which along the upland fell,
And my ears could only hear,
In the church-yard lone and drear,
The tinkle soft and clear
Of the morning Mass's bell.
It eddied through the air,
And it seemed to call to prayer
All the waiting spirits there
Which the moon's beams showed,
But each tinkle sank to die
In a heart-distressing sigh,
And no worshippers drew nigh
With the penitential word.

Mute as statue, on each knoll
Stood a thin, transparent soul,
While the fresh breeze stole
From its long night's rest,
Till it bore upon its tongue,
Like a snatch of sacred song,
All the peopled graves among,
_Ite Missa est!_

Then a cry, as Angels raise
In an ecstasy of praise,
When the Godhead's glowing rays
To their eager sight is given,
Shook the consecrated ground,
And the souls it lost were found
From their venial sins unbound,
In the happy fields of heaven!

Where the tombstones gray and browned,
And the broken roods around,
And the vespers' solemn sound,
Told an old church near;
I sat me in the eve,
And I let my fancy weave
Such a vision as I leave
With a frail pen here.




O faithful church! O tender mother-heart,
That, 'neath the shelter of thy deathless love,
Shieldest the blood-bought charge thy Master gave;
Laving the calm, unfurrowed infant brow
With the pure wealth of Heaven's cleansing stream;
Breathing above the sinner's grief-bowed head
The mystic words that loose the demon-spell,
And bid the leprous soul be clean again;
Decking the upper chamber of the heart
For the blest banquet of the Lord of love;
Binding upon the youthful warrior's breast
The buckler bright, the sacred shield of strength,
The fair, celestial gift of Pentecost,
Borne on the pinions of the holy Dove!
And when, at last, life's sunset hour is near,
And the worn pilgrim-feet stand trembling on
The shadowy borders of the death-dark vale,
At thy command the priestly hand bestows
The potent unction in the saving Name,
And gives unto the parched and pallid lip
The blest Viaticum, the Bread of Life,

Online LibraryMrs. James SadlierPurgatory → online text (page 31 of 35)