Mrs. James Sadlier.

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Shall mortals brave Thine eye's eternal brightness?
Shall man its search endure?
Ah! trusting hope may meet the dazzling splendor
Of those celestial rays,
For with Thee, Lord, is pardon sweet and tender,
When contrite sorrow prays.
Ay, Thou wilt lead, from desert-waste of sadness,
Thine Israel's chosen band;
And Miriam's song of pure, triumphant gladness
Shall, in Thy promised land,
Succeed the dirge-like swell
Of _De Profundis_ bell."



Robed in mourning, nave and chancel,
In the livery of the dead,
Hymns funereal are chanted.
Services sublime are read.

Sounds the solemn _Dies Iræ_,
Fraught with echoes from the day
When the majesty of Heaven
Shall appear in dread array.

Next the Gospel's weird recital,
Full of mystery and dread;
Holding message for the living,
Bringing tidings of the dead.

With its resurrection promised -
Resurrection unto life,
With its full and true fruition,
And immunity from strife.

Blest immunity from sorrow,
Primal man's unhappy dower;
While the evil shall find judgment
In the resurrection hour.

To the Lord, the King of Glory,
Goes the voiceless, tuneless prayer,
From the deep pit to deliver,
From eternal pains to spare.

All who wait the holy coming,
Wait the dawning of a day
That shall ope the gates of darkness,
Shall illume the watcher's way.
May the holy Michael lead them
To the fullness of the light
That of old, in prophet visions,
Burst on Adam's dazzled sight.

May they pass from death to living -
Message that the Master's voice
Gave to Abraham the faithful,
Bade his exiled soul rejoice.

May perpetual light descending
Touch their foreheads, dark with fear -
Dark with deadly torments suffered;
Sign them with the glory near!

May they rest, O Lord, forever
In a peace that, unexpressed,
Shall bestow upon the pilgrims
Dual crowns of light and rest!

Death's weird canticle is ringing
In its supplication strong -
In its far cry to the heavens,
Couched in wild, unearthly song.

Ay, this _Libera_ o'ercomes us,
Requiem, at once, and dirge -
Makes this life with life immortal
In our consciousness to merge.



Ye souls of the faithful who sleep in the Lord,
But as yet are shut out from your final reward,
Oh! would I could lend you assistance to fly
From your prison below to your palace on high!

O Father of Mercies! Thine anger withhold,
These works of Thy hand in Thy mercy behold;
Too oft from Thy path they have wandered aside,
But Thee, their Creator, they never denied.

O tender Redeemer, their misery see,
Deliver the souls that were ransomed by Thee;
Behold how they love Thee, despite all their pain;
Restore them, restore them to favor again!

O Spirit of Grace! O Consoler divine!
See how for Thy presence they longingly pine;
Ah! then, to enliven their sadness descend,
And fill them with peace and with joy in the end!

O Mother of Mercy! dear soother in grief!
Send thou to their torments a balmy relief;
Oh! temper the rigor of justice severe,
And soften their flames with a pitying tear.

Ye Patrons, who watched o'er their safety below,
Oh! think how they need your fidelity now;
And stir all the Angels and Saints in the sky
To plead for the souls that upon you rely!

Ye friends, who once sharing their pleasure and pain,
Now hap'ly already in Paradise reign,
Oh! comfort their hearts with a whisper of love,
And call them to share in your pleasures above!
O Fountain of Goodness! accept of our sighs:
Let Thy mercy bestow what Thy justice denies;
So may Thy poor captives, released from their woes,
Thy praises proclaim, while eternity flows!

All ye who would honor the Saints and their Head,
Remember, remember to pray for the dead -
And they, in return, from their misery freed,
To you will be friends in the hour of your need!

- _Garland of Flowers_.


'Twas All Souls' Eve; the lights in Notre Dame
Blazed round the altar; gloomy, in the midst,
The pall, with all its sable hangings, stood;
With torch and taper, priests were ranged around,
Chanting the solemn requiem of the dead;
And then along the aisles the distant lights
Moved slowly, two by two; the chapels shone
Lit as they pass'd in momentary glare;
Behind the fretted choir the yellow ray,
On either hand the altar, blazing fell.
She thought upon the multitude of souls
Dwelling so near and yet so separate.
With dawn she sought Saint Jacques; the altars there
Had each its priest; the black and solemn Mass,
The nodding feathers of the catafalque,
The flaring torches, and the funeral chant,
And intercessions for the countless souls
In Purgatory still. With pity new
The Pilgrim pray'd for the departed. Long
She knelt before the Blessed Sacrament,
Beside Our Lady's altar. Pictured there,
She saw, imprisoned in the forked flames,
The suffering souls who ask the alms of prayer;
Her taper small an aged peasant lit,
To burn before Our Lady, that her voice,
Mother of mercy as she is, might plead
For one who left her still on earth to pray.
. . . . . Sable veils
Soon hid the altars; all things spoke of death,
And realms where those who leave the upper air
Wait till the stains of sin are cleansed, and pant
Amid the thirsty flames for Paradise. [1]

[Footnote 1: These verses are taken from an anonymous metrical work
called "The Pilgrim," published in England in 1867.]



Set it down gently at the altar rail,
The faithful, aged dust, with honors meet;
Long have we seen that pious face, so pale,
Bowed meekly at her Saviour's blessed feet.

These many years her heart was hidden where
Nor moth, nor rust, nor craft of man could harm;
The blue eyes, seldom lifted, save in prayer,
Beamed with her wished-for heaven's celestial calm.

As innocent as childhood's was the face,
Though sorrow oft had touched that tender heart;
Each trouble came as winged by special grace,
And resignation saved the wound from smart.

On bead and crucifix her finger kept,
Until the last, their fond, accustomed hold;
"My Jesus," breathed the lips; the raised eyes slept,
The placid brow, the gentle hand grew cold.

The choicely ripening cluster, ling'ring late
Into October on its shrivelled vine,
Wins mellow juices, which in patience wait
Upon those long, long days of deep sunshine.

Then set it gently at the altar rail,
The faithful, aged dust, with honors meet;
How can we hope, if such as she can fail
Before th' Eternal God's high judgment-seat?



Ring out merrily,
Loudly, cheerily,
Blithe old bells from the steeple tower.
Hopefully, fearfully,
Joyfully, tearfully,
Moveth the bride from her maiden bower.
Cloud there is none in the bright summer sky,
Sunshine flings benison down from on high;
Children sing loud as the train moves along,
"Happy the bride that the sun shineth on."

Knell out drearily,
Measured out wearily,
Sad old bells from the steeple gray.
Priests chanting slowly,
Solemnly, slowly,
Passeth the corpse from the portal to-day.
Drops from the leaden clouds heavily fall,
Drippingly over the plume and the pall;
Murmur old folk, as the train moves along,
"Happy the dead that the rain raineth on."

Toll at the hour of prime,
Matin and vesper chime,
Loved old bells from the steeple high;
Rolling, like holy waves,
Over the lowly graves,
Floating up, prayer-fraught, into the sky.
Solemn the lesson your lightest notes teach,
Stern is the preaching your iron tongues preach;
Ringing in life from the bud to the bloom;
Ringing the dead to their rest in the tomb.

Peal out evermore -
Peal as ye pealed of yore, Brave old bells, on each holy day.
In sunshine and gladness,
Through clouds and through sadness,
Bridal and burial have both passed away.
Tell us life's pleasures with death are still rife;
Tell us that death ever leadeth to life;
Life is our labor and death is our rest,
If happy the living, the dead are the blest.

- _Popular Poetry_.



O holy Church! thy mother-heart
Still clasps the child of grace;
And nought its links of love can part,
Or rend its fond embrace.

Thy potent prayer and sacred rite
Embalm the precious clay,
That waits the resurrection-light -
The fadeless Easter day.

And loving hearts, by faith entwined,
True to that faith shall be,
And keep the sister-soul enshrined
In tender memory;

Shall bid the ceaseless prayer ascend,
To win her guerdon blest;
The radiant day that hath no end,
The calm, eternal rest.



Again he faced the battle-field -
Wildly they fly, are slain, or yield.
"Now then," he said, and couch'd his spear,
"My course is run, the goal is near;
One effort more, one brave career,
Must close this race of mine."
Then, in his stirrups rising high,
He shouted loud his battle-cry,
"St. James for Argentine!"

* * * * *

Now toil'd the Bruce, the battle done,
To use his conquest boldly won:
And gave command for horse and spear
To press the Southern's scatter'd rear,
Nor let his broken force combine,
When the war-cry of Argentine
Fell faintly on his ear!
"Save, save his life," he cried. "O save
The kind, the noble, and the brave!"
The squadrons round free passage gave,
The wounded knight drew near.
He raised his red-cross shield no more,
Helm, cuish, and breast-plate stream'd with gore.
Yet, as he saw the King advance,
He strove even then to couch his lance -
The effort was in vain!
The spur-stroke fail'd to rouse the horse;
Wounded and weary, in 'mid course
He tumbled on the plain.
Then foremost was the generous Bruce
To raise his head, his helm to loose: -
"Lord Earl, the day is thine!
My sovereign's charge, and adverse fate,
Have made our meeting all too late;
Yet this may Argentine,
As boon from ancient comrade, crave -
A Christian's Mass, a soldier's grave."
Bruce pressed his dying hand - its grasp
Kindly replied; but, in his clasp
It stiffen'd and grew cold -
And, "O farewell!" the victor cried,
Of chivalry the flower and pride,
The arm in battle bold,
The courteous mien, the noble race,
The stainless faith, the manly face!
Bid Ninian's convent light their shrine,
For late-wake of De Argentine.
O'er better knight on death-bier laid,
Torch never gleamd, nor Mass was said! [1]

[Footnote 1: It is said that the body of Sir Giles de Argentine was
brought to Edinburgh, and interred with the greatest pomp in St. Giles'
Church. Thus did the royal Bruce respond to the dying knight's

- _From "The Lord of the Isles"_


Pray for the Dead! When, conscienceless, the nations

Rebellious rose to smite the thorn-crowned Head
Of Christendom, their proudest aspirations
Ambitioned but a place amongst the dead.

Pray for the Dead! The seeming fabled story
of early chivalry, in them renewed,
Shines out to-day with an ascendent glory
Above that field of parricidal feud.

The children of a persecuted mother,
When nations heard the drum of battle beat,
Through coward Europe, brother leagued with brother,
Rallied and perished at her sacred feet.

O Ireland, ever waiting the To-morrow,
Lift up thy widowed, venerable head,
Exultingly, through thy maternal sorrow,
Not comfortless, like Rachel, for thy dead.

For, where the crimson shock of battle thundered,
From hosts precipitated on a few,
Above thy sons, outnumbered, crushed and sundered,
Thy green flag through the smoke and glitter flew.

Lift up thy head! The hurricane that dashes
Its giant billows on the Rock of Time,
Divests thee, mother, of thy weeds and ashes,
Rendering, at least, thy grief sublime.

For nations, banded into conclaves solemn,
Thy name and spirit in the grave had cast,
And carved thy name upon the crumbling column
Which stands amid the unremembered Past.

Pray for the Dead! Cold, cold amid the splendor
Of the Italian South our brothers sleep;
The blue air broods above them warm and tender,
The mists glide o'er them from the barren deep.

Pray for the Dead! High-souled and lion-hearted,
Heroic martyrs to a glorious trust,
By them our scorned name is re-asserted,
By them our banner rescued from the dust.

- _Kilkenny Journal_.



How lonely on the hillside look the graves!
The summer green no longer o'er them waves;
No more, among the frosted boughs, are heard
The mournful whip-poor-will or singing bird.

The rose-bush, planted with such tearful care,
Stands in the winter sunshine stiff and bare;
Save here and there its lingering berries red
Make the cold sunbeams warm above the dead.

Through all the pines, and through the tall, dry grass,
The fitful breezes with a shiver pass,
While o'er the autumn's lately flowering weeds
The snow-birds flit and peck the shelling seeds.

Because those graves look lonely, bleak and bare,
Because they are not, as in summer, fair,
O turn from comforts, cheery friends, and home,
And 'mid their solemn desolation roam!

On each brown turf some fresh memorial lay;
O'er each dear hillock's dust a moment stay,
To breathe a "Rest in Peace" for those who lie
On lonely hillsides 'neath a wintry sky.



Welcome, ye sad dirges of November,
When Indian summer drops her brilliant crown
All withered, as in clinging mantle brown
She floats, away to die beneath the leaves;
Pressed are the grapes, gathered the latest sheaves;
O wailing winds! how can we but remember
The loved and lost? O ceaseless monotones!
Hearing your plaints, counting your weary moans
Like voices of the dead, like broken sighs
From stricken souls who long for Paradise,
We will not slight the message that ye bear,
Nor check a pitying thought, nor guide a prayer.
They have departed, we must still remember;
Welcome, ye sad, sad dirges of November!


_From the French of Theodore Nisard_


The bell is tolling for the dead,
Christians, hasten we to prayer,
Our brothers suffer there,
Consumed in struggles vain.

Have pity, have pity on them,
In torturing flames immersed,
The stains their souls aspersed
Retain them far from heav'n.
Since God has giv'n us power,
Oh, let us their woes relieve;
Their hope do not deceive,
Our protectors they will be.

For these suff'ring ones we pray,
Lord Jesus, Victim blest,
Take them from pain to rest,
Thy children, too, are they.

* * * * *

[As the translation is a very rude one, we add the French original,
which, particularly when set to music, is full of a deep solemnity and



La cloche tinte pour les morts
Chrétiens, mettons nous en prières!
Ceux qi gemissent sont des frères,
Se consumant en vains efforts.
Pitié pour eux! Pitié pour eux!
Ils tourbillonnent dans la flamme;
Les taches qui souillent leur âmes,
Les tiennent captifs loin des cieux.
Mettons un terme à leur douleurs,
Dieu nous en donne la puissance;
Ne trompons point leur espérance,
Puis ils seront nos protecteurs.
Disons pour nos fières souffrants:
Sauveur Jésus, Sainte Victime,
Tirez nos frères de l'abime,
Car, eux aussi, sont vos enfants.



O Father, give them rest -
Thy faithful ones, whose day of toil is o'er,

Whose weary feet shall wander never more
O'er earth's unquiet breast!

The battle-strife was long;
Yet, girt with grace, and guided by Thy light,
They faltered not till triumph closed the fight,
Till pealed the victor's song.

Though drear the desert path,
With cruel thorns and flinty fragments strewn,
Where fiercely swept, amid the glare of noon.
The plague-wind's biting wrath.

Still onward pressed their feet;
For patience soothed with sweet celestial balm,
And, from the rocks, hope called her founts to calm
The Simoom's venom-heat.

Their march hath reached its close,
Its toils are o'er, its Red Sea safely passed;
And pilgrim feet have cast aside at last
Earth's sandal-shoon of woes.

Thou blissful promised land!
One rapturous glimpse of matchless glory caught,
One priceless vision, with thy beauty fraught,
Hath blessed that way-worn band.

And to thy smiling shore
Their ceaseless messengers of longing went,
And blooms of bliss and fruitage of content,
Returning, gladly bore.

Yet sadly still they wait;
For, past idolatries to gods of clay,
And past rebellions 'gainst the Master's sway,
Have barred the golden gate.

The magic voice of prayer,
The saving rite, the sacrifice of love,
The human tear, the sigh of Saints above,
Blent in one off'ring fair -

These, these alone, can win
The boon they crave: glad entrance into rest,
The fadeless crown, the garment of the blest,
Washed pure from stain of sin.

Hear, then, our eager cry.
O God of mercy! bid their anguish cease;
To prisoned souls, ah! bring the glad release,
And hush the mourner's sigh.

Mother of pitying love!
On sorrow's flood thy tender glances bend,
And o'er its dark and dreadful torrent send
The olive-bearing dove.

Thy potent prayer shall be
An arch of peace, a radiant promise-bow,
To span the gulf, and shed its cheering glow
O'er the dread penance-sea.

And on its pathway blest
The ransomed throng, in garments washed and white,
May safely pass to love's fair realm of light,
To heaven's perfect rest.


_From the French of Fontanes_. [1]

[Footnote 1: Louis, Marquis de Fontanes, Peer of France, and Member of
the French Academy.]


E'en now doth Sagittarius from on high,
Outstretch his bow, and ravage all the earth,
The hills, and meadows where of flowers the dearth
Already felt, like some vast ruins lie.

The bleak November counts its primal day,
While I, a witness of the year's decline,
Glad of my rest, within the fields recline.
No poet heart this beauty can gainsay,
No feeling mind these autumn pictures scorn,
But knows how their monotonous charms adorn.
Oh, with what joy does dreamy sorrow stray
At eve, slow pacing, the dun-colored vale;
He seeks the yellow woods, and hears the tale
Of winds that strip them of their lonely leaves;
For this low murmur all my sense deceives.
In rustling forests do I seem to hear
Those voices long since still, to me most dear.
In leaves grown sere they speak unto my heart.

This season round the coffin-lid we press,
Religion wears herself a mourning dress,
More grand she seems, while her diviner part
At sight of this, a world in ruins, grows.
To-day a pious usage she has taught,
Her voice opens vaults wherein our fathers dwell.
Alas, my memory doth keep that thought.
The dawn appeareth, and the swaying bell
Mingles its mournful sound with whistling winds,
The Feast of Death proclaiming to the air.
Men, women, children, to the Church repair,
Where one, with speech and with example binds
These happy tribes, maintaining all in peace.
He follows them, the first apostles, near,
Like them the pastor's holy name makes dear.

"With hymns of joy," said he, "but yesterday
We celebrated the triumphant dead
Who conquer'd heav'n by burning zeal, faith-fed.
For plaintive shades, whom sorrow makes his prey
We weep to-day, our mourning is their bliss,
All potent prayer is privileged in this,
Souls purified from sin by transient pain
It frees; we'll visit their most calm domain.
Man seeks it, and descends there every hour.
But dry our tears, for now celestial rays
The grave's dim region swift shall penetrate;
Yea, all its dwellers in their primal state
Shall wake, behold the light in mute amaze.
Ah, might I to that world my flight then wing
In triumph to my God, my flock recovered bring."

So saying, offered he the holy rite,
With arms extended praying God to spare,
The while adoring knelt he humbly there.
That people prostrate! oh, most solemn sight
That church, its porticoes with moss o'ergrown,
The ancient walls, dim light and Gothic panes,
In its antiquity the brazen lamp
A symbol of eternity doth stamp.
A lasting sun. God's majesty down sent,
Vows, tears and incense from the altars rise,
Young beauties praying 'neath their mothers' eyes,
Do soften by their voices innocent,
The touching pomp religion there reveals;
The organ hush'd, the sacred silence round,
All, all uplifts, ennobles and inspires;
Man feels himself transported where the choirs
Of seraphim with harps of gold entone
Low at Jehovah's feet their endless song.
Then God doth make His awful presence known,
Hides from the wise, to loving hearts is shown:
He seeks less to be proved than to be felt. [1]
From out the Church the multitudes depart,
In separate groups unto th' abode they go
Of tranquil death, their tears still silent flow.
The standard of the Cross is borne apart,
Sublime our songs for death their sacred theme,
Now mixed with noise that heralds storms they seem;
Now lower above our heads the dark'ning clouds,
Our faces mournful, our funereal hymn
Both air and landscape in our grief enshrouds.

Towards death's tranquil haven, on we fare,
The cypress, ivy, and the yew trees haunt
The spot where thorns seem growing everywhere.
Sparse lindens rise up grimly here and there,
The winds rush whistling through their branches gaunt.
Hard by a stream, my mind found there exprest
In waves and tombs a twofold lesson drest,
Eternal movement and eternal rest.

Ah, with what holy joy these peasants fain
Would honor parent dust; they seek with pride
The stone or turf, concealing those allied
To them by love, they find them here again.
Alas, with us we may not seek the boon
Of gazing on the ashes of our dead.
Our dead are banish'd, on their rights we tread,
Their bones unhonored at hap-hazard strewn.
E'en now 'gainst us cry out their _Manes_ pale,
Those nations and those times dire woes entail,
'Mongst whom in hearts grown weak by slow degree,
The _cultus_ of the dead has ceased.
Here, here, at least have they from wrong been free,
Their heritage of peace preserving best.
No sumptuous marbles burden names here writ,
A shepherd, farmer, peasant, as is fit,
Beneath these stones in tranquil slumber see;
Perchance a Turenne, a Corneille they hide,
Who lived obscure, e'en to himself unknown.
But if from men he'd risen separate,
Sublime in camps, the theatre, the state,
His name by idol-loving worlds outcried,
Would that have made his slumber here more sweet?

[Footnote 1: La Harpe said that these last twenty lines were the most
beautiful verses in the French tongue. They necessarily lose
considerably in the translation.]



[This beautiful requiem, written March 6th, 1868 (St. Victor's Day), on
the death of an intimate friend, acquires a new pathos and a new
solemnity, from the fact that its gifted author met his death at the
hands of an assassin but one month later, on the 7th of April of the
same year. Like Mozart, he wrote his own requiem]

Saint Victor's Day, a day of woe,
The bier that bore our dead went slow
And silent gliding o'er the snow -
_Miserere Domine!_

With Villa Maria's faithful dead,
Among the just we make his bed,
The cross, he loved, to shield his head -

Online LibraryMrs. James SadlierPurgatory → online text (page 33 of 35)