Mary Ellen Atkinson.

The architect of Cologne online

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When with a crash the raftered roof fell in,
A stifled cry went up from street and square
In answer to the last despairing call
Of bells, that like a household on the verge
Of earthquake chasm, fell with one piercing shriek
Down 'mid the fragments of their ruined home, — >


Fell, crashing, jangling, breaking on the stones,
And lay beneath a blazing funeral pile.
Up the gray turret climbed the hungry flame,
Catching by floor and stairway, stretching out
Red hands of rapine from the window-slits,
Till all the crackling ivy turned to fire, —
A sudden splendor in the act of death, —
Then scattered ashen leaves upon the wind,
And all its clinging arms unloosed their hold,
And fell, as all our hopes had fallen, dead,
When we essayed to stop the raging flames
And save the house of God from ruin dire.
Naught left us but to watch the lingering death
Of what had been our city's heart so long,
We stood, a sorrowing multitude,. and saw
This link which bound our present with our past
Forever broken. Weariness, and all
The wild transitions of the sleepless night,
Had filled my aching brain with fever-dreams ;
For ugly forms leaned out from wreaths of smoke
And pointed at me ; faces in the fire
Leered at me ; in the hiss and roar of flame
I heard words spoken, heard the hideous laugh
Of demons, and the mocking of fiends.
" Speak to them, O my God ! and silence them.
It was no work of mine, this ruin wild,
As they affirm. Thou knowest what I did.


*" 4 *

Hurried from act to act, I never strayed

Beyond the tether of Thy fold, nor left

The sure protection of the shepherd's crook ! "

God sent the dawn in answer to my prayer,

For daylight came at last, with gradual smile,

Like child who wakes in happy innocence

Unconscious of the horrors of the night.

The powers of darkness fled before the sun,

And fearful dreams and memories of ill

Lay lifeless in the sweet new light of day.

" What sin if on my way I chanced to meet

One whom I knew not, and in ignorance

Made compact with him ? Was it not for praise

Of God and honor of His holy house ?"

" God make it so, my son," the priest rejDlied,

To whom I spoke, " but take this truth with thee

Inordinate desire's idolatry ;

And he who fiercely longs for earthly good,

Nor bends his will to say, 'God's will be done,'

Hath set his heart wide open to the foe,

And death and ruin is the end thereof,

Unless God's hand in mercy interpose."

The father passed within the convent-gate,

And I went homeward, (for I needed rest,)

Past groups of women weeping at the wreck

Of what had brought so much of life to them ;

Weeping because no spot of earth now held


The dear associations sweet and sad

Of marriage, baptism, burial, feast and fast,

Their first communion, and the holy joys

Religion gives to those who hold her dear.

And these poor souls knew naught but church and

I think they would have pressed to kiss the stones,
Like Jews at loved and lost Jerusalem,
But that the sentries drove them sternly back.
For the Archbishop set a guard to keep
The people from the tottering walls, until
Destruction's work was done. The last stroke fell,
Down crashed the tower with thunders long and

The trembling walls gave way, and hurled them-
On broken pillar and on shattered arch,
And utter ruin buried hope and fear.
I never saw that kindly priest again.
He went, 'tis said, for penance far away
Among the awful peaks of wintry Alps,
And seeks lost travelers in the dreadful snows.
God help him, it must be a dreary life !
And in *his place hath come a gray old man.


" Father," said Linda, mournfully,

" When, looking down the years,
I think of changes that must come,

This mortal life appears
Like chancel bright with tapers' blaze,

Where comes the acolyte
To quench them slowly, one by one,

Till all is rayless night."

" Change," said the old priest, solemnly,

" Is but the steps whereby
We climb the stairway difficult

Which leadeth to the sky.
Fear not, my daughter ! Set thy foot

Upon each dreaded change.
'Twill lift thee to a freer air,

And give thee wider range."

" But ah," said Linda, tearfully,

" The saddest change of all,
The sure, inevitable change,

On all we love must fall.
The dear, dear lights of life must die,

And life itself depart :
Therefore, like toll of passing-bell,

Change thrills my shrinking heart."


" Death," said the old priest, earnestly,

"Is but the wings whereby
We leave the steep and slow ascent,

And gain the upper sky.
Fear not, my daughter! Wish them joy

Whom God to heaven doth call,
And teach thy heart with joy to greet

The last great change of all."


Brief time had I for rest. * The Archbishop's soul,

On fire with ardor in the church's cause,

Gave rest to none. He summoned, long ere noon,

The Guild of Masons, to select a plan,

Appoint Work-Master, and bestow the prize.

A page was waiting for me at the door,

Who bade me speak in private with His Grace,

Before the conclave. ■ When I went to him

He led me to a window of the hall,

Whose deep embrasure shut us in apart,

And said, " My son, I counsel thee, nay, more,

Command thee, for the honor of the church,

To avoid all scandal of malicious tongues.

I charge thee by her sacred mysteries,

Whose power hath guarded thee in time of need,

To breathe no word of last night's work, nor him

From whom thou didst obtain these precious scrolls,

Nor to disclaim the plan, which is thine own,

Bought by the peril of thy soul." I think

He read my heart's remonstrance in my eyes,

But would not hear it spoken, for he said,

With haste and emphasis, " Thine own, my son,

M\d not another's. All are gifts of God,

These high conceptions, which the artist wins

He knows not whence, and if they come to thee

In fearful visions of the night or day,

They are not less God's gift, nor less thine own.


Now haste thee to thy place, for all are here,
And time and work are pressing." Then I went,
Perplexed, bewildered \ yet I dared not doubt
Count Conrad's wisdom. " God forbid! " I said,
" For is he not Archbishop ? How should I,
I a mere layman, weak and ignorant,
Presume to question, dare to disobey ? "
But when all other plans were laid aside,
And mine was greeted with applauding shout,
And when the heavy gold was in my hands,
And all the generous Brotherhood broke forth
In praise and gratulation, shrank my heart
From homage undeserved. I longed to cry,
" Not mine, not mine, my brothers ! " but a look
From Conrad kept me silent, and he said,
To cover my confusion, " Ah, my friends,
This song is in his heart, ' Not unto us,

Lord, our God, but to Thy Name be praise ! ' "
His deep voice struck the keynote of the chant,
And all the Brethren joined in rich accord,

So that the hall's high arches rang again.

The anthem ended, friendly voices cried

That I should be Work-Master. " No, not I,"

1 said, " Not I, my brothers ! " for I felt
I was not worthy, no, nor competent;

" I was not made to deal with other men.
There's none like Gerhart; let him rule the work."

36 • POEMS.

"Aye, then, as thy associate," they agreed,

And so 'twas settled. How his blue eyes shone,

As after me he rose, and rendered thanks

For honor so conferred ! 'Twas plain to read

His whole-souled purpose in his glowing face,

To throw his ardent heart into the work, •

Like sacred oil poured out on corner-stone ;

Knowing that life, — youth, manhood, and old age, —

"Would all be built into the ponderous mass

Of deep foundation and of basement broad,

On which the grander work of other lives •

Should rise in beauty, after death had laid

Him out of sight, as he must lay the stones

On which the gorgeous towers will slowly rise.

His heart was bounding with exulting joy,

But mine lay low, nor could I lift it up,

Although I had what yesterday I craved

As life's most precious boon and victory,

The longed-for prize, and home and Linda sure.

And, wondering at myself, I said, " O God,

How hast Thou patience to give gifts to us,

Since what we sought with fierce desire, we take

With listlessness, or cold, ungrateful tears?

Did ever soul, I wonder, reaching heaven

After its lifelong striving thitherward,

Sit down upon the golden floor, and sigh,

Nor stretch a hand to take the crown and palm?"


My revery was broken by the voice

Of Conrad, who swept past me towards the door,

In splendor of his sacerdotal robes,

And bade us follow. Arm in arm I went

With Gerhart, and the whole Masonic Guild

Behind, in order, to the square, which still

Was crowded with a mourning multitude.

The Archbishop stood upon the broken steps,

And when a silence fell upon the crowd,

He said, "My children, it is come to pass

As holy prophets spake, — a wilderness

Is Zion now become, Jerusalem

A desolation, and the House of God,

Our beautiful and holy place, where oft

Our fathers praised Him, is burned up with fire,

And all our pleasant things are lying waste.

And wilt Thou hold Thy peace, O God, and sore

Afflict thy people ? Nay, the Lord hath said

My temple shall be built again, and lo,

The glory of this latter house shall be

More than the former, yea, a hundred-fold.

For brass will I bring gold, and for wood, brass,

For stone, strong iron, and where iron was,

Shall gleam pure silver. Unto thee shall come

The ancient glory of Mount Lebanon,' —

The fir-tree, and the pine and box together, —

To beautify my sanctuary, and make


My footstool glorious. Lo, I lay thy stones

With fairest colors ! thy foundations shine

With sapphires, and thy windows I will make

Of agates ; carbuncles thy gates, and all

Thy borders shall be pleasant stones. Arise !

Shake off thy dust, O daughter of my God,

Sit down, all glorious, on thy lofty throne ! "

Few words he added of his own, but still

The solemn melodies of Hebrew bards

Rang through his speech, and echoed in their hearts

Who listened, till a mighty cry arose,

"The Lord hath willed it ! We will rise and build ! "

Then the Archbishop laid in Gerhart's hands

And mine, the ground-plan and the measurements,

And there, in sight of all the multitude,

Who at its vast proportions marveled loud,

The florid cross was marked upon the ground,

Symbol of Christ's great victory over death.

— So was the work of centuries begun.


Without is the thorny calyx

With many an angry spine ;
Within are the fragrant petals

Of texture rich and fine,
Of glistening, spotless whiteness,

Like robes the angels wear,
White shreds of heavenly vesture

Wrought into blossoms fair.
And in the flower's deep bosom

Beneath that pearly screen,
Pistil and golden stamen

Cherish sweet loves unseen.

Without is the martial tumult

And warfare's angry noise,
Within is sacred music,

And prayer, and holy joys;
A multitude rejoicing

With anthems glad and sweet,
Like that which throngs God's city

And crowds its golden street.
And under this glad pageant

Is hid a joy divine,
A blessed, silent happiness,

Sweet Linda's love, and mine.


For months a swarm of busy human ants

Dug deep and broad the bed wherein to lay

The strong foundations, while I went and came,

From day to day, with Gerhart, wondering much

At his great heart, which made mean labors great.

'Twas easy for a smaller soul, like mine,

With thankful joy that God accounted me

Not all unworthy of so grand a task,

To build my thought upon the wondrous plan,

Think out the detail of its ornament,

And study how the work were best achieved ;

To sail the stream, and search its rock-ribbed hills

For building-stones of beauty and of strength ;

Select the crag of frowning Drachenfels,

Command its seven-fold mountain-hold to yield

Its porphyries for the service of our God

And of His church ; and bid the opposing cliffs

Of Unckel-Bruch give up their dark basalt

For massive blocks alternate with the gray,

Such task, I say, was easy e'en for me.

But with the same high look of energy

And calm enthusiasm of holy joy

Lighting his thoughtful brow and earnest eyes,

Gerhart went down to chaffer with the men

Whose lazy barge should float the great blocks down

Those six blue leagues of river to Cologne,

Or show the stupid laborer where to ply


His pick and spade, or dump his barrow-load.

But all such work was hateful unto ine.

Blessed is he upon whose daily task

Pro Christo et Ecdesiae is writ !

The Holy Name ennobles all the toil,

The toil ennobles him who stoops to it.

And so I saw my Gerhart daily grow

Great with the greatness of his steadfast aim.

In some degree I grew with him. Such souls

Are bread of life to those who know and love

Their inner beauty, while themselves are fed

Fresh from the fullness of Almighty God.

Spring passed, and summer days sped on apace,

Days lurid with the thunder-clouds of war.

For when Death 'struck the sceptre from the hand

Of Henry of Thuringia, scarcely crowned,

Two rose to grasp it, and the conflict raged.

Like the tough oak that seems to laugh at storms

Which test, but cannot break its mighty strength,

The Archbishop hurled defiance at the foe.

I never saw him wear a loftier smile,

Than when, through those five stormy months of

He rode the streets with William by his side,
His kinsman and the Emperor of our choice.
He would not let our work be hindered. " Nay,"
He said, " God's temple shall be built, although


We raise the walls thereof in troublous times ! "

For me, I cared no more for war or siege,

Methinks, than did the birds 'neath Linda's eaves,

Which saw her garden lilies slow unfold

The fragrant beauty of their snowy blooms.

Did I not watch her daily as she wrought

The snow-white lilies of her bridal vail !

So drew the Eve of the Assumption on,

A day of clays ! A glorious summer day

Of August splendor, when with joy we laid

The corner-stone ; when I, who felt the work

Was worthy of the hands of kings, was glad

To see the horde of peasants standing back,

While nobles crowded with uncovered heads

Around the broad foundation of God's house,

A glittering band. Count Conrad first of all,

In sacerdotal robes, the Emperor,

The Dukes of Limburg and Brabant, the Count

Of Guildres, and the Legate of the Pope,

And many a lordly Knight of high degree.

The Archbishop chiseled on the massive stone

The sacred symbol of our faith, and poured

The consecrated oil, and sprinkled showers

Of holy water, while he blessed the work

In words of prayer and high exultant hope ;

And all the city echoed the Amen.

Then moved the vast procession thrice around


The cruciform foundations, king and priest,

Clergy and soldiers, with the voice of song,

Trumpet and cymbal and the roll of drums,

And softer, sweeter music intermixed,

A glorious chant, — " Upon the holy mount

Is his foundation. Zion's sacred gates

More than all Jacob's tents the Lord doth love.

O City of our God ! what glorious things

Of thee are spoken, and shall be fulfilled !

Blessed be Thou, Lord God of Israel,

Father and Lord, both now and evermore !

Thine is the greatness, Thine the victory,

The majesty, the glory and the power,

For all in heaven and all in earth is Thine.

But we are strangers, sojourners on earth,

Whose days are as a shadow, none abide.

But Thou remainest. And Thy house shall stand

While generations come, adore Thy Name,

And vanish like a breath of incense smoke.

Blessed be Thou, Lord God of Israel,

Father and Lord, both now and evermore ! "

And when the march had ended, and the psalm

Sank into silence, the Archbishop stood

Above the people, and with outspread hands

Gave them his benediction. Then the throng

Slowly dispersed ; while with full heart I went,

And Gerhart with me, to the ancient church


Where sleeps St. Ursula, with all her train,
Her fair eleven thousand martyred maids,
O joy of joys ! to meet my peerless bride,
My lily-flower of heaven in spotless white,
To take her to me for my very own,
To pledge her all the service of a heart
That beat for only her, my Angel-bride,
My Linda ! Then I led her to our home,
While purple splendors in the burning west,
A marvelous sunset glory, crowned the day,
The bright meridian day of all my life.


Flowerless the palm-tree stands,

Year after weary year ;
The lonely desert lands

Surround it, bare and sere,
The thirsty desert sands

Drink every dewy tear.

The blazing desert sky

Glares like the eye of fate,
The scorching winds sweep by,

The tree stands desolate ;
Its Angel hears its sigh,

And softly whispers, " Wait ! "

Slow comes its supreme hour

When bursts the patient thing
In ecstacy of flower,

Excess of blosseming,
One short fierce joy its dower

Of beauty and of spring.

One only, — for the wild

Delirium of bloom
Which clothes the desert's child

With splendor and perfume,
Brings death where rich life smiled,

Brings swift and certain doom.


Nay, need I tell the rest ? Four years of joy
Shine down the long sad vista of my thoughts,
Bright with the cherub-faces of our babes,
Our boy and girl, and Linda's happy smile
That beamed above them, like Madonna's eyes
Above the Holy Child. Four years of joy,
Four short and happy years ! then set my sun,
And sank my beaming star, and on my moon
Fell drear eclipse ; and I am all alone,
And it is night. For Linda sleeps in death,
And on her bosom lies our noble boy.
When, after bitter pain and long despair,
The passing years had brought a little hope,
Each adding grace and stature to the child,
The one ewe-lamb that Linda left with me,
I thought, " If Gerhart's son should wed my girl,
Some child of theirs might carry on our work,
And see its grand perfection, — with his eyes
Beholding what 1 only see in dreams." *

And in good sooth I thought he loved the girl,
And with what little skill I had to read
The foreign language of a maiden's heart,
I spelled out many a character of love
In my Bertalda's life from day to day.
What hidden worm was in that bud of hope,
What blight destroyed that precious flower of love,
1 never knew, I only saw the change.


For Gerhart's son took on him holy vows,
And sweet Bertalda hid her life away
Behind the convent-bars ; and all these years
I stand without and all alone ; outside
The Convent-walls, outside the pearly gates,
Beyond the one my little daughter is,
Beyond the other, Linda and the boy.
Count Conrad of Hochsteden, rest his soul !
Our greatest of archbishops, went to heaven,
Ere the great work began its fourteenth year.
And neither Engelbert's nor Siegfried's soul
Has burned with half the ardor that he felt.
He never would have spent, as they, in wars,
The moneys given for God's sacred house.
But as the work is God's, He hath not let
The wrath. of man prevail against it. Still
In time of war and in the sadder days
When lay our city 'neath the curse of Rome,
Under the ban, and excommunicate,
The sacred work went on, and never ceased.
Whereby I learn to trust that God can bless
And give prosperity, whatever voice
May utter maledictions. This I think
To calm my troubled heart when I awake
From frequent dreams of terror, when a voice
Speaks to me which I heard long years ago.
Still Gerhart live^ His ever-youthful heart
Hath never lost its tireless energy,


Its courage, or enthusiastic glow.

Nay, oftentimes I think his cloudless eyes

Catch, in these latter days, some shining ray

Of heavenly dawn beyond earth's western hills,

Sunrise o'erlapping sunset on his soul.

If ever one whom I have known on earth

Might stand unchanged in perfect light of heaven,

And meet the eyes of saints or seraphim

With pure, untroubled gladness in his own,

And take up all the grand celestial tasks,

And live the blessed life of heavenly days,

And find it but a simple natural thing

Even so to live, — that soul is Gerhart's own.

And if but one thanksgiving unto God

Might pass my lips before death's silence fell, —

More than for Linda, darling of my life,

More than for little son, whose smiling face

Awaits me at the door of heaven, and more

Than for Bertalda, fair young bride of Christ,

I bless him for my long companionship

With Gerhart's large, warm heart and noble soul.

I have been wasting many a dreary hour

In vain and passionate regrets for all

The weakness and mistakes of all my years,

And vainly dreaming how it might have been,

If, when the tempter spoke, and promised me

My heart's desire of all the world contained

For guerdon if I bowed my knee to him,


jld have answered, like the Blessed Christ,
t thee behind me, Satan ! " and have prayed
God sent down His Angel Gabriel,
Sweet-voiced and beautiful, to show me how
A miracle of beauty should be built
For praise and glory of His holy Name.
Alas ! I fear that such a deed as mine,
Built in the basement stones of such a work,
Must mar the temple, and though noble minds
Give their best thoughts for centuries, this flaw
Cannot be remedied. Sometimes in dreams
I see the spacious nave and lofty choir,
High door and arch, and flying buttress light,
And figured roof like damask-curtained tent,
And windows like the flower-beds of heaven,.
But all the transept wanting ! Then I cry,
"O God, Thou hast accepted Gerhart's work,
And mine Thou hast rejected ! Thou art just ! "
But other-whiles I see the whole complete,
Magnificent and vast, a glorious house..
Long shafts of light slant down the solemn space,
The darksome, haunted shadows melt away,
Sweet music fills the vaulted arches high,.
And on the altar-stair I kneel and say,
"Blessed be God, who hath accepted me !'"
So be it, Lord ! Thou art my trust ! Amen.


Incomplete !
Master, Thou seest this poor work of ours !
Thou knowest, Lord, how narrow are our powers,

For thou didst mete
His talents out to each as was Thy pleasure.
Thine angels, made by so much larger measure,

From their high seat,
Their lofty throne in the Celestial City,
Look down upon our paltry tasks with pity ;

But Thou, O sweet
Compassionate Saviour, who wast born of woman,
Taking our nature on Thee, lowly, human,

Dost stoop to greet
The humble fruit of all our poor endeavors,
And without scorn acceptest it forever, —

We lay it at Thy feet !



They stand between the mountains and the sea,
These green, spice-breathing pines upon the hill,
And in their fragrant shade I sit and look
Down to the harvest-fields of summer toil,
Out to the boundless quiet of the deep.

Peace in the sunny, silent harvest-field !
Where weary hands have wrought in other days,
The golden sheaves are bound and piled in ricks,
Ready and waiting to be garnered in,
Each with its little shadow at its foot.

And yonder on the sea a deeper peace ;
Blue level lines of tranquil changeless rest,
Unshadowed, infinite, not won by toil,
But flowing calm beneath the smile of God,
And brightening till it mingles with the sky.



And overhead the pines make music sweet,
A million voices blended into one,
A multitudinous murmur like the waves,
Or some grand chorus sung by happy choirs
Beyond the ocean, or beyond the clouds.

Behold, our life includes them all, — the sheaves,
The light and shadow in the harvest-field,
The boundless peace which lives for us in God,
The present, with its rest and healing balms,
And angels singing to us from afar!


When I have crossed the River
And stand in crystal glow

Which never shed its radiance
On this dull World below,

And when among the blessed
Who throng the heavenly shore,

O dear one, I behold thee
Whom here I see no more


Since I beheld thee lying

Calm in thy pulseless sleep, —

Though we be both in heaven
My soul will surely weep.

Weep for the days departed,

Thy weary days of care,
When thou didst lift the burdens

I might have helped thee bear.

The noble work remaineth

Thy patient hands have wrought,

In which thy fond heart vainly
My sympathy besought.

Thy sweet love fell upon me

Like starlight on the snow,
Which lies unkindled, frozen,

Beneath the heavenly glow.

Thy love lay round my pathway

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Online LibraryMary Ellen AtkinsonThe architect of Cologne → online text (page 2 of 4)