« PreviousContinue »
But put your best foot forward, or I fear That we shall miss the mail: and here it comes With five at top: as quaint a four-in-hand As you shall see — three pyebalds and a roan.
ST. SIMEON STYLITES.
ALTHO' I be the basest of mankind,
From scalp to sole one slough and crust of sin,
Unfit for earth, unfit for heaven, scarce meet
For troops of devils, mad with blasphemy,
I will not cease to grasp the hope I hold
Of saintdom, and to clamour, mourn and sob,
Battering the gates of heaven with storms of prayer,
Have mercy, Lord, and take away my sin.
Let this avail, just, dreadful, mighty God,
This not be all in vain, that thrice ten years,
Thrice multiplied by superhuman pangs,
In hungers and in thirsts, fevers and cold.
In coughs, aches, stitches, ulcerous throes and cramps,
A sign betwixt the meadow and the cloud,
Patient on this tall pillar I have borne
Rain, wind, frost, heat, hail, damp, and sleet, and snow;
And I had hoped that ere this period closed
Thou wouldst have caught me up into thy rest,
Denying not these weather-beaten limbs
The meed of saints, the white robe and the palm.
O take the meaning, Lord : I do not breathe,
Not whisper, any murmur of complaint.
Pain heap'd ten-hundred-fold to this, were still
Less burthen, by ten-hundred-fold, to bear,
Than were those lead-like tons of sin, that crush'd
My spirit flat before thee.
O Lord, Lord, Thou knowest I bore this better at the first, For I was strong and hale of body then; And though my teeth, which now are dropt away, Would chatter with the cold, and all my beard Was tagged with icy fringes in the moon, I drown'd the whoopings of the owl with sound Of pious hymns and psalms, and sometimes saw An angel stand and watch me, as I sang.
Now am I feeble grown: my end draws nigh —
I hope my end draws nigh: half deaf I am,
So that I scarce can hear the people hum
About the column's base, and almost blind,
And scarce can recognise the fields I know.
And both my thighs are rotted with the dew,
Yet cease I not to clamour and to cry,
While my stiff spine can hold my weary head,
Till all my limbs drop piecemeal from the stone,
Have mercy, mercy : take away my sin.
O Jesus, if thou wilt not save my soul,
Who may be saved ? who is it may be saved ?
Who may be made a saint, if I fail here?
Show me the man hath suffer’d more than I.
For did not all thy martyrs die one death ?
For either they were stoned or crucified,
Or burn'd in fire, or boil'd in oil, or sawn
In twain beneath the ribs ; but I die here
To-day, and whole years long, a life of death.
Bear witness, if I could have found a way
(And heedfully I sifted all my thought)
More slowly-painful to subdue this home
Of sin, my flesh, which I despise and hate,
I had not stinted practice, O my God.
For not alone this pillar-punishment,
Not this alone I bore : but while I lived
In the white convent down the valley there,
For many weeks about my loins I wore
The rope that haled the buckets from the well,
Twisted as tight as I could knot the noose,
And I spake not of it to a single soul,
Until the ulcer, eating through my skin,
Betray'd my secret penance, so that all
My brethren marvell’d greatly. More than this
I bore, whereof, O God, thou knowest all.
Three winters, that my soul might grow to thee I lived up there on yonder mountain side. My right leg chain’d into the crag, I lay Pent in a roofless close of ragged stones, Inswath'd sometimes in wandering mist, and twice Black'd with thy branding thunder, and sometimes Sucking the damps for drink, and eating not, Except the spare chance-gift of those that came To touch my body and be heald, and live.