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Harriett Jay

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{The Ballad of Mary the Mother 1897}



*     *     *


Thou shalt not see, thou shalt not hear,
Yet I, the Lord thy God, am near.

Thou shalt not hear, thou shalt not see,
Yet I, thy God, abide with thee.

My Spirit stirs around thee (saith
The Lord), thy nostrils drink my breath.

So near am I both night and day,
And yet my throne is worlds away.

Seek not to unveil or fathom Me,—
But shut thine eyes, and bend thy knee.

Juggle not with the Law Divine,
Nor seek my Heavens for a sign.

I am veil’d for ever, I am dumb,
And yet my thunders go and come.

Father and Lord I am indeed,                                                           54
And yet have neither Son nor seed.

Thou shalt not hear, thou shalt not see,
Yet I, thy God, abide with thee.

Let it suffice thee that I reign,—
Beware to take my Name in vain.

Go then thy ways,—though I am near,
Thou shalt not see, thou shalt not hear.


*     *     *


It was Mary, the woeful Mother
     Cried, weeping bitterlie,
“My days are dark, for the Lord my God
     Hath taken my Son from me!

“He walked by the lonely waters,
     And saw the ships go by,
And he cried aloud, and the men o’ the ships
     Heard, and answer’d his cry!

“And the sound of his voice could still the pain
     In the hearts of the tempest-blown,
For he spoke of the waters no ship may gain
     And the land no man hath known!

“And the men o’ the sea forsook their nets
     And, gathering one by one,
Sat by the waters of Galilee
     And heark’d to the man, my Son.

“And his voice was soft as the rain                                                      56
     That falleth cool on the grass,
And his face was like the moon in the sky
     That watches the Tempest pass!

“And the souls of the men o’ the sea
     Close to my Son did creep,
And he reached out hands and counted them
     As a Shepherd counteth his sheep!

“Alone I bode in the lonely house
     And his blessing reached not me,—
I heard his voice like a sea-bird’s cry
     Far out on a sunless sea!

“And the Elders flocking about our house
     Cried, ‘Woe to him and thee!
The mad folk gather to hear thy Son
     And his mouth speaks blasphemy!

“‘He prophesieth and raveth loud
     Out there by Galilee,
With woven hands and with magic spells
     He lures the men o’ the sea!

“‘He eateth and drinketh unpurified,                                                     57
     He breaketh the Sabbath day;
He is Eli or Moses risen, he saith,
     Or a greater even than they!’

“Nay then, the words they spake were sore
     For a mother’s ear to hear,
And I cried: ‘He is holy and pure of heart,
     And such to the Lord are dear!

“‘Fair as a lily-flower, my Son
     Hath grown to the height of man—
Ah, never yet grew a flower so fair
     On earth, since the earth began!’

“Yet ever the wonderful rumour grew,
     And men began to tell
Of mighty magic in secret wrought
     Wherever my Son’s foot fell:

“How the lame man walked, and the blind man saw,
     And the dumb man spake and heard,
How the waxen man laid out for dead
     Had bitten his shroud and stirred!

“Nay, then my heart was sick with fear                                               58
     And I feared for the man my Son,
For I wist such wonders are often wrought
     By will of the Evil One!

“‘He casteth down Devils by Belzebub,
     Who is Prince of Devils,’ they said,
And I turn’d my face to the wall, and cast
     Ashes and dust on my head.

“For my buried shame had risen again
     And haunted my soul forlorn,
As I prayed for the soul of the man, my Son,
     Even Jesus my first-born.

“Suddenly through the streets o’ the town
     I heard the laugh and the cry,
And follow’d by throngs of stranger folk
     Jesus, my Son, went by.

“And those who follow’d were ragged and poor,
     And many were gaunt and gray,
And I cried his name as he passed our door
     But his face was turned away.

“And the townsfolk mock’d him as he walked                                     59
     Swiftly from street to street,
But when he came to the edge o’ the town
     He shook the dust from his feet.

“‘Never was Prophet honoured yet
     By those of his own countrie,—
Woe to the town where I was born
     And the folk who mock at me!’

“And he wandered up and over the hills,
     And his feet were swift as wind,
And I join’d the throng o’ the sick and poor
     That crept and crawl’d behind;

“And down to the shore of the lonely Sea
     Of Galilee he came,
And the throngs of woeful women and men
     Gather’d and called his name.”


*    *    *


It was Mary, the gentle Mother
     To Mary the Maiden cried,—
“Like waves o’ the sea, the people
     Flow’d on the mountain side;

“And even as a rock in the waters
     The man, my Son, stood there,
And the light of the still blue Heaven
     Slept on his golden hair.

“When he reached out hands and bless’d them,
     They were hush’d as waves o’ the sea,
And their faces were dark with yearning
     As they listen’d on bended knee;

“For his voice was sweet as a fountain
     Or the voice of the turtle dove,
As he told of a Heavenly Kingdom
     And the love that is more than love;

“And the burden of earth was uplifted                                                  61
     By the touch of a magic hand,
And the folk beheld as they hearken’d
     The gleam of the Promised Land:

“A land of milk and of honey,
     Golden and bright and blest,
Where the wicked would cease from troubling
     And the weary would be at rest!

“Then the peace of God flowed round me
     And the days of my woe seemed done,
As I listened happy and smiling,
     To the voice of the man, my Son!

“Kind were his words and gentle,
     Bright was his face and mild,—
Happy he seem’d and loving
     As when he was a child!

“‘Come to me, ye who hunger,
     Come, and be straightway fed!
For lo! I bring from the Father
     Not ashes and dust, but bread!

“‘Come to me, ye who are weeping,                                                  62
     And all your tears shall cease,
For lo! I bring from the Father,
     Not trouble and pain, but peace!

“‘Come to me, ye who are stricken,
     Who sicken and fight for breath,
For lo! I bring from the Father
     Eternal Life, not Death!’

“Sweet as a fountain’s falling
     The music filled our ears:
‘Your Father in Heaven loves you
     And fain would dry your tears!

“‘Your loving Father in Heaven
     Heareth his children’s cries—
Let him who is sick, then, gladden,
     Let him who hath fallen rise!’

“And the wind of his words went swiftly
     Over the wondering crowd,
And like waves of the sea uprising
     They wept and they sob’d aloud!

“Then one shriek’d loudly, ‘Rabbi!                                                     63
     Heal me, lest I die!’
And lo! with a thousand voices
     They echo’d that woeful cry!

“Ragged, and worn, and weary
     They gathered under the skies,—
And the blind men groped unto him
     Rolling their sightless eyes!

“And the little afflicted children
     Close to his knees upcrept,
But the lepers stood afar off
     And reach’d out hands and wept!

“Pale as a man of marble
     He stood on the lone hillside,
And wept as he gazed upon them,
     And lifted up hands and cried:

“‘The Light I bring from the Father
     Shineth in secret ways,—
Only the Hand that smiteth
     And slayeth, hath power to raise!

“‘And yet the sick shall be healéd,                                                      64
     And the blind shall surely see,
For my Father’s door is open
     To those who follow me!

“‘Weep not, but be of comfort!
     Fret not, your woes shall cease!
For lo! I bring from the Father
     Love, and exceeding Pcace!’

“But still they gather’d and murmur’d
     With piteous woes and cries:
And the blind cried, ‘Master, heal us!’
     Rolling their sightless eyes!

“But e’en as they flock’d around him
     And reached out hands and cried,
He girded up his raiment
     And passed from the mountain side.

“Swift through the clamouring people
     He walked, nor gazed on them,
While they thronged to look upon him
     And to touch his raiment hem;

“And the blind folk groped in the sunlight,                                            65
     And the sick folk wept in woe,
And the lepers gazed from afar off
     And wail’d, as they watched him go!”


*    *    *


’Twas Mary, the dark-eyed Maiden,
     Reach’d out her hands and cried:
“These things thou sawest, O Mother,
     These things and nought beside?

“Was not the sick man healéd?
     Did not the blind man see?
Such wonders were wrought, ’tis rumour’d,
     Out yonder by Galilee!”

’Twas Mary, the woeful Mother,
     Answer’d in soul’s despair,—
“Woe worth the day that I was born
     Or ever a Son did bear!

“How shall the hand of a mortal
     Give back what God hath ta’en—
If the hand of a man could dry our tears
     No man would weep again!

“The sick would sicken no longer,                                                      67
     The blind would gladden and see,—
But man is dust, and what God hath bound
     No man that is dust shall free! . . .

“When darkness over the mountain
     Fell, for the day was done,—
Silently down the mountain side
     I followed the man, my Son;

“And I found him standing alone,
     On the shore of a stormy sea,—
With hair and raiment backward blown
     He prayed, and he marked not me;

“And his hands were raised to the sky
     Where the angry storm-clouds drave,
‘Father, Father,’ I heard him cry,
     ‘Stretch down thy hand and save!

“‘That the blind may see, that the sick be heal’d,
     That my word may wake the Dead!’
And the storm roll’d on, and the thunders peal’d,
     And the lightning flash’d and fled.

“‘Father, Father, if I indeed                                                                68
     Thy dread commandments keep,
Help me to heal the hearts that bleed,
     To dry the eyes that weep.

“‘Wearily over the whole world wide
     My stricken brethren lie;—
Father in Heaven, look down,’ he cried,
     ‘Succour them, since they die!’

“And, lo! he fell on his face and prayed
     Alone on the lone sea-shore,
And I watch’d him, trembling and afraid,
     Till he stirred and rose once more.

“And, lo! the storm of the night had fled,
     Softly the night-wind blew,
And the clouds were opened overhead,
     And the stars were shining through.

“And the light, like a hand snow-white,
     Lay on his golden hair,
As he walked on the shore at the dead o’ night
     And found me waiting there.

“Face to face in the silence                                                                 69
     We stood by the sleeping sea,—
‘Woman,’ he said, ‘what brings thee here,
     And wherefore seekest thou Me?’

“Then my heart broke in my bosom,
     And I sank on my bended knee,—
‘I am Mary, thy Mother, and all night long
     My tears have flowed for thee.

“‘I heard thy voice on the mountain side
     Sweet as the wood-dove’s cry,
And the doors of Heaven seemed opening wide
     And the Spirit of God went by!’

“Gently he gazed upon me
     As I knelt upon my knee,—
‘God bless thee, Mary, my Mother,
     Dost thou believe on Me?

“‘I have prayed, and my prayer is answer’d,
     I have wept, but my tears are done,
My Father in Heaven hath heard my prayer,
     And, lo! we twain are One.

“‘Even as the love of the Father                                                         70
     The love of the Son shall be;
Even with the hands of the Father
     The Son shall set men free.

“‘Greater than I is the Father,
     And yet we twain are One!’
Weeping I rose to my feet and gazed
     In the face of the man, my Son.

“‘Alas, alas, my Jesus!
     Thy riddle is hard to read,—
The God of Israël dwelleth afar,
     And hath neither Son nor seed!

“‘No eye of a mortal fathom can
     The waters of Death and Doom,—
Seed art thou of a mortal man,
     And grew in thy mother’s womb!

“‘Come home, come home, my Jesus,
     And dwell in peace with me—
The Lord is the Lord of Heaven and Hell,
     Thy mother hath only thee.’

“Sadly he gazed upon me,                                                                 71
     Frowning he turn’d away,
‘Woe to thee, woman of little faith,
     In the dawn of my Judgment Day!

“‘I have no brethren, I have no mother,
     Save those who believe on Me!
Son of my Father am I, and no other
     Judgeth the lost, and thee!’

“Sadly he gazed upon me
     With eyes all woe-begone,
Full of the hunger of Godhead
     That gleam’d in the eyes of John!

“But when I clutched at his raiment,
     He wept and turned from me,
And passed on shipboard, and sailed away
     With the wild-eyed men o’ the sea;

“And his voice rang out once more
     From the deck of the ship, and lo!
The sick and blind flocked down to the shore,
     And wail’d as they watch’d him go!

“And swiftly into the Night                                                                  72
     He flew, as a sea-bird flies,
And the lepers gathered upon the height,
     And wail’d to the empty skies.”


*    *    *


The Leper said:
     “Lord God, if thou art just,
Heap earth upon my head,
     Bury me, dust to dust!
I did not crave to be,
     Yet lo, I crawl i’ the sun,
And if Thou healest not me,
Slay me and set me free—
     So let Thy Will be done!”

The Blind Man said:
     “Lord God, I seek the Light—
Wherever my cold feet tread,
     ’Tis night, eternal night.
Darkly I’ve sought for Thee,
     Dear Lord, since life begun,
But since I still must be,
God, give me eyes to see—
     So let thy Will be done!”

The Mad Man said:                                                                         74
     “Lord God, uplift thy hand!
Demons and spectres dread,
     Fill me at thy command!
I loathe Thy works and Thee,
     O thou Almighty One,
I did not crave to be—
Slay me, or set me free,
     So let thy Will be done!”

God said:
     “Peace! for your cry is vain,—
I weave of quick and dead
     An ever lengthening chain.
Peace! from my Law and Me
     No man escapeth,—none,—
Long as the earth and sea
Endure, these things shall be,—
     For so my Will is done!”


*    *    *


’Twas Mary, the gentle Mother
     Listen’d with lips apart,
While the voice from the lonely mountain
     Flow’d thro’ her empty heart.

“Fairer he is and gentler
     Than other mortals be,
But his thoughts are yonder in Heaven,
     Not here on the earth with me.

“I would to God he were lying
     A babe on my breast this day,—
The light of his eyes is the light o’ love,
     But it shineth so far away!

“I hear a voice still crying
     Aloud to the sons of men,
But the cry of the babe on my bosom
     Will never be heard again!

“Rabbi the people call him,                                                                76
     Rabbi and Master and King;
He breaketh bread on the mountain,
     While I sit famishing!”

’Twas Mary, the dark-eyed Maiden,
     Gazed from the bower and said:
“He healeth the spots of the Leper,
     He raiseth up the Dead!

“And lo! as he passeth the gateway
     With ragged throngs behind,
Out of the lanes are crawling
     The sick and the halt and the blind;

“E’en as a King of the people
     He passeth on his way,
And whoso toucheth his raiment-hem
     Is straightway healed, they say!

“Their bread he multiplieth,
     He turneth their water to wine—
Surely this Man, O Mother,
     Is more than flesh of thine?”

’Twas Mary, the woeful Mother,                                                         77
     Bowed down her head and cried,—
“The God of Israël bless him
     From morn to eventide!

“Flesh of my flesh, O Mary,
     Bone of my bone, is he,—
In my womb he grew, from my womb he fell,
     And I nursed him on my knee.

“From place to place he passeth,
     Stately and tall, like one
Who walketh on thrones to his kingdom,
     And yet . . . he is my Son!

“Gladly my soul would greet him
     Though he were thricefold King,
But ever behind him as he walks
     The Shadow is following!

“Man is a spark in the darkness,
     His days are only a breath,
The wings of the Lord are wide as the world
     And the shadow thereof is Death.”

’Twas Mary, the grey-haired Mother,                                                78
     Rose trembling on her feet—
“The ways of the world are many,
     But yonder, all ways meet!

“The wings of the Lord are mighty
     And shadow all things that be,—
I hear their sounds in the silence
     Deep as the sound of the Sea.

“The heart of the Temple is cloven,
     The high-priest waileth aloud,
The wrath of the Lord is growing,
     Black as the thunder-cloud.

“The rose and the Hûleh lily
     Bloom but a little space,—
After his day man sleepeth,
     Alone in a lonely place.

“Never the dead that sleepeth
     Shall slip his shroud and rise—
His ears are sealéd for ever,
     Darkness filleth his eyes.”

’Twas Mary, the dark-eyed Maiden,                                                  79
     Stood at the gate and cried:
“O, hark! they hail him as sent of God,
     Promised and prophesied!”

’Twas Mary, the woeful Mother,
     Stood up and tore her hair:
“Woe worth the day that I was born
     Or ever a son did bear.

“The God of Israël crieth
     ‘There is no God save Me!’
The Elders of Israël gather in wrath
     Like waves of a stormy sea.”

’Twas Mary, the dark-eyed Maiden,
     Gazed from the gate and cried:
“Thy Son shall wear a crown on his head,
     Yea, and a sword at his side.

“The people cry he is Lord and King,
     Though he be Son of thine,—
O would that I were the Queen o’ the King,
     Or even his concubine!

“There is never a man of the sons of men                                             80
     Who is half so fair as he,—
Be he seed of a mortal, or son of God,
     He is Master of men and me.”

’Twas Mary the woeful Mother,
     Sank to her knees and said:
“Look forth, look forth, and tell me now
     Whither my Son’s feet tread?”

’Twas Mary the dark-eyed Maiden,
     Laughed merrily, answering:
“His face is turned to Jerusalem,
     And there they will crown him King.

“Be he seed of a mortal or son of God,
     The folk will crown him there.”
’Twas Mary the Mother shrieked aloud,
     And wept and tore her hair!

“I hear a Voice he cannot hear,
     That crieth ‘Forbear! forbear!’
I see a Hand he cannot see
     That holdeth a sword in the air!

“The Elders of Israël gather in wrath                                                    81
     Like waves of a stormy sea!
The God of Israël crieth aloud,
     ‘There is no God but me!’

“The God of Israël crieth aloud
     As He to our fathers cried—
‘The soul of a man is the breath of a mouth,
     But I, the Lord, abide!’”


*    *    *


The Lord and the Law are One
     And nought can sunder them!
Wherever their swift feet run
     The worlds rock under them!

Wherever the Lord hath past
     The Law fulfilleth Him,
E’en Death lies low at last,
     For a mightier stilleth him!

One, the Law and the Lord,
     That passes and interpasses
Sure, as the sweep of a sword,
     Still, as the growth of the grasses!

Two, yet ever the same,                                                                   83
     Life and Death for their token,—
The Lord that hath no name,
     And the Law ne’er broken!

No miracles come of these
     Whose miracles are for ever,
Their mystery no man sees,
     It is uttered never.

Life and Death and Birth
     Betoken their ministration,
On the Earth, and over the Earth,
     And through all Creation.

The Law and the Lord are One,
     And nought can sunder them!
Wherever their Will is done,
     All things bow under them!

Think not with prayer or praise,
     When the grave gapes wide for thee,
To stop the sun on its ways
     Or turn God aside for thee!

He is Lord to the furthest sun,                                                         84
     With his strength He thrilleth him,
But the Law and the Lord are One,
     And his Work fulfilleth Him!


*    *    *


As they parted his raiment among them,
     For his vesture casting lots,
On the clouds of the night burnt brands of light
     Like crimson leper-spots;

But the storm of the night was over
     And the wild winds ceased to cry,
Yea, all was still on the skull-shaped hill
     As the Spirit of Death crept by.

’Twas Mary the woeful Mother
     Lay prone beneath the Tree,
And Mary the Maid knelt down and prayed
     With Mary of Bethany.

And the light came out of the skies
     And struck the Cross on the hill . . .
And Jesus moaned and open’d his eyes,
     And the heart of the world stood still!

On his head the thorny crown,                                                            86
     His body bleeding and bare,
He woke on the Cross, and gazing down
     Beheld his Mother there!

And “Mother! Mother dear!”
     He murmured smiling sweet,—
And Mary arose, and creeping near
     Sobbed, and embraced his feet.

And “Mother! Mother dear!”
     Softly he sighed again,
And over his wounds, as she sobbed to hear,
     Her wild tears ran like rain!

Not to His Father in Heaven,
     Not to the empty skies,—
To Mary the Mother he looked, and no other
     Blest, with his dying eyes.

The love of the Lord of Heaven
     Is a dream that passeth by,
But the love of a mortal Mother
     Is a love that doth not die!

The sword of the Lord of Heaven                                                      87
     Husheth his children’s cry,
But the love of a mortal Mother
     Shines on, tho’ God goes by!

Gently he gazed upon her
     Who had loved him last and first,—
Then darken’d again with the cruel pain,
     And murmur’d low, “I thirst!”

As they set the sponge on a spear
     And moisten’d his mouth, he said,
Smiling down on his mother dear,
     “Lo, it is finishéd!”

And he bowed his head on his breast
     And utter’d a woeful cry,
And the weariful Mother’s lips were prest
     To his wounds,—while God went by!


*    *    *


’Twas Mary, the happy Mother,
     Smiled and knelt on her knee,
And bared her breast and opened her arms
     As they drew him down from the Tree.

She pillow’d his head on her bare breast-bone
     And gave him kisses three—
“In my womb he grew, from my womb he fell,
     God giveth him back to me!”

And over the cold still waxen face
     Rain’d down her locks o’ grey,
And the heavens were black, but the gates of Heaven
     Were opening far away;

And the birth-star looked from the gates o’ Death
     As she rock’d the corse on her knee,
And the Earth lay silently down to watch
     In the still bright arms o’ the Sea.

On the breast of Mary the Mother                                                     89
     He rock’d beneath the Tree,
And Mary the Maiden sat at his feet
     With Mary of Bethany;

And, lo! they croon’d his cradle-song
     As she rock’d him on her knee,—
There was Mary the Mother, and Mary the Maiden,
     And Mary of Bethany.

’Twas Mary, the woeful Mother,
     Wept as she sang, and cried:
“My little one sleeps upon my breast,
     For, lo! ’tis the eventide.

“And round and round my cold breast-bone
     I feel the white milk stir!”
And she wept aloud, and the Maries twain
     Wept, and drew close to her.

“Now dry thine eyes, O Mother dear,
     Smile and be comforted,—
Thy Son doth sleep, but thy Son shall wake
     To judge both Quick and Dead.

“Thy Son hath promised to wake again,                                              90
     And the folk shall bring his crown,—
The clay thou nursest is not thy Son,
     But thy Son is looking down.”

’Twas Mary, the woeful Mother,
     Pressed tight her mouth to his:
“My Son is sleeping upon my breast,
     And his red, red mouth I kiss.

“By the milk that stirreth around my heart
     I know my little one;
By the flesh that was woven in my womb I know
     The flesh and the bone of my Son.

“I hold him now, I clasp him now,
     He is mine for evermore,
For the sun hath sunken upon his wrath,
     And the day of his Dream is o’er.

“Never more will he open his eyes
     To waken and weep!
Never more will the wind and the rain
     Trouble his sleep!

“The heart of the Temple is cloven,                                                    91
     The High Priest teareth his hair,
But God is good, He giveth me back
     The fruit that my womb did bear!

“Yea God is good, for my Son is mine
     To cherish and clasp and keep,—
And I too, holding him in my arms,
     Shall croon myself to sleep!”

’Twas Mary the bright-eyed Maiden
     Rose up her height and cried:
“The womb of the night is cloven with light!
     He liveth, and hath not died!

“He liveth, Lord and Master of men,
     And he shall rise and reign!
For man is dust, and the hand of a man
     Smiteth at God in vain!”

’Twas Mary, the woeful Mother
     Raised up her face and cried:
“Go by! the seal of thy God lies here
     On the lids of the Crucified!

“Go by, for I loved my child too well                                                  92
     To bid him waken and weep—
My God is good, and the hand of God
     Giveth my little one sleep!”

’Twas Mary of Bethany weeping cried,
     “Hush, for I hear a tread!
They’re coming hither over the hill
     To seek and bury the dead;

“And one uplifteth a torch on high
     To light them as they go,
And they who follow are bearing a shroud
     Of linen white as snow!”


*    *    *


And now they’ve embalm’d his white bodie
     With myrrh and spices sweet,
And round and round they’ve lapt the folds
     Of the long, long winding sheet;

And they’ve bound up tight his bearded chin
     With waesome linen bands,
And over his frozen breast they’ve spread
     His yellow waxen hands;

And they’ve borne him up to the black hillside
     To his lonesome Sepulchre,
And they’ve set him down in the narrow place,
     And still he doth not stir . . . .

“Now come away, thou woeful woman,
     And leave him sleeping alone,
Let us close the mouth of his Sepulchre
     And seal it with a stone!”

’Twas Mary the Mother kissed his cheeks                                          94
     And sobbed in soul’s despair,—
And the torchlight lay like a bloody hand
     Upon her poor grey hair.

And from over the hill the stars looked down
     With dim sad tearful eyes,
For the cry of the Mother’s broken heart
     Rang through the empty skies.

(It rang to the foot of the Throne of God
     Where all the wide world’s woe,
The dole of a million broken hearts,
     Melts like a flake of snow.)

’Twas Mary the Maiden weeping cried:
     “Come forth, O Mother dear!”
’Twas Mary the Mother answered, “Nay!
     Go thou and leave me here!

“Go forth, go forth, and on your head
     All peace and blessing be,
But leave me here with the little Son
     I nurst upon my knee!

“There’s room here at thy side, my Son,                                              95
     There’s room here with thee,
And O to hold thee in my arms
     Is more than Heaven to me!

“And thou shalt sleep, and calm as thine
     My own deep sleep shall be!
For ever and for evermore
     I’ll rest, my Son, with thee!”

They have led her forth from the lonesome place,
     Despite her woeful moan,
They have closed the mouth of the Sepulchre
     And sealed it with a stone;

And down the hill to Jerusalem
     They pass, but leave the three—
There is Mary the Mother, and Mary the Maiden,
     And Mary of Bethany.

’Twas Mary the dark-eyed Maiden,
     First dried her weeping eyes:
“O Mother dear, we will keep watch here,
     For lo! he will arise!

“Master and Lord of men was he,                                                        96
     And he will wake again,—
Yea ere he died he prophesied
     That he would rise and reign!

“He is not dead, but only sleeps,
     And soon shall rule again—
O Mother dear, we’ll keep watch here,
     Till he doth rise and reign!”

’Twas Mary the Mother answered not,
     But sat like a frozen thing,
Her dim dark eyes on the door o’ the Tomb,
     Vacant and famishing.


*    *    *


The first night they sat waiting there
     The great Deep thunder’d loud,
And the lightning Snakes crept in and out
     Their soot-black caves of cloud;

The next night they sat waiting there
     Came Silence strange and chill,
And the stars hung watching out of heaven,
     And the heart o’ the world stood still;

The third night they sat waiting there
     The winds began to cry,
And a cold snow fell from the frozen stars,
     And the Spirit of Death went by!

’Twas Mary the woeful Mother
     Rose to her feet and said:
“The gate of the Tomb is sealéd fast,
     And the Light of the world hath fled.

“Never again shall the man my Son                                                      98
     Brighten the night or the day—
The soul of a man is the breath of a mouth,
     And lo! it passeth away!

“And its oh, for the kiss of his mouth,
     And the touch of his hand,—aye me!
My day is dark, for the Lord my God
     Hath taken my child from me!

“And its oh, for his long long sleep,
     Alone in a lonely place,—
My Son is dead, for the wrath of the Lord
     Hath fallen and hidden his face.

“O had ye left me lying there,
     At his side or at his feet,
In peace, in peace, like a fount that falls,
     My heart had ceased to beat!”

Then Mary, the gentle Maiden,
     Answer’d her cry and said:
“Wait on, wait yet, for a heavenly sign
     That our Lord is quick, not dead!”

’Twas Mary the woeful Mother                                                           99
     Stood up and rent her hair:
“Woe worth the day that I was born
     Or ever a son did bear!

“How shall the hand of a mortal
     Gather the sheaves of the Lord?
The hand of a man is ashes and dust,
     God’s hand is fire and a sword!

“How shall the seed of a woman
     Master Euroclydon?
A woman’s seed is as thistlebloom,
     And lo, with a breath ’tis gone!

“My son was fair as a lily,
     His hair was of golden sheen,
But the lilies of Sharon perish
     When the winds of the Lord blow keen!

“What man shall stand in the whirlwind
     Where only the Lord may stand?
The feet of the Lord are on the Dead,
     And the Quick blow round like sand!”

’Twas Mary the woeful Mother                                                         100
     Crept down from Calvary,
Held up by Mary the Maiden
     And Mary of Bethany;

And over the hill the Dawn’s bright feet
     Plash’d in the Night’s cold springs,
And a lark rose, shaking the drops o’ pearl
     From the tips of his dewy wings;

And the heart of the world throb’d deep and strong
     As on Creation’s Day,
And the skies that roof the happy earth
     Were as blue and as far away!


*    *    *


Shepherd dear, the winds blow cold,
’Tis dark, so dark, on the wintry wold,—
Waken and gather thy flocks to fold!

Over the stormy hills they roam,
Feebly crying they go and come,
With never a Shepherd to help them home.

Shepherd dear, ere the day was done,
Around thy feet in the summer sun
They flock’d, and were counted one by one;

Thy white hands blest them, Shepherd dear,
And thy voice said sweetly: “Be of cheer!
The fold is open, and I am here.”

Now, alas! the light hath fled,
The heavens are starless overhead,—
We listen still for thy voice, thy tread.

So cold, so still, this wintertide,                                                     102
Thou sleepest, who wast once their guide,—
Thy crook lies broken at thy side.

The cold snow falls, the shrill winds cry,
The flocks are scatter’d, they droop and die,
And there’s never a star in the wintry sky.

Alas! thou dost not see or hear!
In the frozen sheepfold, Shepherd dear,
Thou sleepest on, while we weep in fear.

Shepherd, Shepherd, the winds blow cold!
’Tis dark, so dark, on the wintry wold,—
Waken, and gather thy flocks to fold.



The Ballad of Mary the Mother continued

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