O Mary maiden, Christe’s Mother free,
Fair flower of womanhood, fountain of grace,
Look down upon us. Come and hallow me
Thy humble slave, who worship in this place.
Through thee did God intend mankind to save,
Through thee, and through thy stainless purity
God’s Son has rent the tomb, and burst the grave
For those that worship thee in sanctity.
O Mary Mother, for thine own true love,
And for the love thy Child to mankind bore,
And by the Holy Spirit, heavenly dove,
And by the saints that tread the golden floor,
Give me thy grace, and mercy to increase
In all good works until my life shall cease.
Of St. Cecilia will I now the name,
Ere I my story tell, the sense expound.
In English, “heaven’s lily” we may claim
The true equivalent, for in her abound,
As in a lily flower, the white of grace,
The green of conscience, and the savour sweet
Of holiness. Yet in another place
“Wanting in blindness” they the same repeat.
Or yet another meaning they discern,
And “heaven of peoples” is the sense they find—
Since, as towards the stars poor travellers turn
For guidance, so towards her turns mankind.
THE SECOND NUN’S TALE
THE TALE OF THE LIFE OF ST. CECILIA
From childhood was this maiden fair and bright,
In all the love of Christ instructed well,
And lived in holiness in Heaven’s sight,
Till as she grew in age it now befell
That she must wed as other maidens use,
Nor might she through unwillingness refuse.
But God’s high purpose had she to fulfil;
Through her and her sweet teaching was her mate,
Valerian, to knowledge brought, until
Baptised by holy Urban, recreate
Through Heaven’s grace, he power had to see
A holy angel, sent by Heaven’s decree.
The angel stood arrayed in shining light,
Bearing two wreaths, of rose and lilies made,
And said, “Though these are hid from all men’s sight,
Yet on your heads these flowers shall never fade,
But shed their savour round you every hour.
Decay and death shall o’er them have no power.”
Next, to their faith, Tiberius they won,
Valerian’s brother, dearest to his heart.
In him also the works of faith were done,
Nor need they ever more asunder part,
But all the three, their minds and souls address
To do God’s will in joyful business.
Not long from martyrs is the tyrant’s hand
Withheld, not long in peace may virtue bide,
For false Almachius with an armed band
Had seized the brothers, dragged them to his side
That they might incense burn to idols there,
Or else their lives he swore he would not spare.