Women. Alas! sweet saint! By bitter pangs
Her crown of endless glory!
Con. But she wins it!
Stop that vile sobbing! she’s unmanned enough
Without your maudlin sympathy.
Eliz. What? weeping?
Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me—
Weep for yourselves.
Women. We do, alas! we do!
What are we without you? [A pause.]
Woman. Oh, listen, listen!
What sweet sounds from her fast-closed lips are welling,
As from the caverned shaft, deep miners’ songs?
Eliz. [in a low voice]. Through the stifling
Floats strange perfume;
Through the crumbling thatch
The angels watch,
Over the rotting roof-tree.
They warble, and flutter, and hover, and glide,
Wafting old sounds to my dreary bedside,
Snatches of songs which I used to know
When I slept by my nurse, and the swallows
Called me at day-dawn from under the eaves.
Hark to them! Hark to them now—
Fluting like woodlarks, tender and low—
Cool rustling leaves—tinkling waters—
Sheepbells over the lea—
In their silver plumes Eden-gales whisper—
In their hands Eden-lilies—not for me—not for me—
No crown for the poor fond bride!
The song told me so,
Long, long ago,
How the maid chose the white lily;
But the bride she chose
The red red rose,
And by its thorn died she.
Well—in my Father’s house are many mansions—
I have trodden the waste howling ocean-foam,
Till I stand upon Canaan’s shore,
Where Crusaders from Zion’s towers call me home,
To the saints who are gone before.
Con. Still on Crusaders? [Aside.]
Abbess. What was that sweet song, which just
now, my Princess,
You murmured to yourself?
Eliz. Did you not hear
A little bird between me and the wall,
That sang and sang?
Abbess. We heard him not, fair Saint.
Eliz. I heard him, and his merry carol revelled
Through all my brain, and woke my parched throat
To join his song: then angel melodies
Burst through the dull dark, and the mad air quivered
Unutterable music. Nay, you heard him.
Abbess. Nought save yourself.
Eliz. Slow hours! Was that the cock-crow?
Woman. St. Peter’s bird did call.
Eliz. Then I must up—
To matins, and to work—No, my work’s over.
And what is it, what?
One drop of oil on the salt seething ocean!
Thank God, that one was born at this same hour,
Who did our work for us: we’ll talk of Him:
We shall go mad with thinking of ourselves—
We’ll talk of Him, and of that new-made star,
Which, as he stooped into the Virgin’s side,
From off His finger, like a signet-gem,
He dropped in the empyrean for a sign.
But the first tear He shed at this His birth-hour,
When He crept weeping forth to see our woe,
Fled up to Heaven in mist, and hid for ever
Our sins, our works, and that same new-made star.