Hail, spotless Virgin! mildest, meekest maid—
Hail! purest Pearl that time’s great sea hath borne—
May our white souls, in purity arrayed,
Shine, as if they thy vestal robes had worn;
Make our hearts pure, as thou thyself art pure,
Make safe the rugged pathway of our lives,
And make us pass to joys that will endure
When the dark term of mortal life arrives.
’Twas thus, in hymns, and prayers, and holy
Day tracking day, and night succeeding night,
Now driven by tempests, now delayed by calms,
Along the sea we winged our varied flight.
Oh! how we longed and pined for sight of land!
Oh! how we sighed for the green pleasant fields!
Compared with the cold waves, the barest strand—
The bleakest rock—a crop of comfort yields.
Sometimes, indeed, when the exhausted gale,
In search of rest, beneath the waves would flee,
Like some poor wretch who, when his strength doth fail,
Sinks in the smooth and unsupporting sea:
Then would the Brothers draw from memory’s store
Some chapter of life’s misery or bliss,
Some trial that some saintly spirit bore,
Or else some tale of passion, such as this:
[The peasants who live near the mouth of the Shannon point to a part of the river within the headlands over which the tides rush with extraordinary rapidity and violence. They say it is the site of a lost city, long buried beneath the waves.—See Hall’s “Ireland,” vol. iii. p. 436.]
Beside that giant stream that foams and swells
Betwixt Hy-Conaill and Moyarta’s shore,
And guards the isle where good Senanus dwells,
A gentle maiden dwelt in days of yore.
She long has passed out of Time’s aching womb,
And breathes Eternity’s favonian air;
Yet fond Tradition lingers o’er her tomb,
And paints her glorious features as they were:—
Her smile was Eden’s pure and stainless light,
Which never cloud nor earthly vapour mars;
Her lustrous eyes were like the noon of night—
Black, but yet brightened by a thousand stars;
Her tender form, moulded in modest grace,
Shrank from the gazer’s eye, and moved apart;
Heaven shone reflected in her angel face,
And God reposed within her virgin heart.
She dwelt in green Moyarta’s pleasant land,
Beneath the graceful hills of Clonderlaw,—
Sweet sunny hills, whose triple summits stand,
One vast tiara over stream and shaw.
Almost in solitude the maiden grew,
And reached her early budding woman’s prime;
And all so noiselessly the swift time flew,
She knew not of the name or flight of Time.
And thus, within her modest mountain nest,
This gentle maiden nestled like a dove,
Offering to God from her pure innocent breast
The sweet and silent incense of her love.
No selfish feeling nor presumptuous pride
In her calm bosom waged unnatural strife;
Saint of her home and hearth, she sanctified
The thousand trivial common cares of life.