“For this,” he said, “is the white
house of prayer,
Where day and night the holy voices rise
Through the chill trouble of our earthly air,
And enter at the gate of Paradise.
Trample no more our flower-fields in such wise,
Nor crave the alms of our deep-laden bough;
The prayers of holy men are alms enough, I trow.”
So, seeing that no sick or sorrowing folk
Came ever to be healed or comforted,
The Abbot to his brothers gladly spoke:
“God has accepted our poor prayers,” he said;
“Over our land His answering smile is spread.
He has put forth His strong and loving hand,
And sorrow and sin and pain have ceased in all the land.
“So make we yet more rich our hymns of praise,
Warm we our prayers against our happy heart.
Since God hath taken the gift of all our days
To make a spell that bids all wrong depart,
Has turned our praise to balm for the world’s smart,
Fulfilled of prayer and praise be every hour,
For God transfigures praise, and transmutes prayer, to power.”
So went the years. The flowers blossomed now
Untrampled by the dusty, weary feet;
Unbroken hung the green and golden bough,
For none came now to ask for fruit or meat,
For ghostly food, or common bread to eat;
And dreaming, praying, the monks were satisfied,
Till, God remembering him, the beggar-porter died.
When they had covered up the foolish head,
And on the foolish loving heart heaped clay,
“Which of us, brothers, now,” the Abbot said,
“Will face the world, to keep the world away?”
But all their hearts were hard with prayer, and “Nay,”
They cried, “ah, bid us not our prayers to leave;
Ah, father, not to-day, for this is Easter Eve”.
And, while they murmured, to their midst there came
A beggar saying, “Brothers, peace, be still!
I am your Brother, in our Father’s name,
And I will be your porter, if ye will,
Guarding your gate with what I have of skill”.
So all they welcomed him and closed the door,
And gat them gladly back unto their prayers once more.
But, lo! no sooner did the prayer arise,
A golden flame athwart the chancel dim,
Then came the porter crying, “Haste, arise!
A sick old man waits you to tend on him;
And many wait—a knight whose wound gapes grim,
A red-stained man, with red sins to confess,
A mother pale, who brings her child for you to bless”.
The brothers hastened to the gate, and there
With unaccustomed hand and voice they tried
To ease the body’s pain, the spirit’s care;
But ere the task was done, the porter cried:
“Behold, the Lord sets your gate open wide,
For here be starving folk who must be fed,
And little ones that cry for love and daily bread!”
And, with each slow-foot hour, came ever a throng
Of piteous wanderers, sinful folk and sad,
And still the brothers ministered, but long
The day seemed, with no prayer to make them glad;
No holy, meditative joys they had,
No moment’s brooding-place could poor prayer find,
Mid all those heart to heal and all those wounds to bind.