Verse > Anthologies > Alfred H. Miles, ed. > Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century
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Alfred H. Miles, ed.  Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century.  1907.
 
Legends and Lyrics.
III. The Story of the Faithful Soul
By Adelaide Anne Procter (1825–1864)
 
Founded on an Old French Legend

THE FETTERED Spirits linger
  In purgatorial pain,
With penal fires effacing
  Their last faint earthly stain,
Which Life’s imperfect sorrow        5
  Had tried to cleanse in vain.
 
Yet, on each feast of Mary
  Their sorrow finds release,
For the Great Archangel Michael
  Comes down and bids it cease;        10
And the name of these brief respites
  Is called “Our Lady’s Peace.”
 
Yet once—so runs the Legend—
  When the Archangel came
And all these holy spirits        15
  Rejoiced at Mary’s name;
One voice alone was wailing,
  Still wailing on the same.
 
And though a great Te Deum
  The happy echoes woke,        20
This one discordant wailing
  Through the sweet voices broke;
So when St. Michael questioned,
  Thus the poor spirit spoke:—
 
“I am not cold or thankless,        25
  Although I still complain;
I prize our Lady’s blessing
  Although it comes in vain
To still my bitter anguish,
  Or quench my ceaseless pain.        30
 
“On earth a heart that loved me,
  Still lives and mourns me there,
And the shadow of his anguish
  Is more than I can bear;
All the torment that I suffer        35
  Is the thought of his despair.
 
“The evening of my bridal
  Death took my Life away;
Not all Love’s passionate pleading
  Could gain an hour’s delay.        40
And he I left has suffered
  A whole year since that day.
 
“If I could only see him,—
  If I could only go
And speak one word of comfort        45
  And solace,—then, I know
He would endure with patience,
  And strive against his woe.”
 
Thus the Archangel answered:—
  “Your time of pain is brief,        50
And soon the peace of Heaven
  Will give you full relief;
Yet if his earthly comfort
  So much outweighs your grief,
 
“Then through a special mercy        55
  I offer you this grace,—
You may seek him who mourns you,
  And look upon his face,
And speak to him of comfort
  For one short minute’s space.        60
 
“But when that time is ended,
  Return here, and remain
A thousand years in torment,
  A thousand years in pain:
Thus dearly must you purchase        65
  The comfort he will gain.”
*        *        *        *        *
The Lime-trees’ shade at evening
  Is spreading broad and wide;
Beneath their fragrant arches,
  Pace slowly, side by side,        70
In low and tender converse,
  A Bridegroom and his Bride.
 
The night is calm and stilly,
  No other sound is there
Except their happy voices:        75
  What is that cold bleak air
That passes through the Lime-trees
  And stirs the Bridegroom’s hair?
 
While one low cry of anguish,
  Like the last dying wail        80
Of some dumb, hunted creature,
  Is borne upon the gale:—
Why does the Bridegroom shudder
  And turn so deathly pale?
*        *        *        *        *
Near Purgatory’s entrance        85
  The radiant Angels wait;
It was the great St. Michael
  Who closed that gloomy gate,
When the poor wandering spirit
  Came back to meet her fate.        90
 
“Pass on,” thus spoke the Angel;
  “Heaven’s joy is deep and vast;
Pass on, pass on, poor Spirit,
  For Heaven is yours at last;
In that one minute’s anguish        95
  Your thousand years have passed.”
 
 
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