Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IV. The Higher Life
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IV. The Higher Life.  1904.
I. The Divine Element—(God, Christ, the Holy Spirit)
The Flight into Egypt
Francis Sylvester Mahony (Father Prout) (1804–1866)
A Ballad

THERE ’s a legend that ’s told of a gypsy who dwelt
  In the lands where the pyramids be;
And her robe was embroidered with stars, and her belt
  With devices right wondrous to see;
And she lived in the days when our Lord was a child        5
  On his mother’s immaculate breast;
When he fled from his foes,—when to Egypt exiled,
  He went down with Saint Joseph the blest.
This Egyptian held converse with magic, methinks,
  And the future was given to her gaze;        10
For an obelisk marked her abode, and a sphinx
  On her threshold kept vigil always.
She was pensive and ever alone, nor was seen
  In the haunts of the dissolute crowd;
But communed with the ghosts of the Pharaohs, I ween,        15
  Or with visitors wrapped in a shroud.
And there came an old man from the desert one day,
  With a maid on a mule by that road;
And a child on her bosom reclined, and the way
  Let them straight to the gypsy’s abode;        20
And they seemed to have travelled a wearisome path,
  From thence many, many a league,—
From a tyrant’s pursuit, from an enemy’s wrath,
  Spent with toil and o’ercome with fatigue.
And the gypsy came forth from her dwelling, and prayed        25
  That the pilgrims would rest them awhile;
And she offered her couch to that delicate maid,
  Who had come many, many a mile.
And she fondled the babe with affection’s caress,
  And she begged the old man would repose;        30
“Here the stranger,” she said, “ever finds free access,
  And the wanderer balm for his woes.”
Then her guests from the glare of the noonday she led
  To a seat in her grotto so cool;
Where she spread them a banquet of fruits, and a shed,        35
  With a manger, was found for the mule;
With the wine of the palm-tree, with dates newly culled,
  All the toil of the day she beguiled;
And with song in a language mysterious she lulled
  On her bosom the wayfaring child.        40
When the gypsy anon in her Ethiop hand
  Took the infant’s diminutive palm,
O, ’t was fearful to see how the features she scanned
  Of the babe in his slumbers so calm!
Well she noted each mark and each furrow that crossed        45
  O’er the tracings of destiny’s line:
“WHENCE CAME YE?” she cried, in astonishment lost,
“From the village of Nazareth,” Joseph replied,
  “Where we dwelt in the land of the Jew,        50
We have fled from a tyrant whose garment is dyed
  In the gore of the children he slew:
We were told to remain till an angel’s command
  Should appoint us the hour to return;
But till then we inhabit the foreigners’ land,        55
  And in Egypt we make our sojourn.”
“Then ye tarry with me,” cried the gypsy in joy,
  “And ye make of my dwelling your home;
Many years have I prayed that the Israelite boy
  (Blessèd hope of the Gentiles!) would come.”        60
And she kissed both the feet of the infant and knelt,
  And adored him at once; then a smile
Lit the face of his mother, who cheerfully dwelt
  With her host on the bank of the Nile.

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