Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Aliscamp
By Frédéric Mistral (1830–1914)
From ‘Nerto,’ in the Atlantic Monthly: Translation of Harriet Waters Preston

FAR below Arles in those old days
Spread that miraculous burial-place,
The Aliscamp of history,
With legend fraught, and mystery,
All full of tombs and chapels thrust,        5
And hilly with heaps of human dust.
This is the legend ever told:—
When good St. Trophimus of old
The ground would consecrate, not one
Of all the congregation        10
Of fathers met, so meek they were,
Dared sprinkle the holy water there.
Then, ringed about with cloud and flame
Of angels, out of heaven came
Our Lord himself to bless the spot,        15
And left—if the tale erreth not—
The impress of his bended knee
Rock-graven. Howso this may be,
Full oft a swarm of angels white
Bends hither, on a tranquil night,        20
Singing celestial harmonies.
Wherefore the spot so holy is,
No man would slumber otherwhere;
But hither kings and priests repair,
And here earth’s poor; and every one        25
Hath here his deep-wrought funeral stone
Or pinch of dust from Palestine:
The powers of hell in vain combine
’Gainst happy folk in slumber found
Under the cross, in that old ground.        30
And all along the river clear,
With silver laid upon the bier
For burial fees, men launched and sped
Upon the wave their kinsfolk dead
Who longed in Aliscamp to lie;        35
Then, as the coffins floated by,
Balancing on the waters bright,
All sailors turned them at the sight,
And helped the little skiffs ashore,
And signed the cross the sleepers o’er,        40
And kneeling under the willow-trees,
Piously prayed for their souls’ peace.

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