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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Missal
By Sully Prudhomme (René François Armand Prudhomme) (1839–1907)
 
Translation of E. and R. E. Prothero

A MISSAL of the first King Francis’s reign,
Rusted by years, with many a yellow stain,
  And blazons worn, by pious fingers prest,—
Within whose leaves, enshrined in silver rare
  By some old goldsmith’s art in glory drest,        5
Speaking his boldness and his loving care,
      This faded flower found rest.
 
How very old it is! you plainly mark
Upon the page its sap in tracery dark.
  “Perhaps three hundred years?” What need be said?        10
It has but lost one shade of crimson dye;
  Before its death it might have seen that flown:
Needs naught save wing of wandering butterfly
      To touch the bloom—’tis gone.
 
It has not lost one fibre from its heart,        15
Nor seen one jewel from its crown depart;
  The page still wrinkles where the dew once dried,
When that last morn was sad with other weeping;
  Death would not kill,—only to kiss it tried,
In loving guise above its brightness creeping,        20
      Nor blighted as it died.
 
A sweet but mournful scent is o’er me stealing,
As when with memory wakes long-buried feeling;
That scent from the closed casket slow ascending
  Tells of long years o’er that strange herbal sped.        25
Our bygone things have still some perfume blending,
  And our lost loves are paths, where roses’ bloom,
      Sweet e’en in death, is shed.
 
At eve, when faint and sombre grows the air,
Perchance a lambent heart may flicker there,        30
  Seeking an entrance to the book to find;
And when the Angelus strikes on the sky,
  Praying some hand may that one page unbind,
Where all his love and homage lie,—
      The flower that told his mind.        35
 
Take comfort, knight, who rode to Pavia’s plain
But ne’er returned to woo your love again;
  Or you, young page, whose heart rose up on high
To Mary and thy dame in mingled prayer!
  This flower which died beneath some unknown eye        40
Three hundred years ago,—you placed it there,
      And there it still shall lie.
 
 
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