Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
December 13
The Martyrdom of St. Lucy
By John Mason Neale (1818–1866)
St. Lucy’s Day, Dec. 13

WE watched, as she lingered all the day
  Beneath the torturer’s skill;
And we prayed that the spirit might pass away,
  And the weary frame be still.
’Twas a long, sharp struggle from darkness to light,        5
  And the pain waxed fierce and sore,
But she, we knew, in her latest fight,
  Would be more than conqueror.
Oh, what a change had the prison wrought
  Since we gazed upon her last,        10
And mournful the lessons her thin frame taught
  Of the sufferings she had passed.
Of pain and sickness, not of fear,
  There was courage in her eye,
As she entered the amphitheatre        15
  As to triumph, and not to die!
And once, when we could not bear to see
  Her sufferings, and turned the head,
“His rod and His staff they comfort me,”
  The virgin martyr said.        20
It was at the setting of the sun,
  And her voice waxed faint and low,
And we knew that her race was well nigh run,
  And her time drew near to go.
We could almost deem the clouds that rolled        25
  In the ruddy sun’s decline,
To be chariots of fire and horses of gold
  On the steep of Mount Aventine:
Yea, guardian angels bent their way
  From their own skies’ cloudlets blue,        30
And a triumph more glorious was thine to-day
  Than ever the Cæsar knew!
We lay thee here in the narrow cell
  Where thy friends and brethren sleep;
And we carve the palm of thy lot to tell,        35
  And we do not dare to weep.
Hopefully wait we God’s holy time
  That shall call us to share thy rest,
Till then, we must dwell in an alien clime,
  While thou art in Abraham’s breast.        40

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