Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
January 5
St. Simeon Stylites
By Enrico Nencione (1837–1896)
          A Syrian ascetic who passed the last thirty years of his life on a pillar near Antioch, and died Jan. 5, 459, A.D.

ON the white head of the old man divine
The sun in torrents falls—the August sun—
In the fields the yellow grasses smoke with heat:
He from his place upon the pillar’s height
A living statute stands, an iron form,        5
Yet animated by the breath of God.
In Sagittarius is the sun. From heaven
Upon the desolate earth, naked and bare
Like some poor mendicant’s hand, in large white flakes
Falls the abundant snow. All things that breathe        10
Seek shelter, and the polar bear alone
Wanders—yet still upon the column’s height
The sacred figure of the old man stands.
Now in the unending rain each field becomes
A lake, and every furrow is a stream.        15
From the monotonous grey sky pour down,
Continuous, the waters obstinate.
Drenched, like a solitary tree aloft
Still on the fatal column dost thou stand,
O King of Saints and Martyrs Simeon.        20
O Saint, I tremble at the thought of thee.
And well I deem the Sun, and all the stars,
And wandering birds who now for forty years
Have contemplated in the fields of air
Thy meagre profile pale, and all the winds        25
Who shook in storms thy venerable beard,
White, hoary like the foam o’ the sea, and all
Nature, have trembled as they looked on thee.

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