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 Epilogue from ‘Nerto’
By Frédéric Mistral (1830–1914)
From the Atlantic Monthly: Translation of Harriet Waters Preston

IF haply some day, reader bland,
Thou voyagest through St. Gabriel’s land,
Caring for aught that might avail
To prove the truth of this my tale,
There in the levels fair with corn        5
Thou shalt behold my nun forlorn,
Bearing upon her marble brow
Lucifer’s lightning mark. But now,
Mute as a milestone. All these years
The murmur of budding life she hears;        10
And the white snails for coolness hide
Her rigid vesture folds inside,
Mint-perfumed; while about her feet
The shadow turns, the seasons fleet,
And everything beneath the sun        15
Changes, except the lonely nun.
Mute, said I? nay, the whisper goes
That here, when high midsummer glows,
There breathes at noon a dulcet tone.
Lay then thine ear against the stone,        20
And if thou hearest aught at all,
’Twill be the hymn angelical.
St. Gabriel hath, not far away,
An ancient, small basilica;
Sorrowful, as it would appear,        25
Because for now so many a year
No Christian footstep thither goes;
But there the guardian olive grows,
And in the archivolt of the door,
St. Gabriel—kneeling as of yore—        30
Says Ave to Our Lady, while
The snaky author of all guile,
Twining around the knowledge-tree,
Lures from their primal innocency
Adam and Eve. A silent place:        35
The careless hind upon his ways
Mayhap salutes the Queen Divine,
But sets no candle at her shrine.
Only the blessed plants of God,
Among the court-yard stones untrod,        40
In fissures of the massy wall,
Between the roof tiles, over all
Take root and beauteously bloom,
And in the heat their wild perfume
Rises like altar incense. There        45
God’s tiny living creatures fare;
Flutter the chickens of St. John;
Butterflies light and waver on;
Among the grass blades, mute and lean
The mantis kneels; the rifts between        50
Of the high roof-ridge, hides the bee
His honey hoard right busily;
’Neath gauzy wings, the livelong day
The innocent cicadas play
One only silver tune;—and these        55
Are as the parish families
Who throng the door, and tread the choir
Evermore gilt by sunshine. Higher
In window niches, with the wind
For organ bass, the sparrows find        60
Their place, and emulously swell
The lauds of that good Gabriel
Who saves them from the hawk. And I,
Maillano’s minstrel, passing by
Thy widowed church, this very day,        65
Did enter in, and softly lay—
O Gabriel of Tarascon!—
Upon thy altar this my song:
A simple tale, new come to light,
And only with thy glory bright.        70

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