The Prophecy Of St. Oran: Part II

Mathilde Blind 1841 (Mannheim) – 1896 (London)

I.
THERE was a windless mere, on whose smooth breast
A little island, flushed with purple bloom,
Lay gently cradled like a moorhen's nest:
It glowed like some rich jewel 'mid the gloom
Of sluggish leagues of peat and black morass,
Without or shrub or tree or blade of grass.

II.
But on the isle itself the birch was seen
With its ethereal foliage, like some haze
Floating among the rowan's vivid green;
The ground with fern all feathered, and ablaze
With heath's and harebell's hyacinthine hue,
Was mirrored in the wave's intenser blue.

III.
This was the immemorial isle of graves,
Here, under nameless mound and dateless stone,
The generations, like successive waves,
Had rolled one o'er the other, and had gone
As these go, indistinguishably fused
Their separate lives in common death confused.

IV.
And here amid the dead Columba chose
To found God's holy house and sow His word;
Already here and there the walls arose,
Built from the stones imbedded in the sward;
These did the natives without mortar pile,
As was the ancient custom of their isle.

V.
For many of them to the work were won
By reverence for the saint, and thus apace
The chapel grew which they had first begun
As dedicate to God's perpetual praise;
So many of the monks again were free
To give thought wholly to their ministry.

VI.
And ever first in hastening to his task
St. Oran was, though last to seek repose;
Columba's best beloved, he still would ask
For heaviest share of duty, while he chose
Rude penances, till shadow-like he grew
With fasts and vigils that the flesh subdue.

VII.
Yet there was that which would not be subdued--
A shape, a presence haunting every dream;
Fair as the moon that shines above a flood,
And ever trembles on the trembling stream;
Sweet as some gust of fragrance, unaware
Stealing upon us on the summer air.

VIII.
Even so it stole upon his ravished heart,
Suffusing every fibre with delight,
Till from his troubled slumber he would start,
And, as with ague shivering and affright,
Catch broken speech low murmuring in his ears,
And feel his eyelids ache with unshed tears.

IX.
But it befell one windy afternoon,
While monks and men were busied with the roof,
Laying the beams through which the sun and moon
Might shed their light as yet without reproof,
That there came one across the lonely waste
Toward these men of God, crying in haste,--

X.
'Ye say ye came to save us, save us then!
Save us if ye spake truth, and not a lie!
Famine and fever stalk among us,--men,
Women, and children are struck down and die!
For lo, the murrain smites our cowering sheep,
The fishers haul no fish from out the deep.

XI.
'Ye tell us that your God did multiply
A few small fishes, wherewithal He fed
A multitude; in sooth, if 'tis no lie,
Then come, ye holy men, and give us bread!
For they are starving by the waterside,--
Come then, and give us bread,' he loudly cried.

XII.
He was a man inspiring dread surprise,
Half-naked, with long glibs of bristling hair
In fiery meshes tumbling o'er his eyes,
Which, like a famished wolf's from out its lair,
Glanced restlessly; his dog behind him came,
Whose lolling tongue hung down like scarlet flame.

XIII.
'Let me arise, and go to them withal!'
Cried Oran, flinging down his implement:
'This heavy tribulation is a call
From the Most High; a blessed instrument
To compass their salvation: let me go
Teach them what mercy worketh in their woe.'

XIV.
'Go then, my son, and God go with thee still,
While I abide to speed His temple here,'
Said St. Columba; 'and thy basket fill
With herbs and cordials, also wine to cheer
And bread to feed the poor, so that their days
May still endure to God's eternal praise.'

XV.
Then Oran and that wild man forth did fare,
And o'er the little lake they rowed in haste,
And mounting each a small and shaggy mare,
They ambled o'er that solitary waste,
Then through a sterile glen their road did lie
Whose shrouded peaks loomed awfully on high.

XVI.
When for a mile or two they thus had gone,
The mountains opened wide on either hand,
And lo, amid those labyrinths of stone
The sea had got entangled in the land,
And turned and twisted, struggling to get free,
And be once more the immeasurable sea.

XVII.
It was a sorcerous, elemental place,
O'er which there now came r
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Mathilde Blind

Mathilde Blind, was a German-born British poet. Her work was praised by Matthew Arnold and French politician and historian Louis Blanc. more…

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