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THE EVE OF ST. AGNES.
St. AGNES' EVE—Ah, bitter chill it was!
grass, And silent was the flock in woolly fold : Numb were the Beadsman's fingers while he
told His rosary, and while his frosted breath, Like pious incense from a censer old,
Seem'd taking flight for heaven without a death, Past the sweet Virgin's picture, while his prayer
His prayer he saith, this patient, holy man; Then takes his lamp, and riseth from his
knees, And back returneth, meagre, barefoot, wan, Along the chapel aisle by slow degrees :
The sculptured dead, on each side seem to
freeze, Emprison’d in black, purgatorial rails : Knights, ladies, praying in dumb orat’ries,
He passeth by; and his weak spirit fails To think how they may ache in icy hoods and
Northward he turneth through a little door,
way he went, and soon among Rough ashes sat he for his soul's reprieve, And all night kept awake, for sinner's sake to
That ancient Beadsman heard the prelude soft ;
their heads the cornice rests, With hair blown back, and wings put cross-wise
on their breasts.
At length burst in the argent revelry,
These let us wish away,
On love, and wing’d St. Agnes’ saintly care, As she had heard old dames full many times declare.
They told her how, upon St. Agnes' Eve,
Nor look behind, nor sideways, but require
Full of this whim was thoughtful Madeline : h. The music, yearning like a God in pain,
She scarcely heard : her maiden eyes divine,
But she saw not: her heart was otherwhere ; She sigh’d for Agnes' dreams, the sweetest of the
She danced along with vague, regardless eyes,
Amid the timbrels, and the throng'd resort h Of whisperers in anger, or in sport ;
'Mid looks of love, defiance, hate, and scorn,
Save to St. Agnes and her lambs unshorn,
So, purposing each moment to retire,
That he might gaze and worship all unseen ; Perchance speak, kneel, touch, kiss-in sooth
such things have been.