Brother Filippo

Ring on! Oh endless vesper bell!
What can you know of that deep Hell
Upon this Earth, where men may dwell.

Ring on ! Your calling is in vain,
What holy rite can lull the pain
Of mortal Sin's Immortal stain.
* * * *
It was the heavy hour of noon,
When Nature still as in a swoon
Reclines beneath the spell of June.

I left the Monastery gate,
And sought the forest shade, to wait
For even hour, and meditate.

Upon the beads hung from my side
A silver Christus crucified.
God mocked, and scourged, and denied !

My missal in my hand I took,
And read within the Holy Book
How vain the joys a monk forsook.

I thought of Heaven, and all therein
I hoped by penitence to win;
My heart was free from mortal sin.

When lo ! as of enchanted spheres
A languid music smote my ears,
With vast delight, and vaster fears.

It was as if all deadly wrong
Grown honied sweet in magic song
Caressed my senses, deep and long.

My eyes upon the missal bent
Sprang upward, and in ravishment
Beheld a gaze on me intent.

The figure of a tender maid,
Within the larches' trembling glade
Clothed in sunlight and in shade—

Was bending o'er me, and her breast
Full worthy of a King's behest
She offered, that my head might rest.

She was most pale, and frail, and white,
Like moonlit mist on Summer's night,
Like memory of wan delight.

And thro' the tendrils of her hair
There blew a breath of scented air,
Of all sweet things from everywhere.

A limpid magic were her eyes,
Two mountain lakes, where sunlight lies
Enamoured, and of passion dies.

From out her lips proceeded words
More soft than distant pipe of herds,
More tender than the song of birds.

I know not what the tongue she spake,
But all my senses leapt to ache
With longing, for her asking's sake.

As in a dream I rose and pressed
Her bending slimness to my breast:
With eager kiss my mouth caressed

The flaming redness of her own,
All else on earth had nothing grown,
Save that we two were there alone.

Within my ears the rush of streams,
My vision shot with lurid gleams,
My spirit bathed in burning dreams!

A vital fragrance round her clung,
As if from earth's deep veins was wrung
The sap of springs for ever young.

It turned my blood to living fire,
The universe immense, entire,
Was bound in me, and my desire.

No mortal man was I, while still
I kissed and wreaked my ardent will
Upon that form of tender ill.

She cast her magic over me,
Her spell of Immortality,
That lost my soul Eternity.

The sunlight faded, and the day
As one affrighted fled away,
Suddenly tremulous and gray.

An icy wind sprang up, and blew
A shuddering breath along the dew,
It chilled my body thro' and thro'.

I sought the shelter of her hair,
But lo ! my sinful breast was bare,
My arms outstretched to empty air.

I wept aloud, in anguish cried,
The echoes hastened to deride !
She came no longer to my side.

And in her stead, with agony
Of dumb regret, most bitterly
My soul came forth, and looked on me !
* * * *
Within the forest's depth a bird
Began to twitter, and I heard
Trees stirring at its tender word.

I woke as from a searing dream,
Beside my feet a little stream
Grew rosy with a sunset beam.

The earth gave forth her fragrant store;
Obedient to Eternal law,
All things were even as before,

All things save I, who moaned, and stood
A stranger, in the tranquil wood.
My spirit shrank away, nor could

Refresh itself at Nature's breast,
Its lips were burnt, denied, caressed
Of sin, unholy and unblessed !

I knew it then ! fulfilled desires
Are in themselves Hell's deepest fires,
And man when highest he aspires

The more may fall beneath his lust.
And yet, ah ! Heaven, the while I thrust
My sense in penitential dust

I knew that thro' my misery
A tremor stole persistently,
Of rapture at her memory.

Shall I confess with spirit bent
That hour of awful ravishment?
Dear God, but slwuld I not repent'?

'Twere better that we two should die
A thousand deaths, my soul and I,
Than live an everlasting lie !

Oh soul ! What would you have me say,
To Him whose hand shall never stay-
Its vengeance on this woeful day !
* * * *
Ring on ! oh endless vesper bell !
What can you know of that deep Hell
Upon this earth where men may dwell,
And God, does He know? Who can tell

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