Songs from the Southern Seas and Other Poems/A Legend of the Blessed Virgin

1670590Songs from the Southern Seas and Other Poems — A Legend of the Blessed Virgin1873John Boyle O'Reilly


[The legend is taken from an old miracle-play of the fifteenth century, a reference to which is to be found in Rev. Mr. Hudson's late excellent book on Shakespeare's Times and Characters. The author had turned the legend into verse before he perceived that it differed essentially from the Scripture narrative, its antiquity misleading him.]

THE day of Joseph's marriage unto Mary,
In thoughtful mood he said unto his wife,
"Behold, I go into a far-off country
To labor for thee, and to make thy life
And home all sweet and peaceful." And the Virgin
Unquestioning beheld her spouse depart:
Then lived she many days of musing gladness,
Not knowing that God's hand was round her heart.

And dreaming thus one day within her chamber,
She wept with speechless bliss, when lo! the face
Of white-winged angel Gabriel rose before her,
And bowing spoke, "Hail! Mary, full of grace,

The Lord is with thee, and among the nations
Forever blessed is thy chosen name."
The angel vanished, and the Lord's high Presence
With untold glory to the Virgin came.

A season passed of joy unknown to mortals,
When Joseph came with what his toil had won,
And broke the brooding ecstasy of Mary,
Whose soul was ever with her promised Son.
But nature's jealous fears encircled Joseph,
And round his heart in darkening doubts held sway.
He looked upon his spouse cold-eyed, and pondered
How he could put her from his sight away.

And once, when moody thus within his garden,
The gentle girl besought for some ripe fruit
That hung beyond her reach, the old man answered.
With face averted, harshly to her suit:
"I will not serve thee, woman! Thou hast wronged me:

I heed no more thy words and actions mild;
If fruit thou wantest, thou canst henceforth ask it
From him, the father of thy unborn child!"

But ere the words had root within her hearing,
The Virgin's face was glorified anew;
And Joseph, turning, sank within her presence,
And knew indeed his wondrous dreams were true.
For there before the sandalled feet of Mary
The kingly tree had bowed its top, and she
Had pulled and eaten from its prostrate branches,
As if unconscious of the mystery.