A First Series of Hymns and Songs/Sacred Songs/St. Agnes
25. St. Agnes.
When Pagans warr'd against the Cross,
And rudely braved the Saviour's power,
Array'd in smiling innocence,
There bloom'd in Rome a lily flower.
With fair round cheek and laughing eye,
In artless sweet simplicity,
Along the crowded streets of Rome
See little Agnes passes by.
And round her is a merry troop
Of schoolmates gay, returning home
Ah, little know those guileless hearts
How soon an evil day may come!
How soon that Saviour's name of love,
So sweet to their young infancy,
May claim of them their heart's best blood,
In throes of mortal agony.
For oft as through the busy street
Sweet Agnes pass'd in maiden pride,
A noble youth observ'd the child.
And sought to gain her for his bride.
Ah, reckless suitor, wonldst thou seize
A gem that not to thee is giv'n;
So sweet a flower blooms not for earth,
It ripens for its home in heaven.
Ah, canst thou think the tribunes' hall,
The lictor's axe, the torturer's art,
The gloating crowd,—that these are things
To win a gentle maiden's heart?
The prætor speaks, the doom is giv'n,—
Of maiden honour what reck they?
The gentle Agnes forth is led
To the dread place of infamy.
Yet, ruthless spoiler, come not nigh,
An eye unseen is watching here;
Beware yon angel's outstretch'd arm,
With sword of vengeance glistening near.
Hush'd is the crowd, in still suspense
They gaze, they strain their eager eyes.
The hour is come—the axe has gleam'd,
The snow-white lily falls and dies.
Yet, ere the veil of sense is rent,
And ere life's blood has ceas'd to flow,
A vision sweet of heavenly joy
Is sent to soothe the suff'rer's wo.
A bright and festive angel band
Has watch'd the dying maiden's love,
And gently bear her in their arms
To blissful seats of light above.
Then, sweetest Agnes, now in bliss,
Look down and hear thy children's prayer
From heaven above, oh, shew to us
A mother's love, a sister's care.
And ask, O gentle Patroness,
That all the youthful company
Of those who love thee here below
May find their home in heaven with that.