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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Norman Gale b. 1862

A Priest

NATURE and he went ever hand in hand

Across the hills and down the lonely lane;

They captured starry shells upon the strand

And lay enchanted by the musing main.

So She, who loved him for his love of her,

Made him the heir to traceries and signs

On tiny children nigh too small to stir

In great green plains of hazel leaf or vines.

She taught the trouble of the nightingale;

Revealed the velvet secret of the rose;

She breathed divinity into his heart,

That rare divinity of watching those

Slow growths that make a nettle learn to dart

The puny poison of its little throes.

Her miracles motion, butterflies,

Rubies and sapphires skimming lily-crests,

Carved on a yellow petal with their eye

Tranced by the beauty of their powdered breasts,

Seen in the mirror of a drop of dew,

He loved as friends and as a friend he knew.

The dust of gold and scarlet underwings

More precious was to him than nuggets torn

From all invaded treasure-crypts of time,

And every floating, painted, silver beam

Drew him to roses where it stayed to dream,

Or down sweet avenues of scented lime.

And Nature trained him tenderly to know

The rain of melodies in coverts heard.

Let him but catch the cadences that flow

From hollybush or lilac, elm or sloe,

And he would mate the music with the bird.

The faintest song a redstart ever sang

Was redstart’s piping, and the whitethroat knew

No cunning trill, no mazy shake that rang

Doubtful on ears unaided by the view.

But in his glory, as a young pure priest

In that great temple, only roofed by stars,

An angel hastened from the sacred East

To reap the wisest and to leave the least.

And as he moaned upon the couch of death,

Breathing away his little share of breath,

All suddenly he sprang upright in bed!

Life, like a ray, poured fresh into his face,

Flooding the hollow cheeks with passing grace.

He listened long, then pointed up above;

Laughed a low laugh of boundless joy and love—

That was a plover called he softly said,

And on his wife’s breast fell, serenely dead!