James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

January 5

St. Simeon Stylites

By Enrico Nencione (1837–1896)

  • A Syrian ascetic who passed the last thirty years of his life on a pillar near Antioch, and died Jan. 5, 459, A.D.

  • ON the white head of the old man divine

    The sun in torrents falls—the August sun—

    In the fields the yellow grasses smoke with heat:

    He from his place upon the pillar’s height

    A living statute stands, an iron form,

    Yet animated by the breath of God.

    In Sagittarius is the sun. From heaven

    Upon the desolate earth, naked and bare

    Like some poor mendicant’s hand, in large white flakes

    Falls the abundant snow. All things that breathe

    Seek shelter, and the polar bear alone

    Wanders—yet still upon the column’s height

    The sacred figure of the old man stands.

    Now in the unending rain each field becomes

    A lake, and every furrow is a stream.

    From the monotonous grey sky pour down,

    Continuous, the waters obstinate.

    Drenched, like a solitary tree aloft

    Still on the fatal column dost thou stand,

    O King of Saints and Martyrs Simeon.

    O Saint, I tremble at the thought of thee.

    And well I deem the Sun, and all the stars,

    And wandering birds who now for forty years

    Have contemplated in the fields of air

    Thy meagre profile pale, and all the winds

    Who shook in storms thy venerable beard,

    White, hoary like the foam o’ the sea, and all

    Nature, have trembled as they looked on thee.