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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Epilogue from ‘Nerto’

By Frédéric Mistral (1830–1914)

From the Atlantic Monthly: Translation of Harriet Waters Preston

IF haply some day, reader bland,

Thou voyagest through St. Gabriel’s land,

Caring for aught that might avail

To prove the truth of this my tale,

There in the levels fair with corn

Thou shalt behold my nun forlorn,

Bearing upon her marble brow

Lucifer’s lightning mark. But now,

Mute as a milestone. All these years

The murmur of budding life she hears;

And the white snails for coolness hide

Her rigid vesture folds inside,

Mint-perfumed; while about her feet

The shadow turns, the seasons fleet,

And everything beneath the sun

Changes, except the lonely nun.

Mute, said I? nay, the whisper goes

That here, when high midsummer glows,

There breathes at noon a dulcet tone.

Lay then thine ear against the stone,

And if thou hearest aught at all,

’Twill be the hymn angelical.

St. Gabriel hath, not far away,

An ancient, small basilica;

Sorrowful, as it would appear,

Because for now so many a year

No Christian footstep thither goes;

But there the guardian olive grows,

And in the archivolt of the door,

St. Gabriel—kneeling as of yore—

Says Ave to Our Lady, while

The snaky author of all guile,

Twining around the knowledge-tree,

Lures from their primal innocency

Adam and Eve. A silent place:

The careless hind upon his ways

Mayhap salutes the Queen Divine,

But sets no candle at her shrine.

Only the blessed plants of God,

Among the court-yard stones untrod,

In fissures of the massy wall,

Between the roof tiles, over all

Take root and beauteously bloom,

And in the heat their wild perfume

Rises like altar incense. There

God’s tiny living creatures fare;

Flutter the chickens of St. John;

Butterflies light and waver on;

Among the grass blades, mute and lean

The mantis kneels; the rifts between

Of the high roof-ridge, hides the bee

His honey hoard right busily;

’Neath gauzy wings, the livelong day

The innocent cicadas play

One only silver tune;—and these

Are as the parish families

Who throng the door, and tread the choir

Evermore gilt by sunshine. Higher

In window niches, with the wind

For organ bass, the sparrows find

Their place, and emulously swell

The lauds of that good Gabriel

Who saves them from the hawk. And I,

Maillano’s minstrel, passing by

Thy widowed church, this very day,

Did enter in, and softly lay—

O Gabriel of Tarascon!—

Upon thy altar this my song:

A simple tale, new come to light,

And only with thy glory bright.