The priests stood waiting in the holy place,
Impatient of delay
(Isaiah had been read),
When sudden up the aisle there came a face
Like a lost sun’s ray;
And the child was led
By Joachim and Anna. Rays of grace
Shone all about the child;
Simeon looked on, and bowed his aged head —
Looked on the child, and smiled.
Low were the words of Joachim. He spake
In a tremulous way,
As if he were afraid,
Or as if his heart were just about to break,
And knew not what to say;
And low he bowed his head —
While Anna wept the while — he, sobbing, said:
“Priests of the holy temple, will you take
Into your care our child?”
And Simeon, listening, prayed, and strangely smiled.
A silence for a moment fell on all;
They gazed in mute surprise,
Not knowing what to say,
Till Simeon spake: “Child, hast thou heaven’s call?”
And the child’s wondrous eyes
(Each look a lost sun’s ray)
Turned toward the far mysterious wall.
(Did the veil of the temple sway?)
They looked from the curtain to the little child —
Simeon seemed to pray, and strangely smiled.
“Yes; heaven sent me here. Priests, let me in!”
(And the voice was sweet and low.)
“Was it a dream by night?
A voice did call me from this world of sin —
A spirit-voice I know,
An angel pure and bright.
`Leave father, mother,’ said the voice, `and win’;
(I see my angel now)
`The crown of a virgin’s vow.’
I am three summers old — a little child.”
And Simeon seemed to pray the while he smiled.
“Yes, holy priests, our father’s God is great,
And all His mercies sweet!
His angel bade me come —
Come thro’ the temple’s beautiful gate;
He led my heart and feet
To this, my holy home.
He said to me: `Three years your God will wait
Your heart to greet and meet.’
I am three summers old —
I see my angel now —
Brighter his wings than gold —
He knoweth of my vow.”
The priests, in awe, came closer to the child —
She wore an angel’s look — and Simeon smiled.
As if she were the very holy ark,
Simeon placed his hand
On the fair, pure head.
The sun had set, and it was growing dark;
The robed priests did stand
Around the child. He said:
“Unto me, priests, and all ye Levites, hark!
This child is God’s own gift —
Let us our voices lift
In holy praise.” They gazed upon the child
In wonderment — and Simeon prayed and smiled.
And Joachim and Anna went their way —
The little child, she shed
The tenderest human tears.
The priests and Levites lingered still to pray;
And Simeon said:
“We teach the latter years
The night is passing ‘fore the coming day
(Isaiah had been read)
Of our redemption” — and some way the child
Won all their hearts. Simeon prayed and smiled.
That night the temple’s child knelt down to pray
In the shadows of the aisle —
She prayed for you and me.
Why did the temple’s mystic curtain sway?
Why did the shadows smile?
The child of Love’s decree
Had come at last; and ‘neath the night-stars’ gleam
The aged Simeon did see in dream
The mystery of the child,
And in his sleep he murmured prayer — and smiled.
And twelve years after, up the very aisle
Where Simeon had smiled
Upon her fair, pure face,
She came again, with a mother’s smile,
And in her arms a Child,
The very God of grace.
And Simeon took the Infant from her breast,
And, in glad tones and strong,
He sang his glorious song
Of faith, and hope, and everlasting rest.