Last of May By Abram Joseph Ryan

    To the Children of Mary of the Cathedral of Mobile

    In the mystical dim of the temple,
     In the dream-haunted dim of the day,
    The sunlight spoke soft to the shadows,
     And said: “With my gold and your gray,
    Let us meet at the shrine of the Virgin,
     And ere her fair feast pass away,
    Let us weave there a mantle of glory,
     To deck the last evening of May.”

    The tapers were lit on the altar,
     With garlands of lilies between;
    And the steps leading up to the statue
     Flashed bright with the roses’ red sheen;
    The sun-gleams came down from the heavens
     Like angels, to hallow the scene,
    And they seemed to kneel down with the shadows
     That crept to the shrine of the Queen.

    The singers, their hearts in their voices,
     Had chanted the anthems of old,
    And the last trembling wave of the Vespers
     On the far shores of silence had rolled.
    And there — at the Queen-Virgin’s altar —
     The sun wove the mantle of gold
    While the hands of the twilight were weaving
     A fringe for the flash of each fold.

    And wavelessly, in the deep silence,
     Three banners hung peaceful and low —
    They bore the bright blue of the heavens,
     They wore the pure white of the snow
    And beneath them fair children were kneeling,
     Whose faces, with graces aglow,
    Seemed sinless, in land that is sinful,
     And woeless, in life full of woe.

    Their heads wore the veil of the lily,
     Their brows wore the wreath of the rose,
    And their hearts like their flutterless banners,
     Were stilled in a holy repose.
    Their shadowless eyes were uplifted,
     Whose glad gaze would never disclose
    That from eyes that are most like the heavens
     The dark rain of tears soonest flows.

    The banners were borne to the railing,
     Beneath them, a group from each band;
    And they bent their bright folds for the blessing
     That fell from the priest’s lifted hand.
    And he signed the three fair, silken standards,
     With a sign never foe could withstand.
    What stirred them? The breeze of the evening?
     Or a breath from the far angel-land?

    Then came, two by two, to the altar,
     The young, and the pure, and the fair,
    Their faces the mirror of Heaven,
     Their hands folded meekly in prayer;
    They came for a simple blue ribbon,
     For love of Christ’s Mother to wear;
    And I believe, with the Children of Mary,
     The Angels of Mary were there.

    Ah, faith! simple faith of the children!
     You still shame the faith of the old!
    Ah, love! simple love of the little,
     You still warm the love of the cold!
    And the beautiful God who is wandering
     Far out in the world’s dreary wold,
    Finds a home in the hearts of the children
     And a rest with the lambs of the fold.

    Swept a voice: was it wafted from Heaven?
     Heard you ever the sea when it sings
    Where it sleeps on the shore in the night time?
     Heard you ever the hymns the breeze brings
    From the hearts of a thousand bright summers?
     Heard you ever the bird, when she springs
    To the clouds, till she seems to be only
     A song of a shadow on wings?

    Came a voice: and an “Ave Maria”
     Rose out of a heart rapture-thrilled;
    And in the embrace of its music
     The souls of a thousand lay stilled.
    A voice with the tones of an angel,
     Never flower such a sweetness distilled;
    It faded away — but the temple
     With its perfume of worship was filled.

    Then back to the Queen-Virgin’s altar
     The white veils swept on, two by two;
    And the holiest halo of heaven
     Flashed out from the ribbons of blue;
    And they laid down the wreaths of the roses
     Whose hearts were as pure as their hue;
    Ah! they to the Christ are the truest,
     Whose loves to the Mother are true!

    And thus, in the dim of the temple,
     In the dream-haunted dim of the day,
    The Angels and Children of Mary
     Met ere their Queen’s Feast passed away,
    Where the sun-gleams knelt down with the shadows
     And wove with their gold and their gray
    A mantle of grace and of glory
     For the last lovely evening of May.