Saint Elizabeth

William Wetmore Story

From the private gateway stealing,
Timidly, with cautious care,
In her hood her face concealing,
Glancing round her everywhere,
Where the narrow pathway leadeth
To the wood beyond the heath,
On her pious errand speedeth
Hungary's Elizabeth.

In her mantle she hath hidden
Bread to carry to the poor;
Yet her mission is forbidden,
And she cannot feel secure, —
Trembling, lest the hunt be over,
And returning with his band,
Full of wrath, her lord discover
She hath broken his command.

Only yesterday he swore it,—
Should she dare to disobey,
She should bitterly deplore it
Ere the closing of the day.
Yet one thought her bosom saddens,
Till it makes her heart to bleed,
And the flower that sunshine glddens
Pities the neglected weed.

Pity for the starving pleadeth
Ever in her gentle heart,
From the table luxury spreadeth
She would give to them a part;
Vain and wicked seems the splendor
That she daily round her sees,
If to them she may not tender
Even life's necessities.

Not a single eye hath seen her
Since she left the postern gate,
None but his whose hand can screen her
From the barbed shaft of fate.
On she goes, — a thoughtful beauty
Sleeps within her serious face,
And the inward sense of duty
Lends her an angelic grace.

Suddenly she stops and listens,
For a rustling step is near,
And the glancing sunlight glistens
On a hunter's brandished spear.
As in trembling fear she pauses.
Like a ship before it strands.
Suddenly her path he crosses,
And her lord before her stands.

Fiercely then his dark eyes lowered,
And her very heart grew weak,
As before his glance she cowered,
Daring not a word to speak;
As the hawk upon the heron.
Ere he stoopeth down the air.
On the lady gazed the Baron,
And he said, "What have you there?"

Then she stood, all unresistant,
Knowing hope from earth was vain,
And the heavens to her seemed distant
In tiiat hour of bitter pain.
For a moment, bowed with sadness,
Prayed she to herself alone,
Then a smile of holy gladness
Over all her features shone.

Passed the pain of her endurance,
But it left a pensive grace,
And a look of sweet assurance
Through it gleamed upon her face,
As the twilight's serious splendor
Looks through fading summer showers.
And she said, in accents tender,"
"Pardon, — they are only flowers."

"Silly lie!" he muttered, sneering,
As with sudden grasp he tore
From her hands the mantle, bearing
All its charitable store, —
When, in fragrant showers escaping,
Roses strewed the greensward there.
And the curse his lip was shaping
Changed into a silent prayer.

Down before her then he bended,
And the miracle confessed,
And the hand tliat she extended
Humbly to his lips he pressed,
Saying, "'T is the will of Heaven,
And I can oppose no more, —
Half my wealth henceforth be given
To relieve the sick and poor."

Main Location:

Eisenach, Germany