Queen Bertha's Alms

Aubrey Thomas de Vere

GLAD as that thrill some princely birth
  With hushed yet rapturous omen gracing,
The stir, as from her palace forth
  The young fair queen came pacing.
But here no pompous guard was set,
  No flattering concourse gathered round;
The poor about her gate were met;
  The readiest place the poorest found.
Like youthful angels, all alert
  The queen dispensed her bounteous load;
On those whom keenest fates had hurt,
  Her earlier gifts bestowed.
Her face the maniac’s rage beguiled;
  She turned her now among the ring,
And paused above a poor blind child
  The sweetest of her songs to sing.
Kind gifts to some, kind words to more,
  Kind looks to each and all she gave,
Which on with them through life they bore,
  And down into their grave.
Around her feet the children crept,
  And kissed the grass those feet had trod,
Whilst eyes that many a year had wept,
  With tears of gladness gemmed the sod.
The chiming of the convent bells
  Called her at last away to prayer:
Farewell she smiled on their farewells—
  And turned; when, unaware,
An old gray man with hands outspread
  She marked low bent on quivering knee;
Over his brow she stooped and said,
  “A kiss is all I have for thee.”

Main Location:

Payerne, Switzerland