Work and Worship

William Allen Butler

CHARLEMAGNE, the mighty monarch,

  As through Metten wood he strayed,

Found the holy hermit, Hutto,

  Toiling in the forest glade.

 

In his hand the woodman’s hatchet,

  By his side the knife and twine,

There he cut and bound the fagots

  From the gnarled and stunted pine.

 

Well the monarch knew the hermit

  For his pious works and cares,

And the wonders which had followed

  From his vigils, fasts, and prayers.

 

Much he marvelled now to see him

  Toiling thus, with axe and cord;

And he cried in scorn, “O Father,

  Is it thus you serve the Lord?”

 

But the hermit, resting neither

  Hand nor hatchet, meekly said:

“He who does no daily labor

  May not ask for daily bread.

 

“Think not that my graces slumber

  While I toil throughout the day;

For all honest work is worship,

  And to labor is to pray.

 

“Think not that the heavenly blessing

  From the workman’s hand removes;

Who does best his task appointed,

  Him the Master most approves.”

 

While he spoke the hermit, pausing

  For a moment, raised his eyes

Where the overhanging branches

  Swayed beneath the sunset skies.

 

Through the dense and vaulted forest

  Straight the level sunbeam came,

Shining like a gilded rafter,

  Poised upon a sculptured frame.

 

Suddenly, with kindling features,

  While he breathes a silent prayer,

See, the hermit throws his hatchet,

  Lightly, upward in the air.

 

Bright the well-worn steel is gleaming,

  As it flashes through the shade,

And descending, lo! the sunbeam

  Holds it dangling by the blade!

 

“See, my son,” exclaimed the hermit,—

  “See the token Heaven has sent;

Thus to humble, patient effort

  Faith’s miraculous aid is lent.

 

“Toiling, hoping, often fainting,

  As we labor, Love Divine

Through the shadows pours its sunlight,

  Crowns the work, vouchsafes the sign!”

 

Homeward slowly went the monarch,

  Till he reached his palace hall,

Where he strode among his warriors,

  He the bravest of them all.

 

Soon the Benedictine Abbey

  Rose beside the hermit’s cell;

He, by royal hands invested,

  Ruled, as Abbot, long and well.

 

Now beside the rushing Danube

  Still its ruined walls remain,

Telling of the hermit’s patience

  And the zeal of Charlemagne.


Main Location:

Metten, Germany