Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Evangeline Visits The Black Robed Chief Of The Jesuit Mission

" On the western slope of these mountains Dwells in his little village the Black Robe chief of the Mission. Much he teaches the people, and tells them of Mary and Jesus; Loud laugh their hearts with joy, and weep with pain, as they hear him." Then, with a sudden and secret emotion, Evangeline answered, "Let us go to the Mission, for there good tidings await us!" Thither they turned their steeds; and behind a spur of the mountains, Just as the sun went down, they heard a-murmur of voices, And in a meadow green and broad, by the bank of a river, Saw the tents of the Christians, the tents of the Jesuit Mission. is Under a towering oak, that stood in the midst of the village, Knelt the Black Robe chief with his children. A crucifix fastened High on the trunk of the tree, and overshadowed by grapevines, Looked with its agonized face on the multitude kneeling beneath it. This was their rural chapel. Aloft, through the intricate arches Of its aerial roof, arose the chant of their vespers, Mingling its notes with the soft susurrus and sighs of the branches. Silent, with heads uncovered, the travelers, nearer approaching, Knelt on the swarded floor, and joined in the evening devotions. But when the service was done, and the benediction had fallen Forth from the hands of the priest, like seed from the hands of the sower, Slowly the reverend man advanced to the strangers, and bade them "Welcome; and when they replied, he smiled with benignant expression, Hearing the homelike sounds of his mother-tongue in the forest, And, with words of kindness, conducted them into his wigwam. There upon mats and skins they reposed, and on cakes of the maize-ear Feasted, and slaked their thirst from the water-gourd of the teacher. Soon was their story told; and the priest with solemnity answered: — "Not six suns have risen and set since Gabriel, seated On this mat by my side, where now the maiden reposes, Told me this same sad tale; then arose and continued his journey!" Soft was the voice of the priest, and he spake with an accent of kindness; But on Evangeline's heart fell his words as in winter the snow-flakes Fall into some lone nest from which the birds have departed. "Far to the north he has gone," continued the priest; "but in autumn, "When the chase is done, will return again to the Mission." Then Evangeline said, and her voice was meek and submissive, "Let me remain with thee, for my soul is sad and afflicted." So seemed it wise and well unto all; and betimes on the morrow, Mounting his Mexican steed, with his Indian guides and companions, Homeward Basil returned, and Evangeline stayed at the Mission. Slowly, slowly, slowly the days succeeded each other, — Days and weeks and months; and the fields of maize that were springing Green from the ground when a stranger she came, now waving about her, Lifted their slender shafts, with leaves interlacing, and forming Cloisters for mendicant crows and granaries pillaged by squirrels. Then in the golden weather the maize was husked, and the maidens Blushed at each blood-red ear, for that betokened a lover, But at the crooked laughed, and called it a thief in the corn-field. Even the blood-red ear to Evangeline brought not her lover. ins "Patience!" the priest would say; 
"have faith, and thy prayer will be answered! Look at this vigorous plant that lifts its head from the meadow, See how its leaves are turned to the north, as true as the magnet; This is the compass-flower, that the finger of God has planted Here in the houseless wild, to direct the traveler's journey Over the sea-like, pathless, limitless waste of the desert. Such in the soul of man is faith. The blossoms of passion, Gay and luxuriant flowers, are brighter and fuller of fragrance, But they beguile us, and lead us astray, and their odor is deadly. Only this humble plant can guide us here, and hereafter He Crown us with asphodel flowers, that are wet with the dews of nepenthe."

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