Harriet Beecher Stowe
ST. CATHERINE BORNE BY ANGELS.[1 - According to this legend, Catherine was a noble maiden of Alexandria, distinguished alike by birth, riches, beauty, and the rarest gifts of genius and learning. In the flower of her life she consecrated herself to the service of her Redeemer, and cheerfully suffered for his sake the loss of wealth, friends, and the esteem of the world. Banishment, imprisonment, and torture were in vain tried to shake the constancy of her faith; and at last she was bound upon the torturing-wheel for a cruel death. But the angels descended, so says the story, rent the wheel, and bore her away, through the air, far over the sea, to Mount Sinai, where her body was left to repose, and her soul ascended with them to heaven.]
SLOW through the solemn air, in silence sailing,
Borne by mysterious angels, strong and fair,
She sleeps at last, blest dreams her eyelids veiling,
Above this weary world of strife and care.
Lo how she passeth! – dreamy, slow, and calm:
Scarce wave those broad, white wings, so silvery bright;
Those cloudy robes, in star-emblazoned folding,
Sweep mistily athwart the evening light.
Far, far below, the dim, forsaken earth,
The foes that threaten, or the friends that weep;
Past, like a dream, the torture and the pain:
For so He giveth his beloved sleep.
The restless bosom of the surging ocean
Gives back the image as the cloud floats o'er,
Hushing in glassy awe his troubled motion;
For one blest moment he complains no more.
Like the transparent golden floor of heaven,
His charmed waters lie as in a dream,
And glistening wings, and starry robes unfolding,
And serious angel eyes far downward gleam.
O restless sea! thou seemest all enchanted
By that sweet vision of celestial rest;
Where are the winds and tides thy peace that haunted, —
So still thou seemest, so glorified and blest!
Ah, sea! to-morrow, that sweet scene forgotten,
Dark tides and tempests shall thy bosom rear;
And thy complaining waves, with restless motion,
Shall toss their hands in their old wild despair.
So o'er our hearts sometimes the sweet, sad story
Of suffering saints, borne homeward crowned and blest,
Shines down in stillness with a tender glory,
And makes a mirror there of breathless rest.
For not alone in those old Eastern regions
Are Christ's beloved ones tried by cross and chain;
In many a house are his elect ones hidden,
His martyrs suffering in their patient pain.
The rack, the cross, life's weary wrench of woe,
The world sees not, as slow, from day to day,
In calm, unspoken patience, sadly still,
The loving spirit bleeds itself away.
But there are hours when, from the heavens unfolding,
Come down the angels with the glad release;
And we look upward, to behold in glory
Our suffering loved ones borne away to peace.
Ah, brief the calm! the restless wave of feeling
Rises again when the bright cloud sweeps by,
And our unrestful souls reflect no longer
That tender vision of the upper sky.
Espoused Lord of the pure saints in glory,
To whom all faithful souls affianced are,
Breathe down thy peace into our restless spirits,
And make a lasting, heavenly vision there.
So the bright gates no more on us shall close;
No more the cloud of angels fade away;
And we shall walk, amid life's weary strife,
In the calm light of thine eternal day.
"Socrates. However, you and Simmias appear to me as if you wished to sift this subject more thoroughly, and to be afraid, like children, lest, on the soul's departure from the body, winds should blow it away.
"Upon this Cebes said, 'Endeavor to teach us better, Socrates. Perhaps there is a childish spirit in our breast that has such a dread. Let us endeavor to persuade him not to be afraid of death, as of hobgoblins.'
"'But you must charm him every day,' said Socrates, 'until you have quieted his fears.'
"'But whence, O Socrates,' he said, 'can we procure a skilful charmer for such a case, now you are about to leave us.'
"'Greece is wide, Cebes,' he said, 'and in it surely there are skilful men; and there are many barbarous nations, all of which you should search, seeking such a charmer, sparing neither money nor toil.'" – Last words of Socrates, as narrated by Plato in the Phædo.
WE need that charmer, for our hearts are sore
With longings for the things that may not be,
Faint for the friends that shall return no more,
Dark with distrust, or wrung with agony.
"What is this life? and what to us is death?
Whence came we? whither go? and where are those
Who, in a moment stricken from our side,
Passed to that land of shadow and repose?