Little Gray Songs from St. Joseph’s

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WITH cassock black, baret and book,
  Father Saran goes by;
I think he goes to say a prayer
  For one who has to die.

Even so, some day, Father Saran  
  May say a prayer for me;
Myself meanwhile, the Sister tells,
  Should pray unceasingly.

They kneel who pray: how may I kneel
  Who face to ceiling lie,  
Shut out by all that man has made
  From God who made the sky?

They lift who pray—the low earth-born—
  A humble heart to God:
But O, my heart of clay is proud—  
  True sister to the sod.

I look into the face of God,
  They say bends over me;
I search the dark, dark face of God—
  O what is it I see?  

I see—who lie fast bound, who may
  Not kneel, who can but seek—
I see mine own face over me,
  With tears upon its cheek.

If my dark grandam had but known,  
  Or yet my wild grandsir,
Or the lord that lured the maid away
  That was my sad mother,

O had they known, O had they dreamed
  What gift it was they gave,  
Would they have stayed their wild, wild love,
  Nor made my years their slave?

Must they have stopped their hungry lips
  From love at thought of me?
O life, O life, how may we learn  
  Thy strangest mystery?

Nay, they knew not, as we scarce know:
  Their souls, O let them rest;
My life is pupil unto pain—
  With him I make my quest.  

My little soul I never saw,
  Nor can I count its days;
I do not know its wondrous law
  And yet I know its ways.

O it is young as morning-hours,  
  And old as is the night;
O it has growth of budding flowers,
  Yet tastes my body’s blight.

And it is silent and apart,
  And far and fair and still,  
Yet ever beats within my heart,
  And cries within my will.

And it is light and bright and strange,
  And sees life far away,
Yet far with near can interchange  
  And dwell within the day.

My soul has died a thousand deaths,
  And yet it does not die;
My soul has broke a thousand faiths,
  And yet it cannot lie;  

My soul—there’s naught can make it less;
  My soul—there’s naught can mar;
Yet here it weeps with loneliness
  Within its lonely star.

My soul—not any dark can bind,  
  Nor hinder any hand,
Yet here it weeps—long blind, long blind—
  And cannot understand.

© Grace Fallow Norton