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The lake ink-black mid slopes of snow—
The dead-house for the frozen, barred—
And the stone hospice; chill they show
Monastic in thy pass, Bernard.
Apostle of the Alps storm-riven,
How lone didst build so near the heaven!
Anchored in seas of Nitria's sand,
The desert convent of the Copt—
No aerolite can more command
The sense of dead detachment, dropped
All solitary from the sky.
The herdsmen of Olympus lie
In summer when the eve is won
Viewing white Spermos lower down,
The mountain-convent; and winds bear
The chimes that bid the monks to prayer;
Nor man-of-war-hawk sole in sky
O'er lonely ship sends lonelier cry.
The Grand Chartreuse with crystal peaks
Mid pines—the wintry Paradise
Of soul which but a Saviour seeks—
The mountains round all slabbed with ice;
May well recall the founder true,
St. Bruno, who to heaven has gone


And proved his motto—that whereto
Each locked Carthusian yet adheres:
Troubled I was, but spake I none;
I kept in mind the eternal years.
And Vallambrosa—in, shut in;
And Montserrat—enisled aloft;
With many more the verse might win,
Solitudes all, austere or soft.
But Saba! Of retreats where heart
Longing for more than downy rest,
Fit place would find from world apart,
Saba abides the loneliest:
Saba, that with an eagle's theft
Seizeth and dwelleth in the cleft.
Aloof the monks their aerie keep,
Down from their hanging cells they peep
Like samphire-gatherers o'er the bay
Faint hearing there the hammering deep
Of surf that smites the ledges gray.
But up and down, from grot to shrine,
Along the gorge, hard by the brink
File the gowned monks in even line,
And never shrink!
With litany or dirge they wend
Where nature as in travail dwells;
And the worn grots and pensive dells
In wail for wail responses send—
Echoes in plaintive syllables.
With mystic silvery brede divine,
Saint Basil's banner of Our Lord
(In lieu of crucifix adored
By Greeks which images decline)
Stained with the five small wounds and red,
Down through the darkling gulf is led—


By night ofttimes, while tapers glow
Small in the depths, as stars may show
Reflected far in well profound.
Full fifteen hundred years have wound
Since cenobite first harbored here;
The bones of men, deemed martyrs crowned,
To fossils turn in mountain near;
Nor less while now lone scribe may write,
Even now, in living dead of night,
In Saba's lamps the flames aspire—
The votaries tend the far-transmitted fire.