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In spot revered by myriad men,
Whence, as alleged, Immanuel rose
Into the heaven—receptive then—
A little plastered tower is set,
Pale in the light that Syria knows,
Upon the peak of Olivet.
'Tis modern—a replacement, note,
For ample pile of years remote,
Nor yet ill suits in dwindled bound,
Man's faith retrenched. 'Twas Hakeem's deed,
Mad Caliph (founder still of creed
Long held by tribes not unrenowned)
Who erst the pastoral hight discrowned
Of Helena's church. Woe for the dome,
And many a goodly temple more,
Which hither lured from Christendom
The child-like pilgrim throngs of yore.


'Twas of that church, so brave erewhile—
Blest land-mark on the Olive Hight—
Which Arculf told of in the isle
Iona. Shipwrecked there in sight,
The palmer dragged they from the foam,
The Culdees of the abbey fair—
Him shelter yielding and a home.
In guerdon for which love and care
Received in Saint Columba's pile,
With travel-talk he did beguile
Their eve of Yule.
The tempest beat;
It shook the abbey's founded seat,
Rattling the crucifix on wall;
And thrice was heard the clattering fall
Of gable-tiles. But host and guest,
Abbot and palmer, took their rest
Inside monastic ingle tall.
What unto them were those lashed seas?
Or Patmos or the Hebrides,
The isles were God's.
It was the time
The church in Jewry dwelt at ease
Tho' under Arabs—Omar's prime—
Penultimate of pristine zeal,
While yet throughout faith's commonweal
The tidings had not died away—
Not yet had died into dismay
Of dead, dead echoes that recede:
Glad tidings of great joy indeed,
Thrilled to the shepherds on the sward—
“Behold, to you is born this day
A Saviour, which is Christ the Lord;”
While yet in chapel, altar, shrine,
The mica in the marble new
Glistened like spangles of the dew.


One minster then was Palestine,
All monumental.
Arculf first
The wonders of the tomb rehearsed,
And Golgotha; then told of trees,
Olives, which in the twilight breeze
Sighed plaintive by the convent's lee—
The convent in Gethsemane—
Perished long since. Then: “On the hill—
In site revealed thro' Jesu's grace”—
(Hereat both cross themselves apace)
“A great round church with goodly skill
Is nobly built; and fragrant blows
Morning thro' triple porticoes.
But over that blest place where meet
The last prints of the Wounded Feet,
The roof is open to the sky;
'Tis there the sparrows love to fly.
Upon Ascension Day—at end
Of mass—winds, vocal winds descend
Among the worshipers.” Amain
The abbot signs the cross again;
And Arculf on: “And all that night
The mountain temple's western flank—
The same which fronts Moriah's hight—
In memory of the Apostles' light
Shows twelve dyed fires in oriels twelve.
Thither, from towers on Kedron's bank
And where the slope and terrace shelve,
The gathered townsfolk gaze afar;
And those twelve flowers of flame suffuse
Their faces with reflected hues
Of violet, gold, and cinnabar.
Much so from Naples (in our sail
We touched there, shipping jar and bale)
I saw Vesuvius' plume of fire


Redden the bay, tinge mast and spire.
But on Ascension Eve, 'tis then
A light shows—kindled not by men.
Look,” pointing to the hearth; “dost see
How these dun embers here by me,
Lambent are licked by flaky flame?
Olivet gleams then much the same—
Caressed, curled over, yea, encurled
By fleecy fires which typic be:
O lamb of God, O light o' the world!”
In fear, and yet a fear divine,
Once more the Culdee made the sign;
Then fervid snatched the palmer's hand—
Clung to it like a very child
Thrilled by some wondrous story wild
Of elf or fay, nor could command
His eyes to quit their gaze at him—
Him who had seen it. But how grim
The Pictish storm-king sang refrain,
Scoffing about those gables high
Over Arculf and good Adamnan.
The abbot and the palmer rest:
The legends follow them and die—
Those legends which, be it confessed,
Did nearer bring to them the sky—
Did nearer woo it to their hope
Of all that seers and saints avow—
Than Galileo's telescope
Can bid it unto prosing Science now.