Dora Sigerson Shorter
The Guardian Angels
Father John in the green lane went
And he drew his robe full tight,
'I would,' quoth he, 'I were home again
For there's evil in the night.
'I would,' quoth he, 'the gold I bear
Were safe with the poor and old,
For strange the fear that follows me
That my eyes cannot behold.'
He looked him left and there he saw
A white rose climb and cling,
He looked him right and in the brake
A wild bird shook his wing.
He looked him back and far there stood
The old church tall and dim,
Yet on the lonely path there came
A terror strange to him.
Without the shadow of the trees
That bent above his way,
Where lost the moon her silver light,
He stood at last at bay.
And on his gown, from his pale brow
Fell great tears of his fright;
His shaking hands held close the gold
Wrapped in its cloth so white.
He knelt him down upon his knee
And prayed the Lord to hear,
'Christ, loosen Thou these laggard feet
That hold me slow in fear.
'Oh, strengthen Thou this childish heart
That trembles all afraid,
In pity for the calling sick
Who die without my aid.
'And let me bring all safely through
The shadows of the night,
The gold I bear for old and poor,
Still Thou this strange affright.'
And as he prayed from off his heart
Fear's clutching fingers fell,
A holy joy grew in his heart
He knew that all was well.
He turned him left and stayed to take
A white rose from her tree,
He turned him right and lilted low
A wild bird melody.
He looked him back and smiling saw
The tall church guarding him,
And then all fearless laughing sped
Through shadows strange and dim.
When but a year had passed away
There came before his gate,
A dying man who 'Succour,' cried
'Before it be too late.'
'Oh, shrive me, Father, ere I die,'
The moaning stranger said;
He took him to his own hearth side
And laid him on his bed.
'Oh, Father! Father! hear me now
And let me rest in peace.'
'Now speak, my son, and tell your sin
To give your soul release.'
'It was one night a year ago—
Sweet Mary, ease my pain—
I followed far your toiling feet
Within a lonely lane.
'The red gold for the old and poor
You had beneath your gown,
I hid within a darksome place
Where I could strike you down.'
Now Father John he smiled and leant
In pity by the bed,
'I did disarm you by my prayer,
I thank the Lord,' he said.
'I went in fear upon my path
I knew some danger lay,
And lone I knelt upon the road
A little while to pray.'
The dying man he raised his head
And laughed both long and loud,
'Oh, ne'er a prayer would hold my hand
Or keep you from your shroud.
'But by you went two mighty men
To guard you either side,
Else had my dagger reached your heart
And surely you had died.'
Then Father John upon his knees
Bent low his holy head,
'God's angels walked beside me there
Lest you my blood should shed
My guardian angels walked by me,
I thank Thee, Lord,' he said.
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