Julia Caroline (Ripley) Dorr (1825-1913 / the United States)
The Legend of the Organ Builder
Day by day the Organ-Builder in his lonely chamber wrought;
Day by day the soft air trembled to the music of his thought,
Till at last the work was ended; and no organ-voice so grand
Ever yet had soared responsive to the master's magic hand.
Ay, so rarely was it builded that whenever groom and bride,
Who in God's sight were well pleasing, in the church stood side by side
Without touch or breath the organ of itself began to play,
And the very airs of heaven through the soft gloom seemed to stray.
He was young, the Organ-builder, and o'er all the land his fame
Ran with fleet and eager footsteps, like a swiftly rushing flame.
All the maidens heard the story; all the maidens blushed and smiled,
By his youth and wondrous beauty and his great renown beguiled.
So he sought and won the fairest, and the wedding day was set:
Happy day-the brightest jewel in the glad year's coronet!
But when they the portal entered he forgot his lovely bride-
Forgot his love, forgot his God, and his heart swelled high with pride.
'Ah!' thought he; 'how great a master am I! When the organ plays,
How the vast cathedral arches will re-echo with my praise!'
Up the aisle the gay procession moved. The altar shone afar,
With every candle gleaming through soft shadows like a star.
But he listened, listened, listened, with no thought of love or prayer,
For the swelling notes of triumph from his organ standing there.
All was silent. Nothing heard he save the priest's low monotone,
And the bride's robe trailing softly o'er the floor of fretted stone.
Then his lips grew white with anger. Surely God was pleased with him
Who built the wondrous organ for His temple vast and dim!
Whose the fault, then? Hers-the maiden standing meekly at his side!
Flamed his jealous rage, maintaining she was false to him-his bride.
Vain were all her protestations, vain her innocence and truth;
On that very night he left her to her anguish and her ruth.
Far he wandered to a country wherein no man knew his name;
For ten weary years he dwelt there, nursing still his wrath and shame.
Then his haughty heart grew softer, and he thought by night and day
Of the bride he had deserted, till he hardly dared to pray;
Thought of her, a spotless maiden, fair and beautiful and good;
Thought of his relentless anger, that had cursed her womanhood;
Till his yearning grief and penitence at last were all complete,
And he longed, with bitter longing, just to fall down at her feet.
Ah! how throbbed his heart when, after many a weary day and night,
Rose his native towers before him, with the sunset glow alight!
Through the gates into the city, on he pressed with eager tread;
There he met a long procession-mourners following the dead.
'Now, why weep ye so, good people? and whom bury ye today?
Why do yonder sorrowing maidens scatter flowers along the way?
'Has some saint gone up to heaven?' 'Yes,' they answered, weeping sore;
'For the Organ-Builder's saintly wife our eyes shall see no more;
'And because her days were given to the service of God's poor,
From his church we mean to bury her. See! yonder is the door.'
No one knew him; no one wondered when he cried out, white with pain;
No one questioned when, with pallid lips, he poured his tears like rain.
''Tis someone whom she has comforted, who mourns with us,' they said,
As he made his way unchallenged, and bore the coffin's head;
Bore it through the open portal, bore it up the echoing aisle,
Let it down before the altar, where the lights burned clear the while:
When, oh, hark! the wondrous organ of itself began to play
Strains of rare, unearthly sweetness never heard until that day!
All the vaulted arches rang with the music sweet and clear;
All the air was filled with glory, as of angels hovering near;
And ere yet the strain was ended, he who bore the coffin's head,
With the smile of one forgiven, gently sank beside it-dead.
They who raised the body knew him, and they laid him by his bride;
Down the aisle and o'er the threshold they were carried, side by side,
While the organ played a dirge that no man ever heard before,
And then softly sank to silence-silence kept for evermore.
Comments about this poem (The Legend of the Organ Builder by Julia Caroline (Ripley) Dorr )
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