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(26 February 1802 – 22 May 1885 / Besancon / France)

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The Veil

THE SISTER

Why, brother, why upon me stare?
Why do your brows so fiercely lower?
Your eyes like funeral torches glare,
Beneath their gloomy looks I cower.
Why do I see your sashes rent?
Why have you thrice your fingers laid
Upon the sheath? What dire intent
Makes you half draw the glittering blade?

FIRST BROTHER

Raised you today your veil, and face displayed!

SISTER

Home from the bath my path I took—
Brothers! Look not so terribly!—
And I was hidden from the look
Of every unbeliever's eye.
But as the Mosque I hurried by,
Close covered in my palanquin,
Stifled beneath the mid-day sky,
I loosed my veil to breathe between.

SECOND BROTHER

Did not a man then pass in Cafton green?

SISTER

Ah, yes, perhaps it may be so;
But he ne'er saw my face. My brothers,
Together you are whispering low—
What whisper you to one another?
You would not kill me? On your soul
He saw me not! My oath believe!
Have mercy! Your blind rage control!
Your poor young sister, O reprieve!

THIRD BROTHER

Blood-red I saw the sun sink down at eve.

SISTER

Mercy, O mercy! Brothers, cease,
Your daggers stab me to the heart!
Brothers! I cling about your knees!
O veil! White veil! The cause thou art!
Brothers! Your dying sister prop,
Tear not my bleeding hand away—
Darkness come o'er me—with me stop—
The veil of death shuts out the day.

FOURTH BROTHER

Unlifted by your hands this veil will stay.

Submitted: Saturday, April 03, 2010


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