Dora Sigerson Shorter

(1866-1918 / Ireland)

Sister Marie - Poem by Dora Sigerson Shorter

A Legend of Tyrol
I through the valley of Klausen went
By a little stream, and heard it sigh,
Down by its bed I crouched and bent
A listening ear as it hurried by.
'Lord, have mercy,' it murmured low,
'Sainted Mother, oh, pray for me!'
I laid my hand in the water's flow
'Say, little stream, what your troubles be.'
'Virgin Mary, for my soul pray,
Lord, have pity,' it sighed again,
I through the valley did wend my way,
Heard it singing the odd refrain.
The stream stole by, 'O Christ, on me
'Take mercy, Lord, a soul afraid.'
I looked around and there did see
No thing to fear—a peasant maid.

'A fair good-day,' she shyly smiled;
'A fair good-day to you,' said I,
'And can you tell me why, sweet child,
So loud with prayer the stream goes by.'
''Tis Sister Marie's voice, they say,
(God give her soul for ever rest),
Who in yon convent walls did pray
As Christ's pure bride she dreamt her blest.
'But came at last a bitter day
When out of France flew flame and strife,
To still the singing birds and lay
Shamed flowers in the red stream of life.
'And ruthless soldiers climbed the hill,
Broke through the convent walls and ran
Mad through the house to spoil and fill
The home that God's pure peace began.
'Before the Saviour's Cross she knelt
The fairest nun in all the place,
Bowed down until her shoulders felt
Rough hands to turn her hidden face.

'She screamed, and up the marble stair
Flew like a creature of the wood,
And as the hunters on the hare
They turned—the chase was in their blood.
'Their shouts came to her like the call
Of baying hounds upon her track,
The turret roof she reached—the wall—
No hiding there—no going back.
'Loud came the soldiers, but she prayed
No mercy from her fellows there;
Death was more kind—she stood and swayed
On the high wall above the glen.
'A moment faltered—then she sprang
To the sweet air and God's embrace,
And where she fell, the little stream
Flowed soft across her dying face.
'So on the wall a cross is made
Lest we forget for her to pray,
For in God's sight she is afraid
Who took her own sweet life away.'

She pointed where upon the hill
There frowned the old grey convent wall,
And there I saw half pictured still,
A holy cross rise red and tall.
Down on her knees the fair child bent,
'And pity her, dear Lord,' she cried—
On through the vale the strange stream went,
'Ah! pity me, dear Lord,' it sighed.

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, September 29, 2010

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