Katharine Lee Bates
The Purple Thread - Poem by Katharine Lee Bates
'The priests distributed various coloured silken threads to weave for the veil of the sanctuary; and it fell to Mary's lot to weave purple.'
—The Book of the Bee, ch. XXXIV.
THE chosen maidens, Weavers of the Veil,
Kneeling in crescent, from the High Priest took
Their wisps of silk in slender hands that shook
Lifting the colors to their lips rose-pale
With holy passion, —colors like the frail
Spring flowers of Carmel, blue as that glad look
Of dancing iris, scarlet as a nook
Of wild anemones, or gold as sail
Seen from its summit 'neath the Syrian moon.
But Mary caught her breath in one swift sob
Of pain uncomprehended ere it fled,
Leaving her heart with some strange fear a-throb,
For the wise priest, as one conferring boon,
Had meted out to her a purple thread.
O mothers of the race, ye blessèd ones
Who weave with cherubim the veil before
The Holy Place of God, the mystic door
Of life, proud mothers of belovèd sons,
To-day you send them forth to front the guns,
Waving your boys farewell with smiles that pour
Strength into their young souls. Your prayers implore
The Mercy Seat; your love, an angel, runs
Before them with wild, shielding arms outspread.
O Weavers of the Veil, however varies
The silk assigned, exceeding great reward
Is yours, for you —O you, most sacred Maries,
To whom is given grief's royal, purple thread —
Make beautiful the temple of the Lord.
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