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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Germany: Vols. XVII–XVIII. 1876–79.


Saint Elizabeth

By William Wetmore Story (1819–1895)

FROM the private gateway stealing,

Timidly, with cautious care,

In her hood her face concealing,

Glancing round her everywhere,

Where the narrow pathway leadeth

To the wood beyond the heath,

On her pious errand speedeth

Hungary’s Elizabeth.

In her mantle she hath hidden

Bread to carry to the poor;

Yet her mission is forbidden,

And she cannot feel secure,—

Trembling lest the hunt be over,

And returning with his band,

Full of wrath, her lord discover

She hath broken his command.

Only yesterday he swore it,—

Should she dare to disobey,

She should bitterly deplore it

Ere the closing of the day.

Yet one thought her bosom saddens,

Till it makes her heart to bleed,

And the flower that sunshine gladdens

Pities the neglected weed.

Pity for the starving pleadeth

Ever in her gentle heart,

From the table luxury spreadeth

She would give to them a part;

Vain and wicked seems the splendor

That she daily round her sees,

If to them she may not tender

Even life’s necessities.

Not a single eye hath seen her

Since she left the postern gate,

None but his whose hand can screen her

From the barbéd shaft of fate.

On she goes,—a thoughtful beauty

Sleeps within her serious face,

And the inward sense of duty

Lends her an angelic grace.

Suddenly she stops and listens,

For a rustling step is near,

And the glancing sunlight glistens

On a hunter’s brandished spear.

As in trembling fear she pauses,

Like a ship before it strands,

Suddenly her path he crosses,

And her lord before her stands.

Fiercely then his dark eyes lowered,

And her very heart grew weak,

As before his glance she cowered,

Daring not a word to speak;

As the hawk upon the heron,

Ere he stoopeth down the air,

On the lady gazed the Baron,

And he said, “What have you there?”

Then she stood, all unresistant,

Knowing hope from earth was vain,

And the heavens to her seemed distant

In that hour of bitter pain.

For a moment, bowed with sadness,

Prayed she to herself alone,

Then a smile of holy gladness

Over all her features shone.

Passed the pain of her endurance,

But it left a pensive grace,

And a look of sweet assurance

Through it gleamed upon her face,

As the twilight’s serious splendor

Looks through fading summer showers,

And she said, in accents tender,

“Pardon,—they are only flowers.”

“Silly lie!” he muttered, sneering,

As with sudden grasp he tore

From her hands the mantle, bearing

All its charitable store,—

When, in fragrant showers escaping,

Roses strewed the greensward there,

And the curse his lip was shaping

Changed into a silent prayer.

Down before her then he bended,

And the miracle confessed,

And the hand that she extended

Humbly to his lips he pressed,

Saying, “’T is the will of Heaven,

And I can oppose no more,—

Half my wealth henceforth be given

To relieve the sick and poor.”