Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
France: Vols. IX–X. 1876–79.

St. Peray

St. Peray

By Thomas William Parsons (1819–1892)

WHEN to any saint I pray,

It shall be to St. Peray.

He alone, of all the brood,

Ever did me any good:

Many I have tried that are

Humbugs in the calendar.

On the Atlantic, faint and sick,

Once I prayed St. Dominick:

He was holy, sure, and wise;—

Was ’t not he that did devise

Auto-da-fés and rosaries?—

But for one in my condition

This good saint was no physician.

Next, in pleasant Normandie,

I made a prayer to St. Denis,

In the great cathedral, where

All the ancient kings repose;

But, how I was swindled there

At the “Golden Fleece,” he knows!

In my wanderings, vague and various,

Reaching Naples, as I lay

Watching Vesuvius from the bay,

I besought St. Januarius.

But I was a fool to try him;

Naught I said could liquefy him;

And I swear he did me wrong,

Keeping me shut up so long

In that pest-house, with obscene

Jews and Greeks and things unclean,—

What need had I of quarantine?

In Sicily at least a score,

In Spain about as many more,

And in Rome almost as many

As the loves of Don Giovanni,

Did I pray to—sans reply;

“Devil take the tribe!” said I.

Worn with travel, tired and lame,

To Assisi’s walls I came:

Sad and full of homesick fancies,

I addressed me to St. Francis;

But the beggar never did

Anything as he was bid,

Never gave me aught but fleas,—

Plenty had I at Assise.

But in Provence, near Vaucluse,

Hard by the Rhone, I found a saint

Gifted with a wondrous juice,

Potent for the worst complaint.

’T was at Avignon that first,

In the witching time of thirst,

To my brain the knowledge came

Of this blessed Catholic’s name;

Forty miles of dust that day

Made me welcome St. Peray.

Though till then I had not heard

Aught about him, ere a third

Of a litre passed my lips,

All saints else were in eclipse.

For his gentle spirit glided

With such magic into mine,

That methought such bliss as I did

Poet never drew from wine.

Rest he gave me, and refection,

Chastened hopes, calm retrospection,

Softened images of sorrow,

Bright forebodings for the morrow,

Charity for what is past,—

Faith in something good at last.

Now, why should any almanack

The name of this good creature lack?

Or wherefore should the breviary

Omit a saint so sage and merry?

The Pope himself should grant a day

Especially to St. Peray.

But, since no day hath been appointed,

On purpose, by the Lord’s anointed,

Let us not wait, we ’ll do him right;

Send round your bottles, Hal, and set your night.