Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE NEW MAGDALEN, by RICHARD L. CARY JR.

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THE NEW MAGDALEN, by            
First Line: The yellow death came stealing
Last Line: The true new magdalen?
Subject(s): Mary Magdalen; Women In The Bible; Mary Magdalene

THE yellow death came stealing
Up from the river's edge;
Up from the dark, dark morass,
With its tangled fringe of sedge;
Up from the misty bayous,
On the south wind's tainted breath, --
Till the skies grew dark at Memphis
With the shadowy wings of death.

The air grew dense and silent,
The wild bird ceased its song,
And strong men cried in anguish,
"How long, O God, how long?"
But the skies gave back no answer,
Death's pitiless scythe still swung,
And the harvest the reaper gathered
Was a harvest of old and young.

The babe in the cradle sleeping,
In the flush of morning light,
With a smile of dimpled features,
In a coffin slept at night;
And the man who knelt at evening,
Thanking God for the strength he gave,
Lay down to sleep at dawning
In the cold and narrow grave.

The pavements only echoed
To the wheels of the passing hearse,
As it bore to the silent city
The victims of the curse;
And the voice of the stricken mourners,
Who heard not the rustling wing,
But saw on the sleeper's forehead
The seal of the saffron king.

Then out from the gilded palace
Of sorrow, and sin, and shame,
Clad in the robes of scarlet,
A fallen woman came;
And the song of the noisy revel
Gave place in its stately hall
To a prayer for the sick and dying,
And a woman's soft footfall.

Back from death's dark portal,
From the verge of an unseen land,
Came many a wandering mortal
At the touch of that woman's hand;
Till the fever, wrathful, sullen,
Touched her with his tainted breath,
And asleep, in snowy garment,
She lay in the arms of death.

Oh, girl with the jewelled fingers,
Oh, maid with the laces rare,
Will that woman's grand action
Count less than thy studied prayer?
Have the angels, looking earthward,
A love more tender seen
Than that of this fallen woman, --
The true new Magdalen?

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