Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE BELLS OF SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, by CHARLES AUGUSTUS KEELER



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THE BELLS OF SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Ave maria purissima! Hear!
Last Line: Our throats are cracked and they seldom sing.
Subject(s): Bells; San Juan Capistrano, California


First Bell

AVE Maria Purissima! Hear!
Seventeen ninety and six was the year
When I was hung in the tower of stone,
Singing aloft in a solemn tone
Sending my summons for miles around
That all might list to the solemn sound—
Kling, klang, clatter and ring,
Thus the bells of the mission sing.

Second Bell

Diva Jesus clanged my cry
When Padre Fuster hung me high,
And my metal tongue in its brazen throat
Sounded its first triumphant note,
Chimed with my mate in a mighty din
When the vespers were solemnly chanted within,
Kling, klang, clatter and ring,
Thus the bells in the mission sing.

Third Bell

Hail, O holy San Rafael,
I proudly pealed in a silver knell
When high in the belfry aloft I hung
And a note was struck with my eager tongue,
Heard by the Indian mother and child,
By soldier stern and by padre mild—
Kling, klang, clatter and ring,
Thus the bells of the mission sing.

All the Bells

Hail, O Holy Mother—hear!
Thus we all pealed for many a year,
Called the vaquero away from his stock,
Summoned the herder to leave his flock,
Indian mother and Mexican maid
Fondly the summons to prayer obeyed;

Till, ah, we called on an evil hour,
For the temblor came and it rent our tower,
And down we fell with a crash and a clang,
With the cries of the stricken the sad church rang.
Then they lifted us up to toll for the dead,
And solemn and slow were the notes we said;
Toll, toll, stifled and slow—
Thus the bells voiced a people's woe.
Such were the songs of our ancient prime,
But O the havoc and waste of time—
For the years, the years with their pitiless train
Have heard our pleadings and prayers in vain;
They have levelled the graves in the church yard lone,
They have broken the arches and scattered the stone—
Clatter and ring, clatter and ring!
Our throats are cracked and they seldom sing.





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