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SAN GABRIEL ARCANGEL, by                    
First Line: Veil of the sierra madre! Sheen of light to tell whose / gleam
Last Line: Let the Æons antiphone it, till time sees the end of days!
Subject(s): Angels; Heaven; Messengers; Missions & Missionaries; Paradise


Veil of the Sierra Madre! sheen of light to tell whose gleam,
Earthly words opaque and dull-hued as a child's clay image seem;

Sunbeams pale before the shimmer of the opalescent gauze,
Where the rainbow hue diffuséd, round Sierra Madre draws

Veil of glowing iridescence, woven from light's loosened rays
Smit by fine prisms atmospheric in a thousand devious ways;

And methinks, when Spanish Fathers named the town Los Angeles,
That the grateful patron angels, loit'ring on the sunlit breeze,

Mantles dropped of heav'nly brightness, whose soft splendors never fail,
And they draped the Mother's mountain in their robes—this lustrous veil.

Such the light through which Sierra looks towards plain of Gabriél;
Such the air which throbs responsive to its morn or evening bell.

Soft bloom, that seems air transmuted, flecks the clustered grapes with light,
Deepens on the downy umbels of the gardens, tropic bright.

Fair as Aztec princess wears the orange-tree her royal green,
Through lace mantle of white blossoms, golden jewels flash their sheen.

Such the place by padres chosen for the patron angel's shrine,
Angel of th' Annunciation to the maid of David's line.

Farthest here once Mission farm lands spread o'er hills on every side;
Farthest roamed their good herds seeking food from mountain to the tide.

Most the Virgin loved this Mission, to her herald dedicate,
Near her vale as "Queen of Angels," where the "Mother's Mountains" wait;

Early she its cause espouséd, when before her banner flung
Without hands upon the free winds—where a vision bright it hung—

Dusky warriors backward started, smit by grace of godlike mien,
As once Romans in a garden, back from face of Nazarene;

And the ones who came to slaughter, stayed strange worship to repeat,
Gifts from their poor riches leaving, with their weapons, at her feet.

Long the smile of peace thus given rested on the Mission young,
Till it grew to strength gigantic all its humble sons among.

"Once the richest of the Missions," now its desecrated feet
In puéblo Mejicano stand 'mid squalor of the street.

Here dwelt she whose oft-told story brings the tear of sympathy;
Who at six score years said sadly, "God must have forgotten me;"

Kind to life, but no more loving, when the tardy messenger
Found her, eager to rejoin the swarthy tribes awaiting her.

Still a few old Indians linger squatting in the blazing sun,
Crooning of the Mission's splendors when atóle lacked for none;

And they tell of Padre Serra, crossing dark brows at his name,
Tales of miracles their fathers told them of his holy fame;

How once lost upon the mountains came he to Mojave's plain,
Wand'ring with his people till the fever woke in blood and brain.

And through all the 'wildered journey told he ever wayside mass,
Though with thirst and famine fainting, ne'er without it day might pass;

That once from his trembling fingers, fell the cup of holy wine,
And with godless haste the dry ground drank the crimson drops divine;

When lo! from the earth's parched lips, red with the stain of Precious Blood,
Sprang a fountain of pure waters, sweet as Horeb's smitten flood;

And when Serra, with thanksgiving, would have done some penance still,
Spake an angel in a vision, "Nay, it was the Master's will."

Crossed themselves again the speakers, lapsing to a broken dream;
Passed the Pilgrims seeing dimly, what to these this life must seem.

But there lingers through this dark room echo none of sweet notes hymned;
Drear it seems as soul where doubts have faith and hope too early dimmed.

Slow upon the numbéd spirit creeps a horror in this gloom,
As if sigh from shrouded sleeper smote one wandering in a tomb.

'Midst this gray dusk watches still a group of saints on pillars old,
Faces dull and garments battered, names and sorrows long untold.

Stands San Gabriél, the patron, high above the other shrines,
E'en from face of faded statue, still some angel brightness shines;

He most honored messenger of all that stood before the throne,
When God would, unto His creatures, speak some purpose of His own.

He th' interpreter of visions to the captive prophet sent;
He who sat at Eden's portal, whence our ling'ring parents went;

Who came to the second Woman to announce the time as near,
When through her th' Avenger promised to the first Eve should appear,

Whose high message, "Hail! thou blesséd in divine maternity,"
Lifted to the throne in heaven pains accursed at Eden's tree,—

Stands with ample gathered wings, as if he still were charged to greet,
With perpetual song the maid who stands enshrinéd at his feet.

Simple priestess-maid Judean! who should in thy humble place
Deify to all the ages mother love and mother grace;

Round this dreary shrine thy roses blossom in the month of May;
Light this gloom pale votive tapers, when is kept thy festal day;

Then the choir's soft Incarnatus trembles round thy vestal shrine,
As the new hope of the promise fluttered in thy soul divine;

And the eve's Magnificat breaks forth in glad triumphant tone,
As thy faith received the glory of the promise as thine own.

Maid "most pure!" Maid "gloriosa!" Woman with a loving heart!
Though thyself of mothers saddest, mothers' comforter thou art!

Patroness of every virtue! Almoner unto mankind!
"Queen of men and angels!" in thee, "Lady Merciful," we find!

Pure impersonation of earth's sublimated joy and pain!
Of that love most 'kin to God's own, stand'st thou Mother of the Slain!

Motherhood beatified woke in thy canticle of praise;
Let the Æons antiphone it, till Time sees the end of days!





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