Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SANTA BARBARA, by AMELIA WOODWARD TRUESDELL



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SANTA BARBARA, by            
First Line: Here the soft sweet airs distilling seem a necromancer's / balm
Last Line: As our spirits blindly stumble through earth's doubts toward heavenly ray.
Subject(s): Missions & Missionaries; Santa Barbara, California


Here the soft sweet airs distilling seem a necromancer's balm,
Wearied soul and body lull they till life seems a dreamful calm.

Looked the padres on the rich land sloping toward the toiling sea
Working waves of molten silver into fine wrought filigree;

Gazing from the Mission hillside, strangers pause to hear a tale
Of the ghosts that haunt yon islands with their flambeaux far and pale:

Phantom skiffs like tule shadows, and their rowers tall and stark,
Flit with torches 'cross the channel, through the hollow of the dark,

From the Ana Capa to the Santa Cruz' steep jagged shore,
And from Santa Rosa backward, through the still night o'er and o'er,—

Back and forward to the mainland, to the Missions white and still,
Barbara's and far Ventura's faintly limned against the hills;

Long the rites upon the islands, as if there were celebrate
The returning day of burial of some savage potentate;

And the torchlights white and spectral swept the Indians' swart lines,
Till the shapes seemed ghouls of fable, feasting round some charnel shrines.

Built they when the spring-time brightened with star-flowers the rugged slopes;
Patron chose—a maid whose spring-time beamed with martyr's star-bright
hopes;

And the Mission of their rearing lifts its comely head today,
Smiling down on resting valley, hills, and town, and sweeping bay.

Round it broken walls are crumbling, which but lend a rougher grace,
As a rustic frame which heightens beauty of a pictured face.

Walls of stone from pave to turret, strong as tower on arméd field,
Roof of tiles uplift to heaven—tiles the weight of warrior's shield.

Massive towers defend the portal, and the bells still tell their tale:
"God and truth go on forever, 'tis the faith of man doth fail."

Ent'ring through a great stone doorway, distant taper greets the sight,
Like a star of promise burning through life's sorrow-clouded night.

Dim light from the small high windows, shrouds in gloom the outlines, where
Slow appears a monk Franciscan, kneeling at a shrine of prayer;

Friar in a long gray garment, hooded folds of heavy serge,
At the waist with white cord girdled, heavy knotted as a scourge—

Shadow-like he moves to greet us, and the rosary falls down
Where the naked foot in sandal shows beneath the heavy gown.

Shows he silver pyx and chalice; precious thuribles gold-lined;
Mite of True Cross fondly cherished, by Faith's eyes alone defined;

And old saints that stood dejected, as if from the altar cast,
Round a crucifix as saying, "True our love e'en to the last;"

Crucifix of cunning carving, where a matchless hand has shown
Tale of Olivet's grand passion, with a grace some master's own,—

Such the vivid truth of line, the heart swells with a sudden throe;
Seems Gethsemane's low moan to throb once more through midnight woe;

Seems the cry of Calvary to ring through sounding years again—
Cry wrung from a soul's great anguish which surpassed all fleshly pain.

Mute with thought, through long dim cloisters, grope we to yon spot of day,
As our spirits blindly stumble through earth's doubts toward heavenly ray.





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