Poems: Old and New

by Frederick George Scott


 

A NOCTURNE.


 

IN the little French church at the bend of the river,
   When rainy and loud was the wind in the night,
An altar-lamp burnt to the mighty Grace-giver,
   The Holy Child Jesus—the Light of the Light.

It was hung on a chain from the roof, and was swinging,

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   As if the unseemly commotion to chide,
Like the choir-master’s baton when hushing the singing,
   Or the tongue of the bell when its tollings subside.

It lit up the poor paper flowers on the altar,
   And odd were the shadows it scattered around

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On the pulpit and lectern, on choir-seat and psalter,
   While the chains threw the ghost of a cross on the ground. [Page 61]

The people at home in their cabins were sleeping,
   The curé was tucked in his four-posted bed;
While under the willows the river was creeping

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   As if silent with fear of the wind overhead.

But the little dark church had its own congregation—
   The shadows that swayed on the pews and the floor—
While the rafters that creaked were a choir whose laudation
    Had an organ for base in the hurricane’s roar.

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The rusty gilt cock on the flèche was the preacher,
   And scolding and grumpy his voice was to hear,
As he turned to the storm like some faithful old teacher
   Who prophesies hard things regardless of fear.

But the service reflected the state of the weather,

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   For though each, I must say, did his part with a will,
The preacher and choir spoke and sang all together,
    And the shapes on the benches would never sit still. [Page 62]

Yet there was the Host in the midst of the altar,
   Where that little red curtain of damask was hung—

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The God whom King David has praised in the psalter,
   And to whom the whole choir of the ages has sung.

But so big is the heart of our God, the Life-giver,
   That in it life’s humour and pathos both meet;
So I doubt not that night in the church by the river,

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   The poor old storm’s service to Him sounded sweet. [Page 63]
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