“Mused Mary in Old Age” by George M. P. Baird (poem)

The lengthening shadows of the cedar trees
Have blended into twilight, and the sun
Has plunged in glorious gold precipitance
Beyond the dim crest of the western hills,
Bearing with it the day’s disquietudes;
And now the stars, that lamp the feet of God,
Are lighted, and night’s purple silences
Steal gently round me fraught with memories.

’Twas such an hour as this—long, long ago
Yet seeming yesterday—he came to me,
My little son, in joyous travail born
Out there across the hills in Bethlehem,
Where we who journeyed southward to be taxed—
Strangers in our own father’s land—had found
No shelter in the crowded khan, and shared,
Perforce, a grotto with the stabled kine.

Ah, how it all comes back again to me!
The courtyard, in the flickering torchlight, filled
With huddled trav’lers sleeping ’neath the sky,
The kneeling camels of a caravan,
The patient asses dozing by the wall,
A smell of roasting meat at little fires,
The shouts of melon-sellers, the low drone
Of reverend elders bending at their prayers,
Barking of street-dogs, porters’ blasphemies,
The laughter of a girl, the mellow flute
Of some rapt lover, and the tinkling tune
Of sheep-bells forward moving through the dark.
And then the hour supreme, wherein my soul
Clomb the dark pinnacles of pain, and death
Grappled with life through whirling aeoned years,
But fled at length and left the Miracle.

They laid him there beside me on the hay,
A wee pink being in his world’s first sleep;
My arm was round about him and his breath
Was warm with life on my exultant breast,
And they whose winged watch is set to keep
Ward in the valley lands of heaven looked down,
Not up, that night to find their paradise.
All weak with labor and soul’s happiness,
I lay beneath the sapphire tent of skies,
And in my heart I made a little prayer
Of thanks that flew up to the throne of God
On swift dove pinions of unuttered song;
And as I prayed, lo, upon loops of stars
Night’s velvet curtainings were lifted up,
A wondrous light turned all the world to rose,
And down the skies swept singing seraphim
In mighty echoes of my little prayer.

Oh, can it be that threescore years have marched
In troubled caravan across the waste
Of desert life since then, and can it be
That I, who sit here in mine eventide,
White with the snows of sorrow and of time,
Was once a bright tressed girl who heard the choirs
Of heaven rejoice that she had borne a son?
Why, I can feel that little heart beat still
Close to my own, the touch of little hands
Warm and caressing on this withered breast;
Still I can hear the first low wail that marked
His woe’s beginning and the tortured path
That he should tread in mighty gentleness,
With pain and anguish, ’til his love supreme
And terrible meekness, overcoming death,
Should lead him conqueror to sit with God,
Pleading for sinful men in paradise.

Today I stole into the synagogue
And heard a rabbi read the sacred scroll:
How that my lord, Isaiah, said of old,
Thy Maker is thy husband, he hath called thee
As a forsaken woman, spirit grieved;
God, for a little moment, hides his face
From thee, but with his loving kindness soon
And tender mercies shall he gather thee.
Then was I comforted, and peace displaced
The turmoil in my heart, and minded me
Of that great promise Gabriel bore from God
And the immeasurable fruitage of his word,
The life and death and glory of my son.

So in the shades of life and night I sit,
Under the sheltering arbor of the dark
That curves above, vined o’er with trellised stars,
Waiting my spirit bridegroom, and the sound
Of that loved voice—long silent save in dreams—
Calling across the vibrant firmament,
O Mary, Mother Mary, come to Me.

This poem is from ’Prentice Songs (Pittsburgh: Aldine Press, 1913) and is in the public domain.

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