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Passion-flowers

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Julia's Poetry: Passion-Flowers
Santa Susanna

A silent longing drew me towards the church-
Not in the hour when votaries throng its aisles,
When tinkling massbells teach us kneeling-time,
And prayers that boast despair are breathed with smiles.

Not while the gilded steps of Fashion fall
And her full train sweeps by in crimson state,
But when the peasant-mother, with her child,
Presses her sun-stained brow against the grate.

Or oftener yet, no worshipper was there.
Thus, ere the chant of evening should begin,
I left the vesper of the world without,
And with me went the gentle twilight in.

In lustral water I imbued my hands,
By some unholy contact chance-defiled;
Washed from my brow the trace of evil thought;
From lips, what they amiss had said or smiled.

I knelt to pray, then, flinging far away
Life's garden weeds, that throng our footsteps free,
Choking the seed by angels strewn, to bear
The flower of Hope for Joy that is to be.

This was my shrift, a breathing after God,
A shuddering, rapid glance adown the past,
Turned heavenward ere its spectral forms could rise,
And, with pale chiding, set my soul aghast;

A sacrifice of expiation sought
For every willful error of my life,
A plea like this: "Bethink thee, by thy will
Th' immortal breath took this poor flesh to wife.

'Were they for suffering and for evil wed,
High priest of Nature, bear with me the blame!
But if for purposes of love and good,
Help! raise me from this bed of sloth and shame!'