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Perplexing me with lies ; and oft I fall,
Maybe for months, in such blind lethargies,
That Heaven, and Earth, and Time are choked.
Bethink thee, Lord, while thou and all the saints
Enjoy themselves in heaven, and men on earth
House in the shade of comfortable roofs,
Sit with their wives by fires, eat wholesome food,
And wear warm clothes, and even beasts have stalls,
I, 'tween the spring and downfall of the light,
Bow down one thousand and two hundred times,
To Christ, the Virgin Mother, and the Saints ;
Or in the night, after a little sleep,
I wake : the chill stars sparkle ; I am wet
With drenching dews, or stiff with crackling frost.
I wear an undress'd goatskin on my back ;
A grazing iron collar grinds my neck ;
And in my weak, lean arms I lift the cross,
And strive and wrestle with thee till I die :
O mercy, mercy! wash away my sin.
O Lord, thou knowest what a man I am ; A sinful man, conceived and born in sin :
'Tis their own doing ; this is none of mine ;
Lay it not to me. Am I to blame for this,
That here come those that worship me ? Ha ! ha!
They think that I am somewhat. What am I?
The silly people take me for a saint,
And bring me offerings of fruit and flowers :
And I, in truth (thou wilt bear witness here)
Have all in all endured as much, and more
Than many just and holy men, whose names
Are register'd and calendar'd for saints.
Good people, you do ill to kneel to me.
What is it I can have done to merit this?
I am a sinner viler than you all.
It may be I have wrought some miracles,
And cured some halt and maim'd ; but what of that ?
It may be, no one, even among the saints,
May match his pains with mine ; but what of that?
Yet do not rise : for you may look on me,
And in your looking you may kneel to God.
Speak! is there any of you halt or maim'd ?
I think you know I have some power with Heaven
From my long penance : let him speak his wish.
Yes, I can heal him. Power goes forth from me.
They say that they are heal’d. Ah, hark! they shout
“St. Simeon Stylites.” Why, if so,
God reaps a harvest in me. O my soul,
God reaps a harvest in thee. If this be,
Can I work miracles and not be saved ?
This is not told of any. They were saints.
It cannot be but that I shall be saved ;
Yea, crown'd a saint. They shout, “Behold a saint ! ”
And lower voices saint me from above.
Courage, St. Simeon! This dull chrysalis
Cracks into shining wings, and hope ere death
Spreads more and more and more, that God hath now
Sponged and made blank of crimeful record all
My mortal archives.
O my sons, my sons,
I, Simeon of the pillar, by surname
Stylites, among men ; I, Simeon,
The watcher on the column till the end ;
I, Simeon, whose brain the sunshine bakes ;
I, whose bald brows in silent hours become
Unnaturally hoar with rime, do now
From my high nest of penance here proclaim
That Pontius and Iscariot by my side
Show'd like fair seraphs. On the coals I lay,
A vessel full of sin : all hell beneath
Made me boil over. Devils pluck’ my sleeve ;
Abaddon and Asmodeus caught at me.
I smote them with the cross ; they swarm'd again.
In bed like monstrous apes they crush'd my chest.
They flapp'd my light out as I read : I saw
Their faces grow between me and my book :
With colt-like whinny and with hoggish whine
They burst my prayer. Yet this way was left
And by this way I ’scaped them. Mortify
Your flesh, like me, with scourges and with thorns ;
Smite, shrink not, spare not. If it may be, fast
Whole Lents, and pray. I hardly, with slow steps—
With slow, faint steps, and much exceeding pain-
Have scrambled past those pits of fire, that still
Sing in mine ears. But yield not me the praise :
God only thro' his bounty hath thought fit
Among the powers and princes of this world,
To make me an example to mankind,
Which few can reach to. Yet I do not say
But that a time may come-yea, even now,
Now, now, his footsteps smite the threshold stairs
Of life—I say, that time is at the doors
When you may worship me without reproach ;
For I will leave my relics in your land,
And you may carve a shrine about my dust,
And burn a fragrant lamp before my bones,
When I am gather'd to the glorious saints.
While I spake then, a sting of shrewdest pain
Ran shrivelling thro' me, and a cloudlike change,
In passing, with a grosser film made thick
These heavy, horny eyes. The end! the end !
Surely the end! What 's here? a shape, a shade,
A flash of light. Is that the angel there
That holds a crown? Come, blessed brother, come.
I know thy glittering face. I waited long ;
My brows are ready. What! deny it now?
Nay, draw, draw, draw nigh. So I clutch it. Christ!
'Tis gone : 'tis here again; the crown! the crown !
So now 'tis fitted on and grows to me,
And from it melt the dews of Paradise,