A form stood by her in the night,
A human presence near her
Spoke one low word of pitying grace,
A name once uttered face to face,
When none was ever dearer
Like oil upon the raging flame
That burned within her heart, it came,
That word of soft approving;
The first soft word that struck her ears,
Through all the long and dreary years,
Of human or of loving.
At once the barred gate opens wide,
They pass within it, side by side
The human hand still leading;
Up through the ruined aisle they go,
When from the altar, still and slow,
Like angels onward treading,
Came seven fair spirits robed in white,
Each holding high a torch, whose light
Lit all the dark with splendour;
And the heavy air around was stirred,
As if from an Æolian chord,
With music low and tender.
“We come from God,” they murmured low,
“Thy unborn children, seven,
To break the bonds of thy bitter woe
And lead thee back to Heaven.
Thy tears have washed away thy crime,
Thou hast repented while ’tis time,
The sinner is forgiven!
“The bond is loosed, the doom is done,
We come to thee, thou sinning one,
With words of peace and pardon;
And as a sign of mercy lay
Upon thee on thy dying day
A lily as God’s guerdon.”
She sank before them on the ground,
With folded palms and hair unbound,
And eyes upraised to Heaven.
Her pale lips moved as if to pray,
But one low murmured word they say
“Forgiven! oh, forgiven!”
And lo! while yet the shadows speak,
A dove with lily in its beak,
A snow‐white dove, came floating in,
Along the silver line of light,
And laid upon that breast of sin
A spotless lily, pure and white.
Then bending low at Erick’s feet,
As if before the Mercy‐seat,
“Pardon!” she said, “by God’s own sign,
I claim from thee that word divine
Before the Judgment‐day;
Bend lower down, and yet more low,
That I may feel thy soft tears flow
To wash my sin away.”
He took her hand as an angel might,
A dying soul to save,
And his tears fell fast as a holy chrism,
Anointing her for the grave
He kissed her brow to still her fears,
Ere yet her eyes grew dim:
The curse is broken, she but hears
His pardon—sees but him.
The damp of death is on her brow,
The last death‐strain is over now,
The suffering soul hath fled.
The solemn shadows slowly wane,
And nought within the church remain
Save Erick and the dead.
They laid her ’neath the altar stair
Thus Erick gave command
Wrapped in her shroud of golden hair,
The lily in her hand.
And standing in the Holy place,
With solemn voice he said:
I do recall the bitter curse
I poured upon her head.
Let the dead bells toll for the sinning soul,
Repentant, saved, forgiven;
By the dread remorse of that pallid corpse,
We feel that her sin is shriven.
She stands before the Mercy‐seat,
If human prayers can waft her,
And by that angel sign ’tis meet
We trust in God’s Hereafter.