Tritemius of Herbipolis one day,
While kneeling at the altar’s foot to pray,
Alone with God, as was his pious choice,
Heard from beneath a miserable voice, —
A sound that seemed of all sad things to tell,
As of a lost soul crying out of hell.
Thereat the Abbot rose, the chain whereby
His thoughts went upward broken by that cry,
And, looking from the casement, saw below
A wretched woman, with gray hair aflow,
And withered hands stretched up to him, who cried
For alms as one who might not be denied.
She cried: “For the dear love of Him who gave
His life for ours, my child from bondage save,
My beautiful, brave first-born, chained with slaves
In the Moor’s galley, where the sun-smit waves
Lap the white walls of Tunis!” “What I can
I give,” Tritemius said, — “my prayers.” “O man
Of God!” she cried, for grief had made her bold,
“Mock me not so; I ask not prayers, but gold;
Words cannot serve me, alms alone suffice;
Even while I plead, perchance my first-born dies!”
“Woman!” Tritemius answered, “from our door
None go unfed; hence are we always poor.
A single soldo is our only store.
Thou hast our prayers; what can we give thee more?”
“Give me,” she said, “the silver candlesticks
On either side of the great crucifix;
God well may spare them on His errands sped,
Or He can give you golden ones instead.”