A Legend

“ Projice te in eum, non se subtrahet ut cadas.”


THERE’S a legend, old and quaint,
Of a painter and a saint,
Told at Innsbruck, in the Tyrol, where the swift river flies ;
Where the berg with snowy crown
Hangs darkling o’er the town,
And, circling all, the green-domed hills and castled Alps arise.
In a church, at set of sun
(Thus doth the story run),
Some children watched the cupola, where, propped on dizzy frames,
Daniel Asam, calm and grand,
With a heaven-directed hand,
Stood painting a colossal figure of the great Saint James.
And one there, whispering, praised
The painter, as they gazed,
Telling how he had pondered o’er each text of Holy Word
That helps the story on
Of the brother of Saint John,
Of the first apostle who was martyred for the martyred Lord.
Every dawn of day, ’t was said,
He ate the Holy Bread;
And every night the knotted lash wounded his shoulders bare.
Silent he came and went,
Like one whom God has sent
On a high and solemn mission, that brooks no speech but prayer.
For ’twas meet that he should pray,
Who fitly would portray
The form that walked with Christ, and feasted at the mystic board.
And much he needed grace,
Who would picture forth the face
That had shone back in the glory of the transfigured Lord !
Thus whispered they below ;
While above, within the glow
Of an isolating sunshine, the unconscious artist stood.
And, where the rays did fall
Full clearly on the wall,
Leaned the Apostle, half revealed, in dawning saintlihood.
Daniel Asam paused in doubt,
As he traced the nimbus out:
Would the face show dimmer should he add one crowning raylet more,—
With a single pointed spire
Tip the auroral fire,
Whose curved and clustered radiance that awful forehead wore ?
Hesitating, back be drew,
For a more commanding view.
The children trembled where they stood, and whitened, and grew faint;
And still he backward stept,
And still, forgetful, kept
His studious eyes fixed earnestly upon the bending saint.
One plank remained alone,
And then the cruel stone
That paved the chancel and the nave, two hundred feet below.
The man, enwrapped in God,
Still slowly backward trod,
And stepped beyond the platform’s dizzy edge, and fell, —when, lo !
Swift as a startled thought,
The saint his hands had wrought
Lived, and flashed downward from the dome with outstretched, saving arm ;
One dazzling instant, one,
The heavenly meteor shone,
And Daniel Asam stood before the altar, free from harm !
Like mist around him hung,
The ling’ring glory clung;
He felt the pictured holy ones grow still within their frames ;
He knew the light that shone
Through eyes of carven stone ;
And, fading up within the dome, his savior, great Saint James!
Thus shall thy rescue be
(My soul said unto me),
If thou but cast thyself on God, and trust to him thine all.
For he, who, with his might,
Labors with God aright,
Hath angel hands about him ever, and he cannot fall!
M. A. T.