The Saint

SAINT FRANCIS of Assisi, do you remember
the sacred mountain, green above the lake,
where first the vines and then the olives clamber,
and the flowers, so lulled with beauty, never wake —
gold, crimson, blue,
on the long drowsy terraces you loved and knew?
Still in the lake the painted island-town
to the brown shelter of its Minster creeps,
and still the kerchiefed boatman, bending down,
scarce stirs the burnished water with his sweeps,
and from the hill
the monastery bells affirm your gospel still.
Your gospel of the birds and of the flowers,
how every petal God has deigned to paint
has by its mere enamel all the powers,
and more than all the beauty of the saint,
and how the swallow
worships with arrow-flight that prayer is feign to follow.
Your gospel of acceptance, that transposes
God, and this earthly beauty He has made,
finding the resurrection in the roses
and all the angels in a single blade,
and having heard
the Twelve Apostles in the voice of a bird.
And, as with beauty, so with ugliness,
asking the mire that your feet had trod
with its long patience to redeem and bless
the soul’s impatience, when the feet of God
pass by, as though
He cared not what He crushed, and did not even know.
With ugliness, or what so seemed, and sin
that is no more than beauty’s other side,
your gospel, like your Master, entered in
and by acceptance proved what sin denied —
that wickedness
is part of the soul of God, and calls to Him no less.
You sought no cloister, but the rose-white briar
of perfect understanding and its pardon
built walls, that shut out envy, hate, desire,
or changed them into flowers in your garden,
since all were part
of the burden of man, and therefore of your heart.
Still on your sacred mountain the cold lances
of the moon ring the target of your mere,
and while one man loves birds and flowers, Saint Francis,
you and the company of saints are here,
while one man knows
that all creation is simple as a rose.
Fades like a rose, and has the rose’s thorn,
but sees behind the fallen petal the bud,
and understands, although his heart is torn,
there was and is salvation in blood —
while anyone
lies down to sleep, accepting everything beneath the sun.