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Poem by Helen Gray Cone


Ivo of Chartres


  Now may it please my lord, Louis the king,
    Lily of Christ and France! riding his quest,
  I, Bishop Ivo, saw a wondrous thing.

    There was no light of sun left in the west,
  And slowly did the moon's new light increase.
    Heaven, without cloud, above the near hill's crest,
  Lay passion purple in a breathless peace.
    Stars started like still tears, in rapture shed,
  Which without consciousness the lids release.

    All steadily, one little sparkle red,
  Afar, drew close. A woman's form grew up
    Out of the dimness, tall, with queen-like head,
  And in one hand was fire; in one, a cup.
    Of aspect grave she was, with eyes upraised,
  As one whose thoughts perpetually did sup
    At the Lord's table.

                   While the cresset blazed,
  Her I regarded. "Daughter, whither bent,
    And wherefore?" As by speech of man amazed,
  One moment her deep look to me she lent;
    Then, in a voice of hymn-like, solemn fall,
  Calm, as by role, she spake out her intent:

    "I in my cruse bear water, wherewithal
  To quench the flames of Hell; and with my fire
    I Paradise would burn: that hence no small
  Fear shall impel, and no mean hope shall hire,
    Men to serve God as they have served of yore;
  But to his will shall set their whole desire,
    For love, love, love alone, forevermore!"

  And "love, love, love," rang round her as she passed
    From sight, with mystic murmurs o'er and o'er
  Reverbed from hollow heaven, as from some vast,
    Deep-colored, vaulted, ocean-answering shell.

  I, Ivo, had no power to ban or bless,
    But was as one withholden by a spell.
  Forward she fared in lofty loneliness,
  Urged on by an imperious inward stress,
    To waste fair Eden, and to drown fierce Hell.



Helen Gray Cone


Helen Gray Cone's other poems:
  1. At the Parting of the Ways
  2. Sere Wisdom
  3. A Nest in a Lyre
  4. Compensation
  5. The House of Hate


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