Santa Filomena

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Santa Filomena
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
From Birds of Passage. Featured in Vol 1., No.1 of The Atlantic Monthly.

Santa Filomena
  Whene'er a noble deed is wrought,
  Whene'er is spoken a noble thought,
    Our hearts, in glad surprise,
    To higher levels rise.

  The tidal wave of deeper souls
  Into our inmost being rolls,
    And lifts us unawares
    Out of all meaner cares.

  Honor to those whose words or deeds
  Thus help us in our daily needs,
    And by their overflow
    Raise us from what is low!

  Thus thought I, as by night I read
  Of the great army of the dead,
    The trenches cold and damp,
    The starved and frozen camp,--

  The wounded from the battle-plain,
  In dreary hospitals of pain,
    The cheerless corridors,
    The cold and stony floors.

  Lo! in that house of misery
  A lady with a lamp I see
    Pass through the glimmering gloom
    And flit from room to room.

  And slow, as in a dream of bliss,
  The speechless sufferer turns to kiss
    Her shadow, as it falls
    Upon the darkening walls.

  As if a door in heaven should be
  Opened, and then closed suddenly,
    The vision came and went,
    The light shone and was spent.

  On England's annals, through the long
  Hereafter of her speech and song,
    That light its rays shall cast
    From portals of the past.

  A lady with a lamp shall stand
  In the great history of the land,
    A noble type of good,
    Heroic womanhood.

  Nor even shall be wanting here
  The palm, the lily, and the spear,
    The symbols that of yore
    Saint Filomena bore.

This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.