(The Portuguese Nun—1640–1723)
THE sparrows wake beneath the convent eaves;
I think I have not slept the whole night through.
But I am old; the aged scarcely know
The times they wake and sleep, for life burns down;
They breathe the calm of death before they die.
The long night ends, the day comes creeping in,
Showing the sorrows that the darkness hid,
The bended head of Christ, the blood, the thorns,
The wall's gray stains of damp, the pallet bed
Where little Sister Marta dreams of saints,
Waking with arms outstretched imploringly
That seek to stay a vision's vanishing.
I never had a vision, yet for me
Our Lady smiled while all the convent slept
One winter midnight hushed around with snow—
I thought she might be kinder than the rest,
And so I came to kneel before her feet,
Sick with love's sorrow and love's bitterness.
But when I would have made the blessèd sign,
I found the water frozen in the font,
And touched but ice within the carvèd stone.
The saints had hid themselves away from me,
Leaving the windows black against the night;