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His last sad burden, and beside his mat
The barefoot monk of La Certosa sat.
Unseen, in square and blossoming garden drifted,
Soft sunset lights through green Val d'arno sifted;
Unheard, below the living shuttles shifted
Backward and forth, and wove, in love or strife,
In mirth or pain, the mottled web of life:
But when at last came upward from the street
Tinkle of bell and tread of measured feet,
The sick man started, strove to rise in vain,
Sinking back heavily with a moan of pain.
And the monk said, “Tis but the Brotherhood
Of Mercy going on some errand good:
Their black masks by the palace-wall I see.”
Piero answered faintly, “Woe is me!
This day for the first time in forty years
In vain the bell hath sounded in my ears,
Calling me with my brethren of the mask,
Beggar and prince alike, to some new task
Of love or pity,—haply from the street
To bear a wretch plague-stricken, or, with feet
Hushed to the quickened ear and feverish brain,
To tread the crowded lazaretto's floors,
Down the long twilight of the corridors,
Midst tossing arms and faces full of pain.
I loved the work: it was its own reward.
I never counted on it to offset
My sins, which are many, or make less my debt
To the free grace and mercy of our Lord;
But somehow, father, it has come to be
In these long years so much a part of me,
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