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And marvel to mark the naked knees
And the dusky foreheads bending there,
While, in coarse white vesture, over these
In blessing or in prayer,
Stretching abroad his thin pale hands,
Like a shrouded ghost, the Jesuit1stands
Two forms are now in that chapel dim,
The Jesuit, silent and sad and pale,
Anxiously heeding some fearful tale,
Which a stranger is telling him.
That stranger's garb is soiled and torn,
And wet with dew and loosely worn;
Her fair neglected hair falls down
O'er cheeks with wind and sunshine brown;
Yet still, in that disordered face,
The Jesuit's cautious eye can trace
Those elements of former grace
Which, half effaced, seem scarcely less,
Even now, than perfect loveliness.
With drooping head, and voice so low
That scarce it meets the Jesuit's ears,
While through her clasped fingers flow,
From the heart's fountain, hot and slow,
Her penitential tears,—
She tells the story of the woe
And evil of her years.
O father, bear with me; my heart
Is sick and death-like, and my brain
Seems girdled with a fiery chain,
Whose scorching links will never part,
And never cool again.
Bear with me while I speak, but turn
Away that gentle eye, the while;
The fires of guilt more fiercely burn
Beneath its holy smile;
For half I fancy I can see
My mother's sainted look in thee.
My dear lost mother! sad and pale,
Mournfully sinking day by day,
And with a hold on life as frail
As frosted leaves, that, thin and gray,
Hang feebly on their parent spray,
And tremble in the gale;
Yet watching o'er my childishness
With patient fondness, not the less
For all the agony which kept
Her blue eye wakeful, while I slept;
And checking every tear and groan
1 Pere Ralle, or Rasles, was one of the most zealous and indefatigable of that band of Jesuit missionaries who at the beginning of the seventeenth century penetrated the forests of America, with the avowed object of converting the heathen. The first religious mission of the Jesuits to the savages in North America was in 161l. The zeal of the fathers for the conversion of the Indians to the Catholic faith knew no bounds. For this they plunged into the depths of the wilderness; habituated themselves to all the hardships and privations of the natives; suffered cold, hunger, and some of them death itself, by the extremest tortures. Pere Brebeuf, after laboring in the cause of his mission for twenty years, together with his companion, Pere Lallamant, was burned alive. To these might be added the names of those Jesuits who were put to death by the Iroquois,—Daniel, Garnier, Buteaux, La Riborerde, Goupil, Constantin, and Liegeouis. ‘For bed,’ says Father Lallamant, in his Relation de ce qui s'est dans le pays des Hurons, 1640, c. 3, ‘we have nothing but a miserable piece of bark of a tree; for nourishment, a handful or two of corn either roasted or soaked in water, which seldom satisfies our hunger; and after all, not venturing to perform even the ceremonies of our religion without being considered as sorcerers.’ Their success among the natives, however, by no means equalled their exertions. Pere Lallamant says: ‘With respect to adult persons, in good health, there is little apparent success; on the contrary, there have been nothing but storms and whirlwinds from that quarter.’Sebastian Ralle established himself, some time about the year 1670, at Norridgewock, where he continued more than forty years. He was accused, and perhaps not without justice, of exciting his Praying Indians against the English, whom he looked upon as the enemies not only of his king, but also of the Catholic religion. He was killed by the English, in 1724, at the foot of the cross which his own hands had planted. His Indian church was broken up, and its members either killed outright or dispersed. In a letter written by Ralle to his nephew he gives the following account of his church and his own labors: ‘All my converts repair to the church regularly twice every day: first, very early in the morning, to attend mass, and again in the evening, to assist in the prayers at sunset. As it is necessary to fix the imagination of savages, whose attention is easily distracted, I have composed prayers, calculated to inspire them with just sentiments of the august sacrifice of our altars: they chant, or at least recite them aloud, during mass. Besides preaching to them on Sundays and saints' days, I seldom let a working-day pass without making a concise exhortation, for the purpose of inspiring them with horror at those vices to which they are most addicted, or to confirm them in the practice of some particular virtue.’— Vide Lettres Edifiantes et Cur., vol. VI. p. 127.
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