Winter Dirge.

Fall, Snow, and cease not !  Flake by flake1
The decent winding-sheet compose :2
Thy task is just and pious ; make3
An end of blasphemies and woes.4
Fall flake by flake : by thee alone,5
Last friend, the sleeping draught is given :6
Kind nurse, by thee the couch is strewn,7
The couch whose covering is from heaven.8
Descend and clasp the mountain’s crest ;9
Possess wide plain and valley deep :—10
This night, in thy maternal breast11
Forsaken myriads die in sleep.12
Lo !  from the starry Temple gates13
Death, rides, and bears the flag of peace :14
The combatants he separates ;15
He bids the wrath of ages cease.16
Descend, benignant Power !  But O,17
Ye torrents, shake no’ more the vale ;18
Dark streams, in silence seaward flow ;19
Thou rising storm, remit thy wail.20
Shake not, to-night, the cliffs of Moher,21
Or Brandon’s base, rough sea !  Thou Isle,22
The Rite proceeds :— from shore to shore23
Hold in thy gathered breath the while.24
Fall, snow !  in stillness fall, like dew25
On temple roof, and cedar’s fan ;26
And mould thyself on pine and yew,27
And on the awful face of man.28
Without a sound, without a stir,29
In streets and wolds, on rock and mound,30
O omnipresent comforter,31
By thee, this night, the lost are found.32
On quaking moor, and mountain moss,33
With eyes upstaring at the sky,34
And arms extended like a cross,35
The long-expectant sufferers lie.36
Bend o’er them, white-robed Acolyte !37
Put forth thine hand from cloud and mist,38
And minister the last sad rite,39
Where altar there is none, nor priest.40
Touch thou the gates of soul and sense :41
Touch darkening eyes and dying ears ;42
Touch stiffening hand and feet, and thence43
Remove the trace of sin and tears.44
And ere thou seal those filmed eyes,45
Into God’s urn thy fingers dip,46
And lay, ’mid eucharistic sighs,47
The sacred wafer on the lip.48
This night the Absolver issues forth :49
This night the Eternal Victim bleeds50
O winds and woods—O heaven and earth !51
Be still this night. The Rite proceeds.52