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Fra Aloysius by Emma Lazarus

Fra Aloysius, vexed with skeptic fears,

Nigh crazed with thought to all the saints did pray

For faith in those mysterious words that say,

"One day is with the Lord a thousand years,

A thousand years with Him are as a day."

An erudite and holy monk was he,

And yet his brethren trembled lest his brain

Should lose its poise, so long he dwelt in vain

On that perplexing verse to find its key,

And strove to make its hidden meaning plain.

Racked by a sleepless night, one fresh spring morn

Forth from the cloister Aloysius strolled.

The wood was dewy-bright, clear beams of gold

Illumined it, and to his heart was borne

A sense of freedom, peace and joy untold.

Beside a laughing brook he sat to rest,

Above whose wave did long-haired willows weep;

Midmost the dense green forest, still and deep,

Lulled by the trickling waters and possessed

By tranquil thoughts, the friar fell asleep.

And, overworn, he slept the livelong day,

Nor waked until the twilight shadows fell,

That flung a brown night o'er that leafy dell.

Then up he rose refreshed and went his way,

And, half ashamed, he heard the vesper-bell.

Back to the convent fared he; at the gate

A stranger gave him entrance, but he passed

Into the chapel with meek eyes downcast,

In truant guise returning home thus late,

And toward his wonted seat made seemly haste.

Too late! a stranger filled it. Looking round,

Amazed, he could discern no face he knew.

The abbot's self had changed; his wonder grew,

When, after the familiar chant, he found

These crazy monks held him for crazy too.

They gathered round with curious, eager eyes.

"What cloister's this?" he asked. They named its name:

The one he left that morning was the same.

His name he gave; with many a wild surmise

They guessed who he might be and whence he came.

He asked them where the abbot was at last,

From whom he parted but the night before.

"He hath been dead three hundred years and more!"

They answered with a single voice, aghast.

Then spake a friar versed in monkish lore:

"Brethren, a miracle! This man I know:

'Tis Aloysius, who, as I have read,

Beset with doubts, forth from this convent fled,

And vanished, some three hundred years ago,

And all the world hath counted him as dead."

Then Aloysius felt the blessed tears

Fulfill his eyes, whence dropped the scales away.

Kneeling, he cried, "Oh, brethren, let us pray.

One day is with the Lord a thousand years,

A thousand years with Him are as a day."