William Noel Hodgson

Ave, Mater - atque Vale

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The deathless mother, grey and battle-scarred,
Lies in the sanctuary of stately trees,
Where the deep Northern night is saffron starred
Above her head, and thro' the dusk she sees
God's shadowy fortress keep unsleeping guard.

From her full breast we drank of joy and mirth
And gave to her a boy's unreasoned heart,
Wherein Time's fullness was to bring to birth
Such passionate allegiance that to part
Seemed like the passing of all light on earth.

Now on the threshold of a man's estate,
With a new depth of love akin to pain
I ask thy blessing, while I dedicate
My life and sword, with promise to maintain
Thine ancient honour yet inviolate.

Last night dream-hearted in the Abbey's spell
We stood to sing old Simeon's passing hymn,
When sudden splendour of the sunset fell
Full on my eyes, and passed and left all dim -
At once a summons and a deep farewell.

I am content - our life is but a trust
From the great hand of God, and if I keep
The immortal Treasure clean of mortal rust
Against His claim, 'tis well and let me sleep
Among the not dishonourable dust.

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William Noel Hodgson