Dora Sigerson Shorter ( )


The Priests Brother


Thrice in the night the priest arose
From broken sleep to kneel and pray.
Hush, poor ghost, till the red cock crows,
And I a Mass for your soul may say.

Thrice he went to the chamber cold,
Where, stiff and still uncoffinèd,
His brother lay, his beads he told,
And Rest, poor spirit, rest, he said.

Thrice lay the old priest down to sleep
Before the morning bell should toll;
But still he heardand woke to weep
The crying of his brothers soul.

All through the dark, till dawn was pale,
The priest tossed in his misery,
With muffled ears to hide the wail,
The voice of that ghosts agony.

At last the red cock flaps his wings
To trumpet of a day new-born.
The lark, awaking, soaring sings
Into the bosom of the morn.

The priest before the altar stands,
He hears the spirit call for peace;
He beats his breast with shaking hands.
O Father, grant this souls release.

Most Just and Merciful, set free
From Purgatorys awful night
This sinners soul, to fly to Thee,
And rest for ever in Thy sight.

The Mass is overstill the clerk
Kneels pallid in the morning glow.
He said, From evils of the dark
Oh, bless me, father, ere you go.

Benediction, that I may rest,
For all night did the Banshee weep.
The priest raised up his hands and blest
Go now, my child, and you will sleep.

The priest went down the vestry stair,
He laid his vestments in their place,
And turneda pale ghost met him there,
With beads of pain upon his face.

Brother, he said, you have gained me peace,
But why so long did you know my tears,
And say no Mass for my souls release,
To save the torture of all those years?

God rest you, brother, the good priest said,
No years have passedbut a single night.
He showed the body uncoffinèd,
And the six wax candles still alight.

The living flowers on the dead mans breast
Blew out a perfume sweet and strong.
The spirit paused ere he passed to rest
God save your soul from a night so long.



Dora Sigerson Shorter's other poems:
  1. An Imperfect Revolution
  2. The Kine of My Father
  3. An Eastern God
  4. When You Are on the Sea
  5. The Fairy Changeling


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