O THOU great priest of all the nations, thou
Whose immemorial chanting shakes the sky !
The suns of ages on thy reverend brow
Linger, in glorious life, immortally.
I come again to hear, eternal tone
Of immolated waters, where the leap
Of thy vast splendor makes perpetual moan
And lifts unwearied litanies from the deep.
I find thy priestly waters clad in snow,
And where thy choral rapids used to sweep
Surpliced in hills of frost, like acolytes, they sleep.
All rubrical, in white,
Hills, waves and trees are vestured deep with light
As for high splendors of some solemn feast.
The mighty altar of thy hills, aglow
With ceremonial show,
Twinkles with mimic suns; thy tapers bright
Astound the reverent sight,
And wistful, sedulous clouds of swirling mist
Have never ceased
To hang the shivering trees, by sunbeams kissed,
With wonderful bright robes and baldachins of fleece.
O the vast arc of that white altar, glowing
With crystal columns of thy frozen streams,
Gigantic pillars, halted in their flowing,
Lucent with lightenings of marmoreal gleams,
Their flutings vaster than old Egypt’s glory,
Chiseled to fretted arabesques of frost, —
In the white windings of that splendor hoary
The wildered sunbeams wander and are lost.
Ah, bleak and beautiful, and clear
With more than earthly glitterings of delight,
Thine ice-built altar here
Quivers with marvels of celestial light,
With wild and tremulous mist,
And streaming clouds of glory from its height.
Around, in robes of state,
The reverential forests stand,
With their deep, paradisal fruitings hoar.
Obsequious they wait
While, chanting low, the waters deck them more,
Strewing their crystal splendors on the land,
Weaving the woods with many a strange device
With snowy hands and crackling stays of ice,
Until amazing glories flash and flow
Where the white forests glow,
And all the common world is covered under
With hills of spendor and with vales of wonder !
The vaporous incense of thy restless wave
Is whirled in clouds of glory, freezing far,
On every jutting crag the restless play
Of thy swift, eager water piles away
A heap of gelid foam. The furious war
Of freezing torrents, teased to flinging spray,
Hath left thy stones as lovely as a star.
Where the pale stretches of thine ice fields are,
Hark, the trapped surges impotently rave,
Roar furious, prisoned in their icy cave.
The steadfast waters keep their constant will
On pouring towards the brink of their desire.
The sacrificial torrent whelmed and lost
In wonderful, deep frost,
Leaps onward with its immemorial fire.
With all its ancient joy and all its fear
The liquid litany of the waves I hear,
And echo through the white, impassive walls
The solemn verberations of the falls.
No fetters of imperious cold
This sacrificial surge can stay
From the wild winter’s freezing hold
The eager torrent leaps away,
And through the far-flung ice resistless poured
The ever valiant wave, to win its way,
Shakes the white lightenings of its silver sword!
Source: The Catholic World, vol 110, January 1920, p 496-497