The Passion of Agnes by Prudentius

Near the town of Romulus,
Faithful Maid and Martyr blest,
Agnes hath her sepulchre;
From her holy place of rest
She can see the city-towers;
She can hear the city stir

Double crown of martyrdom
She hath granted her ;

Chaste unspotted virgnal,
Glory of a willing death.
Christ-devoted, she had scorned
Idol-sacrifice to pay ;—

They had searched her long and sore,
Balancing her soul between

Offers thick of ease and bliss,
Iron-hearted threats of pain ;

Mild and proud she looked on them :
“ Ye may take and try me here ;

So believe me, as ye sec
Joy look from me in the fires,
Praises when ye list for cries.”

Then the stark tormentor said,
“ It is easy to hush down
Struggling pain when life is cheap ,-
But she hath a, precious gem ;

Do she not our sacrifice,
Into public place impure
Be she led, and peril make
Of the pearl she loveth best ;
Life she selleth but to buy
Visions of untasted bliss ,-
May be she will sell her dreams
To redeem her chastity.”

Then the holy Agnes said,
“ Deein ye never that my Christ Will forget His chosen so,
As to let the golden crown
Of my virgin brow be dimmed ;
Ye may crust your steel with blood, But my Christ and I have sworn These His members bright and pure Earthly lust shall never soil.”
Thus she boasted, and was led
Blessed, in unblessed wise,
Where the public pavements meet ,-
There she stood, and every face
Of the reverential crowd

Turned away in fear and shame,
That they might not lightly look
On the holy treasure there :

One alone with slippery eye
Rashly dared her form to scan ;
Swiftly leapt the winged fire
Down upon his truant sight ,-
Dazzled with the glory-flame

Prone he fell, and quivering lay ;
Him his comrades lifted slow,
Bore away with words of dole.

She in holy triumph went
Hymning Christ with liquid song ;—-
One step hath she neared the door
Of the palace of the skies,

Yet another she must climb ;—-
Angry shouts the vanquished foe

Fierce defiance—Bare thy sword,
Do our hest, and strike her low !
When the blessed Agnes saw Near her gleam the naked blade, “ This,” she cried, with lightsome cheer, “ Is the lover shall be mine ; Rather this, though icy chill Be its edge and pitiless, Than some youth of odours breathing, Falsest vows in roses wreathing. I will go to meet its suit ; So with Christ above the arch Of yon heaven, a Virgin Spouse, Shall my marriage-feast begin. Husband, roll thou back the doors Of thy golden banquet house ; Call me, I will follow thee, Virgin Victim, Virgin Spouse !”
So she spoke, and bent her head Blessed, in adoring wise ;
Once above her gleamed the steel,
Then the sacred river flowed

That makes glad the city of God,
Then her spirit bounded forth
Free into the liquid air ;

Angels lined her upward way
With a path of snowy light. .
Marvelling she beholds the earth
Underspread her mounting feet,
Sees the shades beneath her roll
Round about the monstrous world ;
Laughs to scorn the life of men
Tossed on waves of vanity ,-
Laughs the pomp of kings to scorn,
Robes, and gilded palaces,

Thirst of gold, and lust of power,
All our envy, all our hope.

Agnes in her triumph high,
Faithful Maid and Martyr blest,
Treading in her victory
On the ancient dragon’s crest,
Crowned by God with double crown
On thy clear and shining brow,
Happy Virgin, looks she down
On the souls that wrestle now.

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