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The Silver Box

Alice Guerin Crist 1876 (Clare Castle) – 1941 (Toowoomba)



Old tales of valour fire our blood
But this, the bravest deed I know
Is written of our modern times,
No myth of long ago.

It was a convent grim and grey,
Whose vine-clad balconies looked down
On stately old Colonial homes
Of a fair Southern town.

And daughters of those grand old homes
Dwelt, humble Nuns, within its shade,
Serving their Lord with zealous hearts,
Joyous and unafraid.

From the dear Rectress, staid and old
To the small novice whose sweet eyes
Held the soft blue of Mary’s cloak
Or flowers of Paradise.

Peaceful and holy ran their lives
Hallowed by sacrifice and prayer,
Until one summer day did come
A fateful message there.

A letter from a brave young Priest,
The Rectress’ nephew, who, long while
Had toiled alone ‘mid leper folk
In a West Indian Isle.

The horrors of that festering hell
He told Ah! There were women there
Deep sunk in suffering and in sin
Who needed women’s care.

The good Nun read with blanching face,
And well her wisdom could divine
The cry for help he dared not ask
The breathed in every line.

She could not bid her daughters loved
Such awful sacrifice to make;
But should one feel impelled to give
Her life, for Jesus sake,

“I’ll place.” She said. “this silver box,
Before the chapel alter where
Such one may place her name therein
In quiet and secret there.”

The convent was a silent place
For all that long, long summer day,
Though in the garden old, the bees
Hummed round nasturtiums gay.

But tasks were done and prayers were said
In thoughtful silence, faithfully
The merry little novice e’en,
Went slowly and solemnly.

A thing of fate, the little box
Lay bright upon the alter stair,
The silver lamp before Our Lord
Shone on it sparkling there.

Next morn they waited after Mass
To hear the chaplain grave proclaim
On opening the casket there
If it held any name.

And in the rear a little group
Off anxious fathers, mothers pale,
Who knew the story of the box
Waited to hear the tale.

Oh! Wondrous faith of Peter’s fold
That can such fruitage bear-
The little box was very full
No name was missing there.

From the dear Rectress staid and old
To the small novice, who bright eyes
Mirrored the blue of Mary’s cloak
Of flowers of Paradise.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Alice Guerin Crist

Alice Guerin Crist was an Australian poet, author and journalist. more…

All Alice Guerin Crist poems | Alice Guerin Crist Books

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