Catherine Tekakwitha

The sweet-briar rose of summer glades
We lay upon another shrine ; [1]
The lily of the Mohawk woods,
O dusky maiden! shall be thine.

One pendent flower, upon a stem
With leaves enfolded, pearly white;
Itself, its leaves, its very stalk
Like frost-work set in summer light.

Though swaying to the lightest breeze,
No fibre gives it earthly hold;
A miracle of beauty, seen
Up springing from the forest would.[2]

And thus, in innocence of soul,
A Mohawk maiden, orphaned, shy,
Grew up within a cabin’s shade,
Almost apart from human eye.

Left at her birth to warlike kin,
A stranger to all gentle care,
Death gave to her an unseen shield-
Her Christian mother’s dying prayer.

The April airs, though long delayed,
Are not so welcome to the fir,
Nor through the wind-flower’s slender stem
So swift a sense of gladness stir,

As Heaven’s full message, sent, at length,
Through Christian teachers to the maid;
Which found her, waiting still, within
A Mohawk cabin’s humble shade.

Thenceforth the Bread, thenceforth the Wine
“Which springs forth virgins” was her food
“Oh! who will show me,” still she cried,
“The perfect way, the highest good ?”

As new-fledged eagles seek the sun,
Her soul to joys mysterious soared;
The Sovereign Beauty claimed His spouse;
She loved where she had first adored.

The lonely cross which marks her grave,
The Old World’s pilgrim oft has stayed;
The wandering hunter, from the lakes,
Still pauses here to ask her aid.

The foaming torrents hoarsely chant
Her virgin praises, year by year;
And Indian maidens love to bring
Their griefs their joys, their wishes, here.

Then, let the rose of summer glades
Be laid upon another shrine;
The lily of the Mohawk woods;
O dusky maiden! shall be thine.

[1] Saint Rose of Lima

[2] Monotropa; called “Indian Pipe.”