The groaning of the peddler’s cart
Is droning slowly through the mart of Alexandria.
The climbing sun blows as he goes
Higher still and higher,
A wreath of golden burning fire,
On that far city of the Orient.
The wilting blooms are scorched and bent
And the flags that pave the street
Blister the small girl’s brown feet.
A warm mist from off the ocean’s drifting spray
Falls on the ancient ramparts all the summer day.
Shadowless stands the spiring temple steeple,
Where many, very many pleasant people
Drowse with the moisture ladening the air.
Sleep on the hard, gray pavements of the square.
Some idlers passing by are driven into the soft, cool shade
Of awnings – which over their motley markets some Persian merchants made.
Not even for years has such celestial brightness shone.
The heavy moments lumber on.
All is quiet save for the sullen thud
Of the Nile, coating its banks with mud –
Then riding onto join the color of the sea, Majestic and eternally.
There is no sound or stirring of men – and then – The water-clocks dripping in the sun,
That was a solemn stroke that broke the siesta silence of the day.
No sooner had it rung then the sword of the executioner had swung.
Through a column of air, then flesh, then bone, then flesh, then air,
And into the long black hair of Catherine of Alexandria!
In the dark evening a small rivulet
and flood of her young blood was
on the marble floor –
Shone in the light of the moon
And belied the deed that was done at noon.
Saint Catherine of Alexandria we read of your triumphs that brought you to Heaven’s height,
And wish you, who read by the light of the stars, a glorious birthday night!
We know that your soul is wandering out from your Palace of Mirth
And is near us and with us and somewhere about is whispering or singing,
“Heaven is better than earth! Heaven is better than earth!”