Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > An American Anthology, 1787–1900
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  An American Anthology, 1787–1900.  1900.
 
306. Iona
 
A Memorial of St. Columba
 
By Arthur Cleveland Coxe
 
 
WE gazed on Corryvrekin’s whirl,
  We sailed by Jura’s shore,
Where sang of old the mermaid-girl,
  Whose shell is heard no more;
We came to Fingal’s pillared cave,        5
  That minster in the sea,
And sang—while clapped its hands the wave
  And worshipped even as we.
 
But when, at fair Iona’s bound,
  We leaped upon its soil,        10
I felt indeed ’twas holy ground,—
  Too holy for such spoil;
For spoilers came in evil day,
  Where once to Christ they prayed:
Alas! His Body—ta’en away,        15
  We know not where ’t was laid.
 
We strode above those ancient graves,
  We worshipped by that Cross,
And where their snow-white manes the waves
  Like troops of chargers toss,        20
We gazed upon the distant scene,
  And thought how Columb came
To kindle here the Gospel’s sheen,
  And preach the Saviour’s name:
 
Came where the rude marauding clan        25
  Enforced him to an isle;
Came but to bless and not to ban,
  To make the desert smile.
He made his island church a gem
  That sparkled in the night,        30
Or like that Star of Bethlehem,
  That bathes the world with light.
 
But look! this isle that gems the deep—
  One glance may all behold
This was the shelter of his sheep,        35
  This was Columba’s fold.
Bishops were gold in days of yore,
  For golden was their good,
But in their pastoral hands they bore
  A shepherd’s staff of wood.        40
 
Here elders and his deacons due
  ’Neath one blest roof they dwelt,
And, ere the bird of dawning crew,
  They rose to pray,—and knelt:
Here, watching through the darker hours,        45
  Vigil and fast they kept,
Like those, once hailed by heavenly powers,
  While Herod drowsed and slept.
 
Thus gleaming like a pharos forth
  To shed of Truth the flame,        50
A Patmos of the frozen North
  Iona’s isle became.
The isles that waited for God’s Law
  Mid all the highlands round,
That beacon as it blazed—they saw,        55
  They sought the Light and found.
 
It shone upon those headlands hoar
  That crest thy coasts, Argyle;
To watchers, far as Mona’s shore,
  It seemed a burning pile;        60
To peasant cots and fishers’ skiffs
  It brightened lands and seas;
From Solway to Edina’s cliffs,
  And southward to the Tees.
 
Nay more! For when, that day of bliss,        65
  I sought Columba’s bay,
Came one, as from the wilderness,
  A thousand leagues away;
A bishop of Columba’s kin,
  As primitive as he,        70
Knelt pilgrim-like, those walls within,
  The Saint of Tennessee.
 
Thrilled as with rapture strange and wild,
  I saw him worship there;
And Otey, like a little child,        75
  Outpoured his soul in prayer.
For oh! to him came thoughts, I ween,
  Of one who crossed the seas,
And brought from distant Aberdeen
  Gifts of the old Culdees.        80
 
Great God, how marvellous the flame
  A little spark may light!
What here was kindled first—the same
  Makes far Atlantis bright:
Not Scotia’s clans, nor Umbria’s son        85
  Alone that beacon blest,
It shines to-day o’er Oregon,
  And glorifies our West.
 
Columbia from Columba claims
  More than great Colon brought,        90
And long entwined those twins of names
  Shall waken grateful thought;
And where the Cross is borne afar
  To California’s shore,
Columba’s memory like a star        95
  Shall brighten evermore.
 

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