Denis Florence MacCarthy Poems >>
The Bell-Founder Part II - Triumph And Reward

In the furnace the dry branches crackle, the crucible shines as with
gold,
As they carry the hot flaming metal in haste from the fire to the mould;
Loud roars the bellows, and louder the flames as they shrieking escape,
And loud is the song of the workmen who watch o'er the fast-filling
shape;
To and fro in the red-glaring chamber the proud master anxiously moves,
And the quick and the skilful he praiseth, and the dull and the laggard
reproves;
And the heart in his bosom expandeth, as the thick bubbling metal up
swells,
For like to the birth of his children he watcheth the birth of the
bells.

Peace had guarded the door of young Paolo, success on his industry
smiled,
And the dark wing of Time had passed quicker than grief from the face of
a child;
Broader lands lay around that sweet cottage, younger footsteps tripped
lightly around,
And the sweet silent stillness was broken by the hum of a still sweeter
sound.
At evening when homeward returning how many dear hands must he press,
Where of old at that vine-covered wicket he lingered but one to caress;
And that dearest one is still with him, to counsel, to strengthen, and
calm,
And to pour over Life's needful wounds the healing of Love's blessed
balm.

But age will come on with its winter, though happiness hideth its snows;
And if youth has its duty of labour, the birthright of age is repose:
And thus from that love-sweetened toil, which the heavens had so
prospered and blest,
The old Campanaro will go to that vine-covered cottage to rest;
But Paolo is pious and grateful, and vows as he kneels at her shrine,
To offer some fruit of his labour to Mary the Mother benign--
Eight silver-toned bells will he offer, to toll for the quick and the
dead,
From the tower of the church of her convent that stands on the cliff
overhead.

'Tis for this that the bellows are blowing, that the workmen their
sledge-hammers wield,
That the firm sandy moulds are now broken, and the dark-shining bells
are revealed;
The cars with their streamers are ready, and the flower-harnessed necks
of the steers,
And the bells from their cold silent workshop are borne amid blessings
and tears.
By the white-blossom'd, sweet-scented myrtles, by the olive-trees
fringing the plain,
By the corn-fields and vineyards is winding that gift-bearing, festival
train;
And the hum of their voices is blending with the music that streams on
the gale,
As they wend to the Church of our Lady that stands at the head of the
vale.

Now they enter, and now more divinely the saints' painted effigies
smile,
Now the acolytes bearing lit tapers move solemnly down through the
aisle,
Now the thurifer swings the rich censer, and the white curling vapour
up-floats,
And hangs round the deep-pealing organ, and blends with the tremulous
notes.
In a white shining alb comes the abbot, and he circles the bells round
about,
And with oil, and with salt, and with water, they are purified inside
and out;
They are marked with Christ's mystical symbol, while the priests and the
choristers sing,
And are bless'd in the name of that God to whose honour they ever shall
ring.

Toll, toll! with a rapid vibration, with a melody silv'ry and strong,
The bells from the sound-shaken belfry are singing their first maiden
song;
Not now for the dead or the living, or the triumphs of peace or of
strife,
But a quick joyous outburst of jubilee full of their newly-felt life;
Rapid, more rapid, the clapper rebounds from the round of the bells--
Far and more far through the valley the intertwined melody swells--
Quivering and broken the atmosphere trembles and twinkles around,
Like the eyes and the hearts of the hearers that glisten and beat to the
sound.

But how to express all his rapture when echo the deep cadence bore
To the old Campanaro reclining in the shade of his vine-covered door,
How to tell of the bliss that came o'er him as he gazed on the fair
evening star,
And heard the faint toll of the vesper bell steal o'er the vale from
afar--
Ah! it was not alone the brief ecstasy music doth ever impart
When Sorrow and Joy at its bidding come together and dwell in the heart;
But it was that delicious sensation with which the young mother is
blest,
As she lists to the laugh of her child as it falleth asleep on her
breast.

From a sweet night of slumber he woke; but it was not that morn had
unroll'd
O'er the pale, cloudy tents of the Orient, her banners of purple and
gold:
It was not the song of the skylark that rose from the green pastures
near,
But the sound of his bells that fell softly, as dew on the slumberer's
ear.
At that sound he awoke and arose, and went forth on the bead-bearing
grass--
At that sound, with his loving Francesca, he piously knelt at the Mass.
If the sun shone in splendour around him, and that certain music were
dumb,
He would deem it a dream of the night-time, and doubt if the morning had
come.

At noon, as he lay in the sultriness, under his broad-leafy limes,
Far sweeter than murmuring waters came the tone of the Angelus chimes.
Pious and tranquil he rose, and uncovered his reverend head,
And thrice was the Ave Maria and thrice was the Angelus said,
Sweet custom the South still retaineth, to turn for a moment away
From the pleasures and pains of existence, from the trouble and turmoil
of day,
From the tumult within and without, to the peace that abideth on high,
When the deep, solemn sound from the belfry comes down like a voice from
the sky.

And thus round the heart of the old man, at morning, at noon, and at
eve,
The bells, with their rich woof of music, the net-work of happiness
weave,
They ring in the clear, tranquil evening, and lo! all the air is alive,
As the sweet-laden thoughts come, like bees, to abide in the heart as a
hive.
They blend with his moments of joy, as the odour doth blend with the
flower--
They blend with his light-falling tears, as the sunshine doth blend with
the shower.
As their music is mirthful or mournful, his pulse beateth sluggish or
fast,
And his breast takes its hue, like the ocean, as the sunshine or shadows
are cast.

Thus adding new zest to enjoyment, and drawing the sharp sting from
pain,
The heart of the old man grew young, as it drank the sweet musical
strain.
Again at the altar he stands, with Francesca the fair at his side,
As the bells ring a quick peal of gladness, to welcome some happy young
bride.
'Tis true, when the death bells are tolling, the wounds of his heart
bleed anew,
When he thinks of his old loving mother, and the darlings that destiny
slew;
But the tower in whose shade they are sleeping seems the emblem of hope
and of love,--
There is silence and death at its base, but there's life in the belfry
above.

Was it the sound of his bells, as they swung in the purified air,
That drove from the bosom of Paolo the dark-wing`ed demons of care?
Was it their magical tone that for many a shadowless day
(So faith once believed) swept the clouds and the black-boding tempests
away?
Ah! never may Fate with their music a harsh-grating dissonance blend!
Sure an evening so calm and so bright will glide peacefully on to the
end.
Sure the course of his life, to its close, like his own native river
must be,
Flowing on through the valley of flowers to its home in the bright
summer sea!