Within a vale in distant Saxony,
In time uncertain, though 'twas long ago.
There dwelt a woman, most unhappily,
From borrowed trouble, and imagined woe.
Hers was a husband generous, and kind,
Her children, three, were not of uncouth mold;
Hers was a thatch which mocked at rain and wind;
Within her secret purse were coins of gold.
The drouth had ne'er descended on her field,
Nor had distemper sore distressed her kine;
The vine had given its accustomed yield,
So that her casks were filled with ruddy wine.
Her sheep and goats waxed fat, and ample fleece
Rewarded every harvest of the shear;
Her lambs all bleated in sequestered peace,
Nor prowling wolf occasioned nightly fear.
With all she fretted, pined, and brooded sore,
Harbored each slight vexation, courted grief,
Shut out the smiling sunshine from her door,
And magnified each care to bas relief.
Still waxed her grievous burden more and more,
Till, with a resolution, rash and blind,
At dead of night she fled her humble door,
As if to leave her grievous load behind.
She journeyed as the night wore slowly on,
Unmindful of the tuneful nightingale,
Till in due time her footsteps fell upon
A hill, the demarcation of the vale.
As Lot's wife, in her flight, could not refrain
From viewing foul Gomorrah's funeral pyre,
From one last glance across that ancient plain,
At guilty Sodom wreathed in vengeful fire;
So when this woman reached the summit's crest,
She turned her eyes in one last farewell look,
The fruitful vale lay stretched in placid rest,
And all was silent save the breeze and brook.
The moon in partial fullness, mild, serene,
Flooding the landscape with her mellow light,
Illumined every old familiar scene,
Brought their associations to her sight.
When, lo! as if by touch of magic wand,
On every roof, of tile, of thatch or wood,
As instantly as magic doth respond,
A cross, of various size and form there stood.
O'er homes unknown to frown or grievous word,
O'er homes where laughter hid the silent wail,
O'er homes where discontent was never heard,
Huge crosses glistened in the moonlight pale.
A cross o'er every habitation rose,
O'er ducal palace, and the cottage small
Where slept the husbandman in deep repose;
And, lo, her cross was smallest of them all!