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Chimes of Mission Bells
Tribute to Junipero Serra and the Mission Padres.
By Maria Antonia Field.
Read at the Crowning of the Serra Statue, Monterey, Nov. 23, 1913.
The fickle world ofttimes applauds the rise
Of men whose laurels are but vainly won,
Whose deeds their names could not immortalize
For their soul-toils were wrought for transient ends;
But heroes of the Cross, they truly great
Shall live, their halo shall no hand of fate
Have power to rob, albeit oblivious years
May veil the radiance of their glorious works,
Or slight their excellence, their light appears
But brighter, statelier in its splendor calm,
Or like the flowers that sleep through winter's snow
To bloom more fair, their lives' pure beams shall glow
With greater brilliance and sweetly gleam
As lodestars in the firmament of worth;
Such is the memory whose holy stream
Of noblest virtue, valor, truth and Faith,
Illumes our path and stirs our souls today,
Immortal Serra by whose tomb we pray!
What peerless aureole wreathes his saintly brow?
What stately monument doth bear his name?
Let this admiring thousands tell us now!
Let youthful lips pronounce his name with love!
Let California proudly sing his praise!
Let scions of fair Spain their voices raise,
And tell of him to whom so much we owe,
Tell of his interceding power with God,
His strong and lofty soul his children know,
His prayers where Carmel's River flows so clear;
O this his aureole, this his monument,
The lasting kind which ne'er will know descent.
Another lesson must the worldly learn,
From him who sought nor praise nor fame;
His birth, ten score agone, and still we turn
To him in reverence, his name is sweet
As vernal bloom, his life shows forth God's might,
Through him this soil received Faith's warm sunlight!
This beauteous land was strange, unknown and wild,
Spite all its treasures, lordly trees and flowers;
For tribes with pagan rites its wastes defiled,
Till came Spain's noble band of godly men,
Explorers true and zealous priests who gave
Their lives' best years, forgotten souls to save!
'Tis just we venerate each hallowed stone
Which rears the wond'rous "Temples of the West";
The tears, the toils, the nightly vigils lone;
The pilgrim-journeys of Saint Francis' sons,
The rescued souls by lustral waters cleansed,
The wealth of hospitality dispensed.
All this and more if but their walls could speak,
Would tell this day; and we in whose veins flows
The fervent blood of Spain, to us each streak
Of light which doth reveal a picture true
Of gentle friar and lovely vanished times
Is tender as the Angelus' sweet chimes.
Well may each Mission have a holy spell,
And Serra's name become a household word,
What marvels can each yellowed archive tell
Of him and of his martyr-spirit band.
O faithful, dauntless hearts! What brilliant sons
Of that great galaxy of Spain's brave sons!
We love their saintly lives to ponder o'er,
While childhood's fireside tales come back to us,
And memory unfolds her precious store,
The bygone glories of the Mission towns,
The grand old hymns sung at sweet Mary's shrines
The Spanish color rich as luscious wines
Of Mission vineyards, and the festive hours
So full of life yet innocent and good,
When blessings seemed to fall as welcome showers,
The Indian tribes were ruled with Christian love,
And shared the sons and daughters of Castile
Their loved Franciscan Fathers' patient zeal!
But still we love each altar and each cross
Of these dear fanes; e'en as departing rays
Of sun doth kiss the crags outlined with moss,
We love to linger by their altars' light.
But oh fair Carmel, she of Missions Queen
What guarding spirits hover here unseen!
Sweet Carmel, center of the hero-band,
What holy treasures hold thy sacred vaults?
Junipero and others! Here we stand
In awe of all thou hast been and art still!
Cruel times took glory, splendor, power
From Missions all, but not their priceless dower,
Religion, love and all we hold as dear,
No hand can tarnish and no might destroy,
And from each hallowed altar ruddy, clear,
Still burns the mystic lamp, for God is there!
The cross-crowned towers tell that all is not dead,
E'en though more splendid times have long since sped.
And like a glowing ember in the night
Our Lady's love has burned through every change;
'Tis thus the Missions ever saw the light
Through labors, ripened harvest-joys and wrongs;
Their noon-sun splendors of well won renown
Will shine their glorious heritage to crown.
O Saintly Serra we implore thy prayer,
Thy dauntless spirit sowed the "mustard-seed"
Which grew as if by miracle of wonder rare,
Upon this now rich land which thou did'st till,
O let they mantle on thy clients fall
Who on thy gracious aid do humbly call.