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THE HOLY THORN.
A LEGEND OF GLASTONBURY ABBEY.
[AT Glastonbury Abbey in Somersetshire, grew a miraculous thorn-tree, which was said to bear flowers every year on Christmas day. The legend connected with it related that Joseph of Arimathea, having incurred the enmity of the Jews for his pious care of our Lord's body (as related by the Evangelists), was banished by them from Judea-with twelve companions, he was put into a boat without cars or sails, and driven to sea. After long tossing about on the ocean, they were cast by God's providence on the coast of Britain; thence they wandered on until they arrived at a hill, close to where the Abbey of Glastonbury afterwards stood, which is called to this day "Weary-all-Hill." It was on a Christmas morning that the strangers arrived here, and Joseph planted the pilgrim's staff, which he bore, in the ground, when forthwith it budded and burst into blossoms, filling the air with odours. This was the Holy Thorn which according to the tradition, never failed to bear flowers and leaves on Christmas day.]
'Twas the morn of the blessed Christmas-day,
When a stranger came to the Abbey gate;
There all were welcome-the board was spread
But the traveller who came on that Christmas-day,
So passing strange to him did it seem
As he entered into the Abbey court,
The Abbot came forth, his guest to meet―
And the last to speed him away from the gate.
"Thou art welcome, my son, to our convent cheer "
"Thanks, Holy Father! I thank thee well
"If it be some vision, then tell me, I pray,
If thou can'st tell, what the vision may mean; For hard-by here I have seen this day
The strangest sight that ever was seen.
"The trees at this season are black and bare,
"A thorn-tree covered with blossoms as fair
He paused, and the Abbot gently smiled
But the smile was in courtesy, not in scorn. "My son, by no vision hast thou been beguiled, Thou hast seen with thine eyes the Holy Thorn."
"My Father, I know not what this may mean; I never heard tell of a Holy Thorn."
"Thou art strange, then, my son, in these parts, I ween, To which thou has come on this Christmas morn.
"But blessed art thou, out of all the year,
To have come on the day when Christ was born ;
A moment he paused-his head inclined-
"Long ages ago, my son, thou must know,
"Of those who first to this island brought
The gospel message-a saintly band;
Thou hast heard of St. Joseph, of him who wrought That deed of love in the Holy Land.
"By entombing the Master whom they had slain,
Of wicked men-t'was a glorious gain,
"They turned him adrift in an open boat, Exposed to the fury of wind and wave, Oarless and sailless on seas remote,
To find with his comrades a watery grave.
"But a Pilot went with them over the sea,
The boat was steered by an unseen hand; For God was their Pilot, my son, t'was He Who brought them safe to this distant land.
"They were tossed on the waves for many a day, They were oft in peril and danger sore;
Till at length-t'was His will, whom the winds obeyThey were cast by a storm on this island's shore.
"Far off from hence, but they wandered on
"For long, long days they journeyed until
They stood, at length, on yon hill-top there; "Tis called to this day by folk "Weary-all-hill,' For weary in sooth all those travellers were.
""Twas on Christmas day that the stranger band
And the staff that Joseph bore in his hand,
"And then there was wrought a miracle there, Such as never was seen since in early days The rod of Aaron blossomed and bare
Before the Egyptian monarch's gaze.
"For lo on a sudden a beautiful tree
Grew up where the staff was placed in the ground; It was loaded with blossoms fair to see, And sweetly it scented the air around.
"Well might it, my son; for he who had borne
And planted it there on that Christmas morn,
"A deed of love, of which men shall tell
Till human speech shall have ceased to beThe hands that had handled the Life might well Give life themselves to a senseless tree!
"It burst into blossoms sweet and white-
"'Tis said that when Joseph his labour of love
Save himself, there came a voice from above
"And ever they say, by night and day
His drooping spirits to soothe and cheer, As he journeyed along on his weary way, "Well done!" that voice would speak in his ear.
"He heard it clear through the ocean's roar,
As his bark was tossed on the stormy sea'Twas the voice that had spoken once before On the troubled waters of Galilee.
And perhaps in the spirit land, my son,
However this be; on each Christmas morn Since then has happened this wonderful thing, In the midst of the wintry cold that thorn
Is clothed with the blossoms and scents of spring.
"It dons a mantle of virgin white,
Each year on the day when Christ was born; And men when they look on the wonderful sight, Still say, to this day "Tis the Holy Thorn.'
"My tale is done, yet, oh stranger stay!
Thou hast come to the Abbey on Christmas mornTake hence this lesson with thee on thy way, Of him who planted the Holy Thorn.
"To thee, as to Joseph, it is not given To handle the sacred body, indeed, Of him who lives for ever in heaven,
But yet of thy service, my son, He has need.
"His body-the Church-is with us still;
"Bear help to the helpless, the injured right, And never thy hand from the poor withhold; Seek not in worldly pleasures delight,
Nor give thy soul to the lust of gold.
"Pure as the blossom of yonder thorn,
"So perchance; at the last, thou too shalt hear,
And whisper in gentle tones, Well done!'
"And through all the years of eternity
Thou shalt learn to bless the Christmas morn, When 'twas given to thee with thine eyes to see The wonderful sight of the Holy Thorn."
F. MALCOLM DOHERTY, B.A.