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THE PROFESSION,

A SKETCH.

For her the Fates, severely kind, ordain
A cool suspense from pleasure and from pain;
Her life a long dead calm of fixed repose,
No pulse that riots and no blood that glows.

POPE.

I.

On Santa Croce’s golden-pillared shrine,
A thousand tapers pour

their blended rays
In one rich tide of radiance.—Like a pine,
Lifting its lofty head amid the blaze
Of sunlit snows, stands forward to the gaze
Of the assembled throng, the Priest supreme,
In full pontificals. His hand he lays

Upon a gorgeous crucifix, the theme
Of the oracular words from his pale lips that stream.

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II.

Upon his open brow a dignity
That well beseems his office is enthroned;
And if the brightness of his coal-black eye
Is something tamed by Time, it must be owned,
It hath a chastened lustre far beyond
The fire of youthful glances ;-and if care,
With lines of premature decay hath crowned

His thoughtful forehead, as in fervent prayer
He bends, unfailing faith, hope, peace, are beaming

there !

III.

The chancel-portals, with a crash, unfold,
And a long train of close-veiled nuns pour in,
And gather round the palisades of gold
That gird that glorious shriving-place for sin.
The stately Abbess enters :—then begin
Sweet far-off voices on the ear to steal
With dim, delicious melodies, that win

Their way to the deep heart, -till bursts the swell
From organ, harp, voice, lute, in one magnificent peal!

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IV.

The chaunt hath ended ;-and throughout the throng
Heart-hushing silence reigns, and every brow
Is raised in keen expectancy.--Ere long,
Once more the Pontiff at the shrine doth bow .
Before the golden crucifix; and now
Calls on the fated victim.-She attends
The awful summons, and with footstep slow

Draws near ;—the altar's marble stair ascends ;Ind on the velvet pall, with knee submissive, bends.

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Then

pours the man of God, in eloquent strain, The pious exhortation ;-he dilates Upon the wild variety of pain Which, in each labyrinth of life, awaits • The world's tired denizen ;'-pourtrays their fatęs Whom Pleasure 'witches with her

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charms; And promises to her who dedicates Her youth to God,—from Passion's vain alarms shield, and sure repose in mild Religion's arms !

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