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Of St. Francis and the Ass

Written by: Katharine Tynan | Biography
 Our father, ere he went 
Out with his brother, Death, 
Smiling and well-content 
As a bridegroom goeth, 
Sweetly forgiveness prayed 
From man or beast whom he 
Had ever injured
Or burdened needlessly. 

'Verily,' then said he,
'I crave before I pass 
Forgiveness full and free
Of my little brother, the ass.
Many a time and oft, 
When winds and ways were hot, 
He hath borne me cool and soft 
And service grudged me not. 

'And once did it betide 
There was, unseen of me,
A gall upon his side 
That suffered grievously. 
And once his manger was 
Empty and bare, and brown. 
(Praise God for sweet, dry grass 
That Bethlehem folk shook down! ) 

'Consider, brethren,' said he, 
'Our little brother; how mild, 
How patient, he will be, 
Though men are fierce and wild. 
His coat is gray and fine, 
His eyes are kind with love; 
This little brother of mine 
Is gentle as the dove. 

'Consider how such an one 
Beheld our Saviour born, 
And carried him, full-grown, 
Through Eastern streets one morn.
For this the Cross is laid 
Upon him for a sign. 
Greatly is honourèd 
This little brother of mine.' 

And even while he spake, 
Down in his stable stall 
His little ass 'gan shake 
And turned its face to the wall. 
Down fell the heavy tear; 
Its gaze so mournful was, 
Fra Leo, standing near, 
Pitied the little ass. 

That night our father died, 
All night the kine did low: 
The ass went heavy-eyed, 
With patient tears and slow. 
The very birds on wings 
Made mournful cries in the air. 
Amen! all living things 
Our father's brethern were.



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