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Of St. Francis and the Ass

by
 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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