The Curé

(“The Miracle of Saint Jubanus”)

Long years ago, ere R—lls or R—ce 
   Trebled the mileage man could cover; 
When Sh—nks’s Mare was H—bs—n’s Choice, 
   And Bl—r—ot had not flown to Dover 
When good hoteliers looked askance 
   If any power save horse-flesh drew vans— 
’Time was in easy, hand-made France, 
   I met the Curé of Saint Juvans.  

He was no babbler, but, at last, 
    One learned from things he left unspoken 
How in some fiery, far-off past, 
   His, and a woman’s, heart were broken. 
He sought for death, but found it not, 
   Yet, seeking, found his true vocation, 
And fifty years, by all forgot, 
   Toiled at a simple folks’ salvation.   

His pay was lower than our Dole; 
   The piteous little church he tended 
Had neither roof nor vestments whole 
   Save what his own hard fingers mended 
While, any hour, at every need 
   (As Conscience or La Grippe assailed ’em), 
His parish bade him come with speed, 
   And, foot or cart, he never failed ’em.   

His speech—to suit his hearers—ran 
    From pure Parisian to gross peasant, 
With interludes North African 
   If any Légionnaire were present: 
And when some wine-ripe atheist mocked 
   His office or the Faith he knelt in, 
He left the sinner dumb and shocked 
   By oaths his old Battalion dealt in. . .   

And he was learned in Death and Life; 
   And he was Logic’s self (as France is). 
He knew his folk—man, maid, and wife— 
   Their forebears, failings, and finances. 
Spite, Avarice, Devotion, Lies— 
   Passion ablaze or sick Obsession— 
He dealt with each physician-wise; 
   Stern or most tender, at Confession.    

                          *  *  *  *  *  *  

To-day? God knows where he may lie— 
    His Cross of weathered beads above him 
But one not worthy to untie 
    His shoe-string, prays you read—and love him!