Complete Poetical Works

The Angelus

(Heard at the Mission Dolores, 1868)

Bret Harte

BELLS of the Past, whose long-forgotten music
              Still fills the wide expanse,
Tingeing the sober twilight of the Present
                With color of romance!

I hear your call, and see the sun descending
               On rock and wave and sand,
As down the coast the Mission voices, blending,
               Girdle the heathen land.

Within the circle of your incantation
               No blight nor mildew falls;
Nor fierce unrest, nor lust, nor low ambition
               Passes those airy walls.

Borne on the swell of your long waves receding,
               I touch the farther Past;
I see the dying glow of Spanish glory,
               The sunset dream and last!

Before me rise the dome-shaped Mission towers,
               The white Presidio;
The swart commander in his leathern jerkin,
               The priest in stole of snow.

Once more I see Portala’s cross uplifting
               Above the setting sun;
And past the headland, northward, slowly drifting,
               The freighted galleon.

O solemn bells! whose consecrated masses
               Recall the faith of old;
O tinkling bells! that lulled with twilight music
               The spiritual fold!

Your voices break and falter in the darkness,—
               Break, falter, and are still;
And veiled and mystic, like the Host descending,
               The sun sinks from the hill!

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