Long ago, within a castle
Far beyond the purple sea,
Dwelt a fair and gracious lady—
Thus her tale was told to me.
She was like a mystic story
Of an angel clad in white—
She was like the rest and glory
Of the starry summer night.
For where sickness was, or sorrow,
Pain or hunger, want or care,
Bright and sweet and calm and tender,
Never wearied, she was there.
Unto her the weary-hearted,
Unto her the sinners came—
She had comfort for their sorrow,
She had pity for their shame.
And afar in distant countries
Many a blessèd tale was told,
Of the lady sweet and gracious
Dwelling in the castle old.
Then went one who longed to comfort
All the sorrowing and distressed,
There to learn the blessèd secret
How to give the weary rest.
All day long he watched the lady,
For he thought that she must pray
Somewhere in a holy chapel
Surely seven times a day.
But he could not learn the secret,
Where the lady prayed, or when;
Nor what book of prayers could make her
Like a well of life to men.
Then another went to watch her—
Did she fast like hermits old?
Go to services at midnight
When the winter winds blew cold?
Nay—she ate her food with gladness,
And at night she only slept;
Rose again refreshed and thankful,
Fit to comfort those who wept.
Then another went to watch her
Far across the purple sea;
But her ways were sweet and simple,
Just as others, so did she.
Yet she seemed attuned to music
Sounding from a golden chord;
Suddenly he said, “Dear Lady,
Lovest thou the blessed Lord?”
“Yea,” she said, “Full well I love Him,
For I know He loveth me.”
Gladly then he sped him homewards
Far across the purple sea.
Hymns of Ter Steegen and Others (Second Series), 1899