Saturday, March 28, 2015

St. Mary's of the Pines

The Salzmann Library at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee is the home to many antique treasures including an 1882 copy of Poems written by Bernard Durward, founder of Durward's Glen Retreat and Conference Center near Baraboo, Wisconsin.

Bernard Isaac Durward, a native of Scotland, arrived in Milwaukee in 1845 with his family where he worked as an artist.  His painting included portraits of Milwaukee's founding fathers and Archbishop Henni, Milwaukee's first Archbishop.  After painting the Archbishop, Durward converted to Catholicism and became a professor of English literature at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary until 1862 when he bought the beautiful land known as Durward's Glen.  Two of his sons became priests and the property remains a destination for religious retreats and prayerful nature walks.

Portrait of Archbishop John Henni painted by Bernard Isaac Durward

The state of Wisconsin and the Catholic Church have been greatly blessed by the legacy of this artist, poet, teacher and naturalist. If you are ever given the opportunity to visit Durward's Glen, you will find a most peaceful and prayerful setting which was the home of Bernard Durward and his family. This poem of his describes it perfectly!

St. Mary's of the Pines by Bernard Durward-
Dear retreat for mortal wearied
With turmoil,
Take me to your sheltering bosom!
Soothe my brain with nature's gladness,
Pour the balm and wine and oil!
Dull routine my life has wounded
Nigh to sadness;
Give me in you wildernesses
Change of toil!

And ye springs that gush and sparkle
As your pour
From your never failing fountains,
From your dark, mysterious prison,
Swelling still the streamlet's store,
Laughing to the light of morning
Newly risen-
Let me join with your sweet murmurs
One voice more.

From the unseen came I also.
By the might
Of the Eternal Fount of Being,
Through the darksome ways of error,
Far more dismal than the night
Of your hidden stony barriers;
From that terror
By the hand of mercy lifted
Into light.

Streamlet-daughter of a thousand
Limpid springs!
On thou speedest like an angel
With a healing benediction
Folded underneath his wings;
Warbling sweetest as thou meetest
From rude stones on which the lichen
Feeds and clings-

Oh, that I could scatter blessing
Like to thee!
That my soul could mirror beauty
As thy bosom's liquid crystal!
That my songs might be as free,
Varied, lasting as thy singing!
Then should list all
Mortals to my strain-a minstrel
I should be.

Pines, that heal the air with perfume,
Towering high,
Decked with cones for jewels, pendant
In your green immortal vesture,
Though your heads are in the sky,
Yet, like mortal man beneath you,
You must rest your
Feet upon the solid fabric,
Or must die.

Lend my verse the balsam odor
Of your tears!
And the color of your needles,
And the heavenward direction
Of your stems, which rise like spears,
That my song may still point upward
From dejection
And the basis of the earthly
To the spheres!

Rocks, that Time has worn to grandeur
With his breath!
Steadfast as a righteous canon,
High above the vanished ages,
Moveless 'mid surrounding death;
How your silence and your shadows
Shame my pages!
Doomed to crumble, as the leaves
My feet beneath.

Little chapel, rude and lonely
To the eye,
How thy white cross in the sunlight
Gleams and prompts a prayer in whispers!
Shall my mouldering ashes lie
Blest and near thee, though unheeding
Song of Vespers,
Or the Kyrie Eleison's
Plaintive cry?

Gorge of beauty, sweetly nestled
'Mong the hills;
Far removed from sordid traffic,
Filled with springs forever weeping
Through the rocks in mossy rills-
Shall my lowly memory linger
In thy keeping,
When this heart which now is throbbing
Silence fills?

Yes; a little while my footsteps
May be known;
And the hearts that I have cherished
Will remember me in yonder
Sacred symbol in the stone!
They will say "His hand engraved it!"
And with fonder
Accents of affection whisper,
"He is gone!"

"Gone! above this transient vision
Of a day;
Upward springing through the azure,
Upward to the Source of Beauty,
From the strife of sin and clay,
Soared his spirit to our Savior,
As the levin
Through the clouds of storm and darkness
Cleaves its way."

A fascinating biography of Bernard Durward can be found here.