The loveliness of Spring was on the world,
Her carpets spread on hill and vale in flame,
Her banners of wild blossoms all unfurled,
When here the wandering sons of Francis came.
Brown hands that bore the Living Torch afar
With canticles of song on paths they trod,
New suns to seek, and always one fixed star,
And in their hearts the endless dreams of God.
Brown-robed and sandal-shod they fared;
their shallops knew the tides of every sea,
Desert and plain and wilderness were dared
To blaze new trails that reached to Galilee.
Until, at last, they found a sunset shore,
The last horizon of their eager quest,
Where Christ, their God, was never know before,
And East began, and ended was the West.
Here in the silent sun-swept vales they strove
And set the plow among the watching trees,
Sage and mesquite upturned to make a grove
For golden apples of Hesperides.
Against the hazard of the seldom rain
They lured the waters of the distant hills
To flow in succor on their fields of grain;
And there was music in the singing rills.
Against the sky they flung the domes and towers
Of church and hospice, rising one by one
In dreams of beauty set in arbored bowers
Of vine and fig tree joyous in the sun
The anvil rang its challenge to the morn,
The whirring looms wrought all their magic spells,
And on the hills the shepherd wound his horn
In answering echo to the Mission bells.
Thus did they work their wonders when they came,
Before whose steps the pagan gods were fled,
And naked men stood clothed against their shame,
And they that hungered were with manna fed.
The joy of work, the peace of God was here
Between the starlit hills 'neath summer skies,
And Christ was throned in temples that were dear
And loved and holy in His eyes.
Here are their footprints in the desert sands
That time still treasures from its wreck and loss,
And here is memory of their tireless hands
The brown-robed wanderers of the Cross.
The sea remembers and the hills still know
The olden trails their sandaled footsteps trod
Who swung Christ's fragrant censers, long ago,
And wrought in beauty as they dreamed of God.