Five hundred years have nearly passed away
Since that glad morn, when o'er fair Bethl'hem's plain
A light resplendent as the glow of day,
Shone down from heaven, and holy angels deign
To sing the sweetest song e'er heard by mortal ear,
Which fills sad hearts with joy and drives away their fear.
Clovis, of the brave Franks, the king, and sheen,
Heard from Aurelian of a maid to wed,
Matchless in feature, and of graceful mein--
"Zenobia, of the Alps," Aurelian said,
"The daughter of Chilperic, the Burgundian king,
Clotilda is her name; fair maids her praises sing.
"She dwells among the Alps, in forest glade,
And by the shore of its most famous lake;
But fairer than that land is this fair maid;
And brighter than its peaks at morn's awake;
A Christian girl is she, whose heart God has renewed,
And her fine, comely mind with grace and truth embued."
Then Clovis, by Aurelian, sent a ring
To this fair damsel, whom he hoped to wed;
She took the ring; and soon fair songsters sing
The marriage hymn, as he to altar led
This lovely Christian maid. They plight their nuptial vows;
And the old priest invoked a blessing on their brows.
Then on her head a coronet was placed,
And she sat down by Clovis on his throne;
And never was a throne so highly graced,
Nor ever monarch felt less sad and lone;
He found in her a bride, and counsellor, as well,
And happy are the men who in her palace dwell.
In tones of eloquence and words of power,
The wond'rous story of the cross she told;
Christ's lowly birth, pure life, and of the hour
When He, to bring us to the heavenly fold,
Bore on the cross our sins, and opened mercy's door,
Then from the dead arose to reign for evermore.
Soon on Tolbiac's bloody field the king
Led on his troops against a mighty foe;
A foe too strong; for soon, though no weakling,
Clovis retreats--his men returned no blow;
But fled as timid sheep before a beast of prey;
The conquering Alemanni will surely win the day.
"O king! cry on Clotilda's Christ for aid!"
Shouted Aurelian, as the monarch fled;
Then, on his helmet, Clovis his hand laid,
And lifting it, these words the monarch said:
"My gods have failed to help: O Christ, Clotilda's God,
Grant me Thy mighty aid, and I will kiss Thy rod."
On the French pennons triumph perches now;
The foe is routed by Clotilda's God;
And Clovis wished to have upon his brow
The symbol of her faith; for 'neath the rod
Of the eternal King he bows his regal will,
And waits, with heart devout, Christ's purpose to fulfil.
On Rheims now dawns a cloudless Christmas morn;
And flags of silk and satin grace each tower;
This is the day Clotilda's Christ was born,
And to His cause a great triumphal hour,
For see, on carpet stretched from church to palace door,
A grand procession march, of two-score priests or more!
Remigius had led the way, and then,
Assisted by his priests, on monarch's brow,
And on the brows of full six thousand men,
As they before the holy altar bow;
The water from the font he sprinkled down like rain,
Thankful that his blest Lord so many hearts should gain.