Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
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Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
 
The White Father
By Cecil John
 
From “On the Edge”

MEN never know what’s written in their stars.
Paul was a cadet of an old French line;
A lad, he was devout, on fire to serve,
Became père blanc, wore robes, and grew a soft brown beard.
Three times in Africa he learned new tongues        5
To bring the blacks to Christ;
He baptized greasy babes, confirmed half-naked urchins,
Wed savages in skins and beads
And heard thick-lipped confessions….
He heard one too many—        10
A slim young jade in scarlet calico,
Bare-shouldered, saucy-eyed,
Came whispering.
 
Later he in his turn confessed the wrong he’d done,
The coming trouble. One child more or less        15
To native wenches would not shake the world;
But his superior was virtuous—
Paul was unfrocked, no longer a père blanc.
He married that black girl;
He brought their black brat to the Holy Fount,        20
By his small hut—he tried to keep it clean;
He grew good vegetables to sell to the few Europeans of the post.
At last he shot himself.
 
Not in the consecrated ground
Could he find burial,        25
But on a lonely hillside, weighted down
With stones to keep the beasts away.
 
 
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