[Editor: This poem by Kenneth Mackay was published in Stirrup Jingles from the Bush and the Turf and Other Rhymes (1887).]
She pants along the marble nave
Like wounded doe by hounds hard pressed,
Or tired swimmer when some wave
Has struck his breast.
And as she flies, the fragments torn
From off her shoulders strew the way;
Till all the fairness of her form
Lies bare to day.
On, on, she speeds, to where, above
The chancel, hangs a holy face;
And there — beneath the God of Love —
She halts a space;
And, shaking off their impious hands
With all the strength of last despair,
Now, naked, beautiful, she stands,
And fronts them there.
One foot before the altar placed,
The other on the marble floor;
No nobler image e’er was traced
By art of yore.
Around her hips the silken hair
Hangs like a sun-dyed, wind-tost cloud,
And mantles all her bosom bare
As with a shroud.
One hand the golden tresses fold
About her lithe, warm-tinted limbs,
Yet scarce the yellow of the gold
Their brightness dims.
The other faultless, snow-white arm,
In last appeal, she throws on high
To where the Christ, in grand, still calm,
May hear her cry.
And who shall say she looks in vain?
This woman standing all alone:
For such as she the Christ was slain —
They are His own.
Kenneth Mackay, Stirrup Jingles from the Bush and the Turf and Other Rhymes, Sydney: Edwards, Dunlop & Co., 1887, pages 67-68
chancel = the section of a church containing the altar, usually enclosed by a lattice or railing, for the use of the clergy and sometimes the choir
e’er = ever
tost = an archaic spelling of “tossed”
yore = in the past, long ago (as used in the phrase “days of yore”)