Symbols

I watched a rosebud very long
     Brought on by dew and sun and shower,
     Waiting to see the perfect flower :
Then, when I thought it should be strong,
     It opened at the matin hour
And fell at evensong.

I watched a nest from day to day
     A green nest full of pleasant shade,
     Wherein three speckled eggs were laid :
But when they should have hatched in May,
     The two old birds had grown afraid
Or tired, and flew away.

Then in my wrath I broke the bough
     That I had tended so with care,
     Hoping that its scent should fill the air;
I crushed the eggs, not heeding how
     Their ancient promise had been fair :
I would have vengeance now.

But the dead branch spoke from the sod,
     And the eggs answered me again :
     Because we failed dost thou complain?
Is thy wrath just? And what if God,
     Who waiteth for thy fruits in vain,
Should also take the rod?

Christina Georgina Rossetti. 7 January 1849.

The Prophet

Athirst in soul for truth and grace
In desert gloom I walked alone,
And there a six-winged seraph shone
Upon the night before my face.
He touched my eyes with fingers light
And soft as sleep at eventide;
My eyes became with vision wide,
Alarmed as eagles in the night.
He touched my ears, I heard around
Me far and wide a tide of sound:
I heard a tremlbling fill the sky,
I heard the angel wings on high,
I heard the sap in grass and trees,
And reptiles moving ‘neath the seas.
He leaned above my mouth awhile,
And tore from me my tongue of guile,
And took from me my pride and lust,
And with his bloody hand he thrust
Between my dead lips withering
The serpent’s sharp and su’btle sting.
And with his sword he clove my breast,
And plucked the heart that trembled there,
And in my bosom rived and bare
A coal of living fire he pressed.
I fell upon the waste as dead.
And God spake unto me and said:
“Arise, O prophet! Hear and see!
Fulfill my will! Go forth again,
And, wayfaring, on land, on sea,
Burn with my words the hearts of men!”

Alexander Pushkin, 1826. Translated by Eugene Mark Kayden.

I remember

I remember
when I was a kid
riding in the back
of the station wagon
telling my little brother
that I had the moon on a string
and I gave the string to him.

I still love you, brother.

A Christmas Carol

Thank God, thank God, we do believe :
Thank God that this is Christmas Eve.
Even as we kneel upon this day,
Even so, the ancient legends say,
Nearly two thousand years ago
The stalled ox knelt, and even so
The ass knelt full of praise, which they
Could not express, while we can pray.
Thank God, thank God, for Christ was born
Ages ago, as on this morn.
In the snow-season undefiled
God came to earth a little child :
He put His ancient glory by
To live for us and then to die.

How shall we thank God? How shall we
Thank Him and praise Him worthily?
What will He have who loved us thus?
What presents will He take from us?
Will He take gold, or precious heap
Of gems? or shall we rather steep
The air with incense, or bring myrrh?
What man will be our messenger
To go to Him and ask His will?
Which having learned, we will fulfil
Though He chose all we most prefer :—
What man will be our messenger?

Thank God, thank God, the Man is found,
Sure-footed, knowing well the ground.
He knows the road, for this the way
He travelled once, as on this day.
He is our Messenger beside,
He is our door and path and Guide :
He also is our Offering :
He is the gift that we must bring.
Let us kneel down with one accord
And render thanks unto the Lord :
For unto us a Child is born
Upon this happy Christmas morn ;
For unto us a Son is given,
Firstborn of God and Heir of Heaven.

Christina Georgina Rossetti. 7 March 1849

These vespers of another year

The sylvan slopes with corn-clad fields
Are hung, as if with golden shields,
Bright trophies of the sun!
Like a fair sister of the sky,
Unruffled doth the blue lake lie,
The mountains looking on.

And, sooth to say, yon vocal grove,
Albeit uninspired by love,
By love untaught to ring,
May well afford to mortal ear
An impulse more profoundly dear
Than music of the Spring.

For that from turbulence and heat
Proceeds, from some uneasy seat
In nature’s struggling frame,
Some region of impatient life:
And jealousy, and quivering strife,
Therein a portion claim.

This, this is holy;—while I hear
These vespers of another year,
This hymn of thanks and praise,
My spirit seems to mount above
The anxieties of human love,
And earth’s precarious days.

But list!—though winter storms be nigh,
Unchecked is that soft harmony:
There lives Who can provide
For all His creatures; and in Him,
Even like the radiant Seraphim,
These choristers confide.

William Wordsworth
September 1819

Unkindness

Lord, make me coy and tender to offend:
In frienship first I think if that agree,
                    Which I intend,
          Unto my friend’s intent and end.
I would not use a friend, as I use Thee.

If any touch my friend, or his good name,
It is my honour and my love to free
                    His blasted fame
          From the least spot or thought of blame.
I could not use a friend as I use Thee.

My friend may spit upon my curious floor:
Would he have gold? I lend it instantly;
                    But let the poor,
          And Thou within them starve at door.
I cannot use a friend, as I use Thee.

When that my friend pretendeth to a place,
I quit my interest, and leave it free:
                    But when Thy grace
          Sues for my heart, I Thee displace,
Nor would I use a friend as I use Thee.

Yet can a friend what Thou hast done fulfil?
O write in brass, My God upon a tree
                    His blood did spill
          Only to purchase my good-will:
Yet use I not my foes, as I use Thee.

George Herbert, 1633

Martyrs’ Song

We meet in joy, though we part in sorrow ;
We part to-night, but we meet to-morrow.
Be it flood or blood the path that’s trod,
All the same it leads home to God :
Be it furnace-fire voluminous,
One like God’s Son will walk with us.

What are these that glow from afar,
These that lean over the golden bar,
Strong as the lion, pure as the dove,
With open arms and hearts of love?
They the blessed ones gone before,
They the blessed for evermore.
Out of great tribulation they went
Home to their home of Heaven-content ;
Through flood or blood or furnace-fire,
To the rest that fulfils desire.

What are these that fly as a cloud,
With flashing heads and faces bowed,
In their mouths a victorious psalm,
In their hands a robe and a palm?
Welcoming angels these that shine,
Your own angel, and yours, and mine ;
Who have hedged us both day and night
On the left hand and on the right,
Who have watched us both night and day
Because the devil keeps watch to slay.

Light above light, and Bliss beyond bliss,
Whom words cannot utter, lo Who is This?
As a King with many crowns He stands,
And our names are graven upon His hands :
As a Priest, with God-uplifted eyes,
He offers for us His Sacrifice ;
As the Lamb of God for sinners slain,
That we too may live He lives again ;
As our Champion behold Him stand,
Strong to save us, at God’s Right Hand.

God the Father give us grace
To walk in the light of Jesus’ Face :
God the Son give us a part
In the hiding-place of Jesus’ Heart :
God the Spirit so hold us up
That we may drink of Jesus’ cup.

Death is short and life is long ;
Satan is strong, but Christ more strong.
At His Word Who hath led us hither
The Red Sea must part hither and thither.
At His Word Who goes before us too,
Jordan must cleave to let us through.

Yet one pang searching and sore,
And then Heaven for evermore :
Yet one moment awful and dark,
Then safety within the Veil and the Ark ;
Yet one effort by Christ His grace,
Then Christ for ever face to face.

God the Father we will adore,
In Jesus’ Name, now and evermore :
God the Son we will love and thank
In this flood and on the farther bank ;
God the Holy Ghost we will praise,
In Jesus’ Name though endless days :
God Almighty, God Three in One,
God Almighty, God alone.

Christina Georgina Rossetti. 20 March 1863.