Occasionally I like to add a favorite poem as the day's blog post. I have chosen Joseph Mary Plunkett's (1817-1916) "I saw the sun at midnight rising red." Actually, I know Plunkett better for his "Hound of Heaven," which bears a special significance to me. However, today's selection spoke to me in that it is obviously the product of a night spent in prayer. I suppose I feel a certain kinship to those who stay up late. From time to time I'll include some of my own poetry, but for today I offer this deep meditation on the love of God.
Occasionally I'll be posting my favorite poems, and the following is one of them. I first discovered it in the appendix of my breviary many years ago. If you ever think you've been given a tough penance, I once knew of a reformed alcoholic who was given the penance of having to read this every day for 30 days... trust me, it happened. Anyhow, I thought I'd share one of my best liked poems with you.
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat -- and a voice beat
More instant than the Feet --
"All things betray thee, who betrayest Me."
I pleaded, outlaw-wise,
By many a hearted casement, curtained red,
Trellised with intertwining charities;
(For, though I knew His love Who followèd,
Yet was I sore adread
Lest, having Him, I must have naught beside.)
But, if one little casement parted wide,
The gust of his approach would clash it to :
Fear wist not to evade, as Love wist to pursue.
Across the margent of the world I fled,
And troubled the gold gateways of the stars,
Smiting for shelter on their clangèd bars ;
Fretted to dulcet jars
And silvern chatter the pale ports o' the moon.
I said to Dawn : Be sudden -- to Eve : Be soon ;
With thy young skiey blossoms heap me over
From this tremendous Lover--
Float thy vague veil about me, lest He see !
I tempted all His servitors, but to find
My own betrayal in their constancy,
In faith to Him their fickleness to me,
Their traitorous trueness, and their loyal deceit.
To all swift things for swiftness did I sue ;
Clung to the whistling mane of every wind.
But whether they swept, smoothly fleet,
The long savannahs of the blue ;
Or whether, Thunder-driven,
They clanged his chariot 'thwart a heaven,
Plashy with flying lightnings round the spurn o' their feet :--
Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.
Still with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
Came on the following Feet,
And a Voice above their beat--
"Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter Me."
I sought no more that after which I strayed,
In face of man or maid ;
But still within the little children's eyes
Seems something, something that replies,
They at least are for me, surely for me !
I turned me to them very wistfully ;
But just as their young eyes grew sudden fair
With dawning answers there,
Their angel plucked them from me by the hair.
"Come then, ye other children, Nature's -- share
With me" (said I) "your delicate fellowship ;
Let me greet you lip to lip,
Let me twine with you caresses,
With our Lady-Mother's vagrant tresses,
With her in her wind-walled palace,
Underneath her azured daïs,
Quaffing, as your taintless way is,
From a chalice
Lucent-weeping out of the dayspring."
So it was done :
I in their delicate fellowship was one --
Drew the bolt of Nature's secrecies.
I knew all the swift importings
On the wilful face of skies ;
I knew how the clouds arise
Spumèd of the wild sea-snortings ;
All that's born or dies
Rose and drooped with ; made them shapers
Of mine own moods, or wailful or divine ;
With them joyed and was bereaven.
I was heavy with the even,
When she lit her glimmering tapers
Round the day's dead sanctities.
I laughed in the morning's eyes.
I triumphed and I saddened with all weather,
Heaven and I wept together,
And its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine ;
Against the red throb of its sunset-heart
I laid my own to beat,
And share commingling heat ;
But not by that, by that, was eased my human smart.
In vain my tears were wet on Heaven's grey cheek.
For ah ! we know not what each other says,
These things and I ; in sound I speak--
Their sound is but their stir, they speak by silences.
Nature, poor stepdame, cannot slake my drouth ;
Let her, if she would owe me,
Drop yon blue bosom-veil of sky, and show me
The breasts o' her tenderness ;
Never did any milk of hers once bless
My thirsting mouth.
Nigh and nigh draws the chase,
With unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy ;
And past those noisèd Feet
A Voice comes yet more fleet --
"Lo ! naught contents thee, who content'st not Me."
Naked I wait thy Love's uplifted stroke !
My harness piece by piece Thou hast hewn from me,
And smitten me to my knee ;
I am defenceless utterly.
I slept, methinks, and woke,
And, slowly gazing, find me stripped in sleep.
In the rash lustihead of my young powers,
I shook the pillaring hours
And pulled my life upon me ; grimed with smears,
I stand amid the dust o' the mounded years --
My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.
My days have crackled and gone up in smoke,
Have puffed and burst as sun-starts on a stream.
Yea, faileth now even dream
The dreamer, and the lute the lutanist ;
Even the linked fantasies, in whose blossomy twist
I swung the earth a trinket at my wrist,
Are yielding ; cords of all too weak account
For earth with heavy griefs so overplussed.
Ah ! is Thy love indeed
A weed, albeit an amaranthine weed,
Suffering no flowers except its own to mount ?
Ah ! must --
Designer infinite !--
Ah ! must Thou char the wood ere Thou canst limn with it ?
My freshness spent its wavering shower i' the dust ;
And now my heart is as a broken fount,
Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever
From the dank thoughts that shiver
Upon the sighful branches of my mind.
Such is ; what is to be ?
The pulp so bitter, how shall taste the rind ?
I dimly guess what Time in mists confounds ;
Yet ever and anon a trumpet sounds
From the hid battlements of Eternity ;
Those shaken mists a space unsettle, then
Round the half-glimpsed turrets slowly wash again.
But not ere him who summoneth
I first have seen, enwound
With glooming robes purpureal, cypress-crowned ;
His name I know, and what his trumpet saith.
Whether man's heart or life it be which yields
Thee harvest, must Thy harvest-fields
Be dunged with rotten death ?
Now of that long pursuit
Comes on at hand the bruit ;
That Voice is round me like a bursting sea :
"And is thy earth so marred,
Shattered in shard on shard ?
Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest me !
"Strange, piteous, futile thing !
Wherefore should any set thee love apart ?
Seeing none but I makes much of naught" (He said),
In the presence of the Blessed Sacrament Prayer seems much easier. The words are clearer. I come with a heart full but aprehensive, not really knowing The right words to say. Kneeling before the Tabernacle a heartfelt conversation Finds a way to pour forth.
Communication is truest when there is Reciprocity. This much I know although What my ears hear in this moment amounts only to silence.
Before arriving at the church I tell myself that A long heart-to-heart conversation feels overdue. Over the years the pages of my breviary have Grown crumpled at the Invitatory and the morning And evening canticles. Yet I recall days when I owned no Prayer book, only a heart longing to say O’ God Hear the words of my longing.
It is you for whom I long await O’ Lord. So I arrive at a dark and empty church. The door locked for the Night. I search for the right key in the darkness. Finding it, I go to the Chapel and kneel before a candle lit stone Tabernacle, knowing That within it lies a presence ready to greet me, and so I pour out My heart the best I can in a fashion that I have grown to know Somewhat less in the busyness of my life.
In the solitude I hear the unlocked door open and the sound of footsteps Growing closer. Looking up I recognize a familiar deacon who Enters and offers a holy greeting.
With the key to the Tabernacle in hand he removes The monstrance which hold the Blessed Sacrament and places it in the open.
As I gaze upon the presence of God before me words flow easier and I find the grace to whisper just what I need to say. Effortlessly the words sound More like the sentences of a devotion written a half-century past. I leave with a sense of true reciprocity having occurred in the night visit.