Ash Wednesday

I

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the agèd eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is
nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessèd face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

II
Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper-tree
In the cool of the day, having fed to sateity
On my legs my heart my liver and that which had been
contained
In the hollow round of my skull. And God said
Shall these bones live? shall these
Bones live? And that which had been contained
In the bones (which were already dry) said chirping:
Because of the goodness of this Lady
And because of her loveliness, and because
She honours the Virgin in meditation,
We shine with brightness. And I who am here dissembled
Proffer my deeds to oblivion, and my love
To the posterity of the desert and the fruit of the gourd.
It is this which recovers
My guts the strings of my eyes and the indigestible portions
Which the leopards reject. The Lady is withdrawn
In a white gown, to contemplation, in a white gown.
Let the whiteness of bones atone to forgetfulness.
There is no life in them. As I am forgotten
And would be forgotten, so I would forget
Thus devoted, concentrated in purpose. And God said
Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only
The wind will listen. And the bones sang chirping
With the burden of the grasshopper, saying

Lady of silences
Calm and distressed
Torn and most whole
Rose of memory
Rose of forgetfulness
Exhausted and life-giving
Worried reposeful
The single Rose
Is now the Garden
Where all loves end
Terminate torment
Of love unsatisfied
The greater torment
Of love satisfied
End of the endless
Journey to no end
Conclusion of all that
Is inconclusible
Speech without word and
Word of no speech
Grace to the Mother
For the Garden
Where all love ends.

Under a juniper-tree the bones sang, scattered and shining
We are glad to be scattered, we did little good to each
other,
Under a tree in the cool of day, with the blessing of sand,
Forgetting themselves and each other, united
In the quiet of the desert. This is the land which ye
Shall divide by lot. And neither division nor unity
Matters. This is the land. We have our inheritance.

III

At the first turning of the second stair
I turned and saw below
The same shape twisted on the banister
Under the vapour in the fetid air
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears
The deceitul face of hope and of despair.

At the second turning of the second stair
I left them twisting, turning below;
There were no more faces and the stair was dark,
Damp, jaggèd, like an old man’s mouth drivelling, beyond
repair,
Or the toothed gullet of an agèd shark.

At the first turning of the third stair
Was a slotted window bellied like the figs’s fruit
And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene
The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green
Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.
Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,
Lilac and brown hair;
Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind
over the third stair,
Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair
Climbing the third stair.

Lord, I am not worthy
Lord, I am not worthy

but speak the word only.

IV
Who walked between the violet and the violet
Whe walked between
The various ranks of varied green
Going in white and blue, in Mary’s colour,
Talking of trivial things
In ignorance and knowledge of eternal dolour
Who moved among the others as they walked,
Who then made strong the fountains and made fresh the springs

Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sand
In blue of larkspur, blue of Mary’s colour,
Sovegna vos

Here are the years that walk between, bearing
Away the fiddles and the flutes, restoring
One who moves in the time between sleep and waking, wearing

White light folded, sheathing about her, folded.
The new years walk, restoring
Through a bright cloud of tears, the years, restoring
With a new verse the ancient rhyme. Redeem
The time. Redeem
The unread vision in the higher dream
While jewelled unicorns draw by the gilded hearse.

The silent sister veiled in white and blue
Between the yews, behind the garden god,
Whose flute is breathless, bent her head and signed but spoke
no word

But the fountain sprang up and the bird sang down
Redeem the time, redeem the dream
The token of the word unheard, unspoken

Till the wind shake a thousand whispers from the yew

And after this our exile

V
If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny
the voice

Will the veiled sister pray for
Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee,
Those who are torn on the horn between season and season,
time and time, between
Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait
In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray
For children at the gate
Who will not go away and cannot pray:
Pray for those who chose and oppose

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Will the veiled sister between the slender
Yew trees pray for those who offend her
And are terrified and cannot surrender
And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks
In the last desert before the last blue rocks
The desert in the garden the garden in the desert
Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.

O my people.

VI
Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn

Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings

And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover
And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth

This is the time of tension between dying and birth
The place of solitude where three dreams cross
Between blue rocks
But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away
Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

Blessèd sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit
of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.

T.S. Eliot

Mary, Queen of Scots

I looked far back into other years, and lo, in bright array
I saw, as in a dream, the form of ages passed away.
It was a stately convent with its old and lofty walls,
And gardens with their broad green walks, where soft the footstep falls;
And o’er the antique dial stones the creeping shadows passed,
And all around the noonday sun a drowsy radiance cast.
No sound of busy life was heard, save from the cloisters dim
The tinkling of the silver bell, or the sisters’ holy hymn.
And there five noble maidens sat beneath the orchard trees,
In that first budding spring of youth, when all its prospects please;
And little recked they, when they sang, or knelt at vesper prayers,
That Scotland knew no prouder names — held none more dear than theirs;
And little even the loveliest thought, before the Virgin’s shrine,
Of royal blood and high descent from the ancient Stuart line;
Calmly her happy days flew on, uncounted in their flight,
And as they flew they left behind a long-continuing light.

The scene was changed: it was the court, the gay court of Bourbon,
And ‘neath a thousand silver lamps a thousand courtiers throng;
And proudly kindles Henry’s eye — well pleased I ween, to see
The land assemble all its wealth of grace and chivalry;
But fairer far than all the rest who bask in fortune’s tide,
Effulgent in the light of youth is she, the new-made bride!
The homage of a thousand hearts — the fond, deep love of one —
The hopes that dance around a life whose charms are but begun —
They lighten up her chestnut eye, they mantle o’er her cheek,
They sparkle on her open brow, and high-souled joy bespeak.
Ah, who shall blame, if scarce that day, through all its brilliant hours,
She thought of the quiet convent’s calm, its sunshine and its flowers?

The scene was changed: it was a barque that slowly held its way,
And o’er its lee the coast of France in light of evening lay;
And on its deck a lady sat, who gazed with tearful eyes
Upon the fast-receding hills that, dim and distant, rise.
No marvel that the lady wept — there was no land on earth
She loved like that dear land, although she owed it not her birth.
It was her mother’s land, the land of childhood and of friends,
It was the land where she had found for all her griefs amends;
The land where her dead husband slept, the land where she had known
The tranquil convent’s hushed repose, and the splendors of a throne.
No marvel that the lady wept — it was the land of France,
The chosen home of chivalry, the garden of romance.
The past was bright, like those dear hills so far behind her barque;
The future, like the gathering night, was ominous and dark.
One gaze again — one long, last gaze, “Adieu, fair France, to thee!”
The breeze comes forth — she is alone on the unconscious sea!

The scene was changed: it was an eve of raw and surly mood,
And in a turret chamber high of ancient Holyrood
Sat Mary, listening to the rain and sighing with the winds
That seemed to suit the stormy state of men’s uncertain minds.
The touch of care had blanched her cheek, her smile was sadder now,
The weight of royalty had pressed too heavy on her brow;
And traitors to her councils came, and rebels to the field;
The Stuart sceptre well she swayed, but the sword she could not wield.
She thought of all her blighted hopes, the dreams of youth’s brief day,
And summoned Rizzio with his lute, and bade the ministrel play
The songs she loved in early years — the songs of gay Navarre,
The songs perchance that erst were sung by gallant Chattilor.

They half beguiled her of her cares, they soothed her into smiles,
They won her thoughts from bigot zeal and fierce domestic broils;
But hark, the tramp of armed men, the Douglas’ battle cry!
They come! they come! and lo, the scowl of Ruthven’s hollow eye!
The swords are drawn, the daggers gleam, the tears and words are vain —
The ruffian steel is in his heart, the faithful Rizzio’s slain!
Then Mary Stuart dashed aside the tears that trickling fell:
“Now for my father’s arm!” she cried; “my woman’s heart farewell!”

The scene was changed: a royal host a royal banner bore,
And the faithful of the land stood round their smiling Queen once more;
She stayed her steed upon a hill — she saw them marching by —
She heard their shouts — she read success in every flashing eye.
The tumult of the strife begins — it roars — it dies away;
And Mary’s troops and banners now — and courtiers — where are they?
Scattered and strewn, and flying far, defenceless and undone;
Alas! to think what she had lost, and all that guilt had won!
Away! Away! thy noble steed must act no laggard’s part;
Yet vain his speed, for thou dost bear the arrow in thy heart!

The scene was changed: it was a lake, with one small lonely isle,
And there, within the prison walls of its baronial pile,
Stern men stood menacing their queen, till she should stoop to sign
The traitorous scroll that snatched the crown from her ancestral line;
“My lords, my lords,” the captive said, “were I but once more free,
With ten good knights on yonder shore to aid my cause and me,
This parchment would I scatter wide to every breeze that blows,
And once more reign a Stuart queen o’er my remorseless foes!”
A red spot burned upon her cheek, streamed her rich tresses down,
She wrote the words, she stood erect, a queen without a crown!

The scene was changed: beside the block a sullen headsman stood,
And gleamed the broad axe in his hand, that soon must drip with blood.
With slow and steady step there came a Lady through the hall,
And breathless silence chained the lips and touched the hearts of all.
I knew that queenly form again, though blighted was its bloom;
I saw that grief and decked it out — an offering for the tomb!
I knew that eye, though faint its light, that once so brightly shone;
I knew the voice, though feeble now, that thrilled with every tone;
I knew the ringlets almost grey, once threads of living gold;
I knew that bounding grace of step, that symmetry of mould!

Even now I see her far away in that calm convent aisle,
I hear her chant her vesper hymn, I mark her holy smile;
Even now I see her bursting forth upon the bridal morn,
A new star in the firmament, to light and glory born!
Alas, the change! she placed her foot upon a triple throne,
And on the scaffold now she stands — beside the block — alone!
The little dog that licks her hand the last of all the crowd
Who sunned themselves beneath her glance, and round her footsteps bowed.
Her neck is bared — the blow is struck — the soul is passed away!
The bright — the beautiful — is now a bleeding piece of clay.
The dog is moaning piteously; and, as it gurgles o’er,
Laps the warm blood that trickling runs unheeded to the floor.
The blood of beauty, wealth and power, the heart-blood of a queen,
The noblest of the Stuart race, the fairest earth has seen,
Lapped by a dog! Go think of it, in silence and alone;
Then weigh against a grain of sand the glories of a throne.

Henry Glassford Bell

The Last Hymn

The Sabbath day was ending in a village by the sea,
The uttered benediction touched the people tenderly,
And they rose to face the sunset in the glowing lighted West
And then hastened to their dwellings for God’s blessed boon of rest.
But they looked across the waters and a storm was raging there.
A fierce spirit moved above them–the wild spirit of the air,
And it lashed, and shook, and tore them till they thundered,
groaned, and boomed,
But alas! for any vessel in their yawning gulfs entombed.
Very anxious were the people on that rocky coast of Wales,
Lest the dawns of coming morrows should be telling awful tales,
When the sea had spent its passion, and should cast upon the shore
Bits of wreck, and swollen victims, as it had done heretofore.
With the rough winds blowing round her a brave woman strained her eyes,
And she saw along the billows a large vessel fall and rise.
Oh! it did not need a prophet to tell what the end must be,
For no ship could ride in safety near that shore on such a sea.
Then the pitying people hurried from their homes and thronged the beach.
Oh, for power to cross the waters, and the perishing to reach.
Helpless hands were wrung in terror, tender hearts grew cold with dread,
As the ship urged by the tempest to the fatal rock-shore sped.
She has parted in the middle! Oh, the half of her goes down!
God have mercy! Is His heaven far to seek for those who drown?
So when next the white shocked faces looked with terror on the sea,
Only one last clinging figure on a spar was seen to be.
Nearer the trembling watchers came the wreck tossed by the wave,
And the man still clung and floated, though no power on earth could save.
“Could we send him a short message! Here’s a trumpet, shout away!”
‘Twas the preacher’s hand that took it, and he wondered what to say.
Any memory of his sermon? Firstly? Secondly? Ah, no.
There was but one thing to utter in that awful hour of woe.
So he shouted through the trumpet, “Look to Jesus! Can you hear?”
And “Aye, aye, sir!” rang the answer o’er the waters loud and clear,
Then they listened, “He is singing, ‘Jesus, lover of my soul,'”
And the winds brought back the echo, “While the nearer waters roll.”
Strange indeed it was to hear him, “Till the storm of life is past.”
Singing bravely o’er the waters, “Oh, receive my soul at last.”
He could have no other refuge, “Hangs my helpless soul on thee;”,
“Leave, oh, leave me not!”–the singer dropped at last into the sea.
And the watchers looking homeward, through their eyes, by tears made dim,
Said, “He passed to be with Jesus in the singing of that hymn.”

Marianne Farningham

The hymn in question:

Jesus, Lover of My Soul

Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly,
while the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high:
hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;
safe into the haven guide, O receive my soul at last!

Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on thee;
leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me!
All my trust on thee is stayed, all my help from thee I bring;
cover my defenseless head with the shadow of thy wing.

Thou, O Christ, art all I want; more than all in thee I find:
raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is thy name; I am all unrighteousness;
false and full of sin I am, thou art full of truth and grace.

Plenteous grace with thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;
let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within:
thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of thee;
spring thou up within my heart, rise to all eternity.

Charles Wesley

The Fighter

I fight a battle every day
Against discouragement and fear;
Some foe stands always in my way,
The path ahead is never clear!

I must forever be on guard
Against the doubts that skulk along;
I get ahead by fighting hard,
But fighting keeps my spirit strong.

I hear the croakings of Despair,
The dark predictions of the weak;
I find myself pursued by Care,
No matter what the end I seek;
My victories are small and few,
It matters not how hard I strive;
Each day the fight begins anew,
But fighting keeps my hopes alive.

My dreams are spoiled by circumstance,
My plans are wrecked by Fate or Luck;
Some hour, perhaps, will come my chance,
But that great hour has never struck;
My progress has been slow and hard,
I’ve had to climb and crawl and swim,
Fighting for ever stubborn yard;
But I have kept in fighting trim.

I have to fight my doubts away
And be on guard against my fears;
The feeble croaking of Dismay
Has been familiar through the years;
My dearest plans keep going wrong,
Events combine to thwart my will;
But fighting keeps my spirit strong,
And I am undefeated still!

Samuel Ellsworth Kiser