Holy Week: Wednesday

Ecce tempus idoneum, Latin plainsong, before 12th century, transl. T.A. Lacey (1853-1931)

Now is the healing time decreed
For sins of heart, or word or deed,
When we in humble fear record
The wrong that we have done the Lord;

Who, alway merciful and good,
Has borne so long our wayward mood,
Nor cut us off unsparingly
In our so great iniquity.

Therefore with fasting and with prayer,
Our secret sorrow we declare;
With all good striving seek his face,
And lowly hearted plead for grace.

Cleanse us, O Lord, from every stain,
Help us the meed of praise to gain,
Till with the angels linked in love
Joyful we tread thy courts above.

—————-
The Mysteries, H.D. (1886-1961)

(Note: I’m posting the last stanza first, because the poem is long and if you’re only willing to read 20 lines, I want it to be the last ones. But read the whole thing, because the last stanza is even better with the richness built up by the rest of the piece. Pretty please!!)
VI

“The mysteries remain,
I keep the same
cycle of seed-time and of sun and rain;
Demeter in the grass
I multiply,
renew and bless
Iacchus in the vine;
I hold the law,
I keep the mysteries true,
the first of these
to name the living, dead;
I am red wine and bread.


I keep the law,
I hold the mysteries true,
I am the vine,
the branches, you
and you.”


—————-
I

Dark
days are past
and darker days draw near;
darkness on this side,
darkness over there
threatens the spirit
like massed hosts
a sheer
handful
of thrice-doomed spearsmen;
enemy this side,
enemy a part
of hill
and mountain-crest
and under-hill;
nothing before of mystery,
nothing past,
only the emptiness,
pitfall of death,
terror,
the flood,
the earthquake,
stormy ill;
then voice within the turmoil,
that slight breath
that tells as one flower may
of winter past
(that kills
with Pythian bow,
the Delphic pest;)
one flower,
slight voice,
reveals
all holiness
with
“peace
be still.”

II

A sceptre
and a flower-shaft
and a spear,
one flower may kill the winter,
so this rare
enchanter
and magician
and arch-mage;
one flower may slay the winter
and meet death,
so this
goes and returns
and dies
and comes to bless
again,
again;
a sceptre and a flower
and a near
protector
to the lost and impotent;
yea,
I am lost,
behold what star is near;
yea,
I am weak,
see
what enchanted armour
clothes the intrepid mind
that sheds the gear
of blighting thought;
behold what wit is here
what subtlety,
what humour
and what light;
see,
I am done,
no lover and none dear,
a voice within the fever,
that slight breath
belies our terror
and our hopelessness,
“lo,
I am here.”

III

“Not to destroy,
nay, but to sanctify
the flower
that springs
Adonis
from the dead;
behold,
behold
the lilies
how they grow,
behold how fair,
behold how pure a red,
(so love has died)
behold the lilies
bled
for love;
not emperor nor ruler,
none may claim
such splendour;
king may never boast
so beautiful a garment
as the host
of field
and mountain lilies.”

IV

“Not to destroy,
nay, but to sanctify
each flame
that springs
upon the brow of Love;
not to destroy
but to re-invoke
and name
afresh each flower,
serpent
and bee
and bird;
behold,
behold
the spotted snake
how wise;
behold the dove,
the sparrow,
not one dies
without your father;
man sets the trap
and bids the arrow fly,
man snares the mother-bird
while passing by
the shivering fledglings,
leaving them to lie
starving;
no man,
no man,
no man
may ever fear
that this one,
winnowing the lovely air,
is overtaken by a bird of prey,
that this is stricken
in its wild-wood plight,
that this dies broken
in the wild-wood snare,
I
and my father
care.”

V

“Not to destroy,
nay, but to sanctify
the fervour
of all ancient mysteries;
behold the dead are lost,
the grass has lain
trampled
and stained
and sodden;
behold,
behold,
behold
the grass disdains
the rivulet
of snow and mud and rain;
the grass,
the grass
rises
with flower-bud;
the grain
lifts its bright spear-head
to the sun again;
behold,
behold
the dead are no more dead,
the grain is gold,
blade,
stalk
and seed within;
the mysteries
are in the grass
and rain.”

VI

“The mysteries remain,
I keep the same
cycle of seed-time and of sun and rain;
Demeter in the grass
I multiply,
renew and bless
Iacchus in the vine;
I hold the law,
I keep the mysteries true,
the first of these
to name the living, dead;
I am red wine and bread.

I keep the law,
I hold the mysteries true,
I am the vine,
the branches, you
and you.”

Comments

  1. Kristine–
    These have been lovely and thoughtful posts. Thank you.

    Now an unrelated question. Why is there no longer a way to post on “RS, Who Cares?”?

  2. Kristine says:

    Because the comments (mostly mine, I presume) were generating more heat than light. You can upbraid me by private e-mail, if you like. (kristinehaglund verboten symbol yahoo)

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