14 January 2009

Thy Terror, O Christ, O God...

This is from "The Wreck of the Deutschland" by Gerard Manley Hopkins. It's a really complex poem, but I love it. These opening stanzas reflect on how God, the poet's master and creator and Lord, often comes to him in such glory than it's terrifying. Yet after this fear, the shock of seeing God's holiness above our creatureliness, that same magnificent Lord-- through Christ-- reaches down to the poet in peace. And we rest in his love and mercy.

Thou mastering me
God! Giver of breath and bread;
World’s strand, sway of the sea;
Lord of living and dead;
Thou hast bound bones and veins in me, fastened me flesh,
And after it almost unmade, what with dread,
Thy doing: and dost thou touch me afresh?
Over again I feel thy finger and find thee.

I did say yes
O at lightning and lashed rod;
Thou heardst me truer than tongue confess
Thy terror, O Christ, O God;
Thou knowest the walls, altar and hour and night:
The swoon of a heart that the sweep and the hurl of thee trod
Hard down with a horror of height:
And the midriff astrain with leaning of, laced with fire of stress . . .

Be adored among men,
God, three-number├Ęd form;
Wring thy rebel, dogged in den,
Man’s malice, with wrecking and storm.
Beyond saying sweet, past telling of tongue,
Thou art lightning and love
, I found it, a winter and warm;
Father and fondler of heart thou hast wrung:
Hast thy dark descending and most art merciful then.

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