A Priest's Offertory
Had I a whiter host to give
In snowier garments wouldst Thou live.
Thine were a chalice rich and old
Had I a better thing than gold.
Thy wine-press would know the sweet
Warm treading of an angel's feet.
Thy wheatfields were grown afar
In the soft meadowland of – star!
If priceless linen could I buy
Upon such linen wouldst Thou lie;
Something more virginal than bees
Would spin Thee purer lights than these.
I'd going, borrowing, take a hymn
From the white, born-singing Seraphim.
I'd plunder beauty in the night,
Star-stripping yonder worlds of light,
I'd color-strip each wondrous, rare
High-blooming, low-blooming, radiant there
Refolded flower, firm and fair
In a green-valleyed everywhere.
(Christ's Mother! Attend this feast.
Gift-load to-day His giftless priest.)
Midnight one night was still,
Heaven was whitening a hill;
Dark floundered in the wave of morn,
Infinite Infancy was born.
Eternal Power sank below,
A frail white miracle of snow.
Eternal Wonder left the skies
And dwindled into two soft eyes,
Child limbs that could not reach,
Child lips that knew no speech
Spoken, - save the murmurings heard
From breathing beast, wind and bird.
The unbeginning God began
To live the long slow hours of man.
His Mother, bending her fair head,
Straw-gathering-she laid His bed.
A whirling star-world came and halted
Above a blown-roofed, low, thatch-vaulted
Cave – Ah! Are we not agreed?
'Twas piteous royalty indeed!
And yet beyond an Infant's sleep
Found He a hiddenness more deep.
Finds it each morning when I stand,
He, in the curved holding of my hand.
Starlight is light but ill,
Star-shadow – darker still;
The lone firefly that wields
His fine blue lantern in the fields
Is far more luminous than Thou
Who hideth Thine endless splendor – how!
The rose more glory has to rate her
Lovelier than the Rose-Creator.
The violet is mantled finer
Than the world's own Flower-Designer,
Hill-Builder and Meadow-Weaver,
The blind beggar, kneeling while I pass
Through the sweet words old, told in the Mass,
Sunnier visions light his dreams
Than Thine, dark-locked – in death, it seems.
Covered indeed – and covered how!
Veil-shielded lest perchance I know
Not when the long day is sped:
Ah! Is this Jesus or is it bread?
I, Christ, who brought Thee down,
Must label Thee, to know mine own,
Must light a swinging lamp on high,
Lest all men, turning, pass Thee by.
Thou knowest my voice upon the wine;
Faith knoweth Thee – but no eyes of mine.
Wings fell, swords fell, scabbards fell
Into the yawning throat of Hell;
An Angel host – O Heaven's loss! –
Would not adore Thee on the Cross.
Yet on the Cross when Thou wert lain
Could they not see what love was slain?
Observed they not Thy Godly mien,
How Thou didst welcome death, serene?
How deeper, broader Hell would be
If Lucifer were asked to see
And worship as we worship Thee.
(Ah, when I speak the words that bring
Such helplessness on Heaven's King
Well, little Mass-bell, mightest thou ring.)
Rise manhood, in me rise!
Desire, aspire to sacrifice.
See how His warm blood stains the cup,
Now with Himself lift thyself up.
His paten is a burst of gold,
How much of offering will it hold?
Will it hold youth, - its bloom and glow?
(These wilt Thou garner anyhow.)
Will He take friend and loved one still?
(The weed-strewn graveyard cries – "He will.")
By Thee made, fashioned, let live,
What may I free, untrammeled give?
I give Thee a poor man bearing his load
Along the poor man's bleak highroad;
Now scorned – now pointed at with glee;
"Yon fool wears Christ's mean livery!"
I give Thee an angel? – somewhat less,
Yet wishing an angel's stainlessness,
Hoping Thy sunny love may yield
A lily in a trampled field.
I give Thee unchallenged, full control,
Of what is empire in my soul.
I lead Thee up the palace stair
Of mine own heart – enthrone Thee there!
If but a king forsooth may sing
And be content to be a king;
Unto Thee now, my vows renewed,
I stamp and seal my servitude.
I here proclaim Thy courts are fair;
Charmeth and pleaseth me the air.
I love the whole-souled, full-rolled ring
Of war and front-line soldiering,
Of men who bled – and when they fell –
Did judge the tribes of Israel.
Strip me of buckler, sword and lance,
But Captain – let us both advance!
Keep my poor eyes firm-fixed upon
The altar where God slays His Son.
O Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
I would I had a whiter host!
- Leonard Feeney, S.J.Report to moderator Logged