A Benedictine nun prays before the Blessed Sacrament at Tyburn Convent, Marble Arch, London. Thank God that we still have women religious of this stature and please pray for more vocations.
RAIN, rain on Tyburn tree,
Red rain a-falling;
Dew, dew on Tyburn tree,
Red dew on Tyburn tree,
And the swart bird a-calling.
Thence it roots so fast and free,
Yet it is a gaunt tree,
Black as be
The swart birds alone that seek,
With red-bedabbled breast and beak,
Its lank black shadow falling.
The shadow lies on
Of the deathly-fruited bough,
Cold and black with malison
Lies between the land and sun;
Putting out the sun, the bough
Shades England now!
The troubled heavens do wan with care,
And burthened with the earth’s despair
Shiver a-cold ; the starved heaven
Has want with wanting man bereaven.
Blest fruit of the unblest bough!
Aid the land that smote you, now!
Which feels the sentence and the curse
Ye died if so ye might reverse.
When God was stolen from out man’s mouth,
Stolen was the bread; then hunger and drouth
Went to and fro ; began the wail,
Struck root the poor-house and the jail.
Ere cut the dykes, let through that flood,
Ye writ the protest with your blood ;
Against this night wherein our breath
Withers, the toiled heart perisheth,
Entered the caveat of your death.
Christ, in the form of His true Bride,
Again hung pierced and crucified,
And groaned, “I thirst!” Not still ye stood,—
Ye had your hearts, ye had your blood ;
And pouring out the eager cup,
“The wine is weak, yet, Lord Christ, sup !
“Ah, blest ! who bathed the parched Vine
With richer than His Cana-wine,
And heard, your most sharp supper past,
“Ye kept the best wine to the last !”
Ah, happy who
That sequestered secret knew,
How sweeter than bee-haunted dells
The blosmy blood of martyrs smells!
Who did upon the scaffold’s bed,
The ceremonial steel between you, wed
With God’s grave proxy, high and reverend Death ;
Or felt about your neck, sweetly,
(While the dull horde
Saw but the unrelenting cord)
The Bridegroom’s arm, and that long kiss
That kissed away your breath, and claimed you His.
You did, with thrift of holy gain,
Unvenoming the sting of pain,
Hive its sharp heather-honey. Ye
Had sentience of the mystery
To make Abaddon’s hooked wings
Buoy you up to starry things ;
Pain of heart, and pain of sense,
Pain the scourge, ye taught to cleanse ;
Pain the loss became possessing ;
Pain the curse was pain the blessing.
Chains, rack, hunger, solitude these,
Which did your soul from earth release,
Left it free to rush upon
And merge in its compulsive sun.
Desolated, bruised, forsaken,
Nothing taking, all things taken,
Lacerated and tormented,
The stifled soul, in naught contented,
On all hands straitened, cribbed, denied,
Can but fetch breath o’ the Godward side.
Oh to me, give but to me
That flower of felicity,
Which on your topmost spirit ware
The difficult and snowy air
Of high refusal ! and the heat
Of central love which fed with, sweet
And holy fire i’ the frozen sod
Roots that had ta’en hold on God.
Unwithering youth in you renewed
Those rosy waters of your blood,—
The true Fons Juventutis—ye
Pass with conquest that Red Sea,
And stretch out your victorious hand
Over the Fair and Holy Land;
With a ninefold-battled shout,
Trumpet, and wind and clang of wings,
And a thousand fiery things,
And Heaven’s triumphing spears: while far
Beneath go down the Egyptian war—
A loosed hillside—with brazen jar
Underneath your dreadful blood,
Into steep night. Celestial feud
Not long forbears the Tudor’s brood,
Rule, unsoldered from his line,
See unto the Scot decline ;
And the kin Scots’ weird shall be
Axe, exile and infamy ;
Till the German fill the room
Of him who gave the bloody doom.
Oh by the Church’s pondering art
Late set and named upon the chart
Of her divine astronomy,
Though your influence from on high
Long ye shed unnoted! Bright
New cluster in our Northern night!
Cleanse from its pain and undelight
An impotent and tarnished hymn,
Whose marish exhalations dim