Geoffrey Hill, “Lachrimae Amantis” [Poetry for Lent]

Poetry for Lent 2.001

Every Thursday during Lent, I have posted a poem that I find helpful for deeper engagement with Jesus’ journey to the Cross and the significance of Lent. Because I will post something different for Maundy Thursday tomorrow, I’m posting this week’s poem one day early. Here is Geoffery Hill’s poem “Lachrimae Amantis” from Tenebrae. Geoffrey Hill was one of the most significant English language poets of the 20th and 21st centuries.


What is there in my heart that you should sue
so fiercely for its love? What kind of care
brings you as though a stranger to my door
through the long night and in the icy dew

seeking the heart that will not harbour you,
that keeps itself religiously secure?
At this dark solstice filled with frost and fire
your passion’s ancient wounds must bleed anew.

So many nights the angel of my house
has fed such urgent comfort through a dream,
whispered “your lord is coming, he is close”

that I have drowsed half-faithful for a time
bathed in pure tones of promise and remorse:
“tomorrow I shall wake to welcome him.”


Previous poems in this series:

John Donne, ‘Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness”

Langston Hughes, “The Ballad of Mary’s Son”

Gerard Manley Hopkins, “I Wake and Feel the Fell of Dark, Not Day”

Luci Shaw, “Judas, Peter”

Li-Young Lee, “Nativity”

E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake), “Brier (Good Friday)”

E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake), “Brier (Good Friday)” [Poetry for Lent]

Poetry for Lent 2.001

Every Thursday during Lent, I post a poem that I find helpful for deeper engagement with Jesus’ journey to the Cross and the significance of Lent. Here is Emily Pauline Johnson’s poem “Brier (Good Friday)” from Flint and Feather: The Collected Poems of E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake). Johnson, known also by her adopted name “Tekahionwake,” was the a Canadian poet popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Her father was a hereditary Mohawk chief of mixed ancestry and her mother was an English immigrant.


Because, dear Christ, your tender, wounded arm
Bends back the brier that edges life’s long way,
That no hurt comes to heart, to soul no harm,
I do not feel the thorns so much to-day.

Because I never knew your care to tire,
Your hand to weary guiding me aright,
Because you walk before and crush the brier,
It does not pierce my feet so much to-night.

Because so often you have hearkened to
My selfish prayers, I ask but one thing now,
That these harsh hands of mine add not unto
The crown of thorns upon your bleeding brow.


Previous poems in this series:

John Donne, ‘Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness”

Langston Hughes, “The Ballad of Mary’s Son”

Gerard Manley Hopkins, “I Wake and Feel the Fell of Dark, Not Day”

Luci Shaw, “Judas, Peter”

Li-Young Lee, “Nativity”

Li-Young Lee, “Nativity” [Poetry for Lent]

Poetry for Lent 2.001

Every Thursday during Lent, I post a poem that I find helpful for deeper engagement with Jesus’ journey to the Cross and the significance of Lent. Here is Li-Young Lee’s poem “Nativity” from Book of My Nights. Born to Chinese political exiles in Indonesia, Li-Young Lee was later educated in the United States and has written several collections of poetry.


In the dark, a child might ask, What is the world?
just to hear his sister
promise, An unfinished wing of heaven,
just to hear his brother say,
A house inside a house,
but most of all to hear his mother answer,
One more song, then you go to sleep.

How could anyone in that bed guess
the question finds its beginning
in the answer long growing
inside the one who asked, that restless boy,
the night’s darling?

Later, a man lying awake,
he might ask it again,
just to hear the silence
charge him, This night
arching over your sleepless wondering,

this night, the near ground
every reaching-out-to overreaches,

just to remind himself
out of what little earth and duration,
out of what immense good-bye,

each must make a safe place of his heart,
before so strange and wild a guest
as God approaches.


Previous poems in this series:

John Donne, ‘Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness”

Langston Hughes, “The Ballad of Mary’s Son”

Gerard Manley Hopkins, “I Wake and Feel the Fell of Dark, Not Day”

Luci Shaw, “Judas, Peter”

A Prayer by Walter Brueggemann – “Sustained by Angels”

BrueggemannW300

Maybe we have not thought much about Satan,
either in glib self-regard,
or in rejection of such silly speculation,
or in a way more urbane and benign
than to imagine such a character.

Except that as we begin our strenuous Lenten trek,
we are aware that the power of resistance is at work in our midst,
that the force of negation is alive and well,
that our best will is contradicted
by stuff that surges
against our best selves,
that we, even we, are prone to our
several addictions that render us helpless.

So we pray in the Lenten season,
give us primitive freedom to
take full stock of Satan and the power of
evil still among us in our prosperity
and pride an sophistication,
and give us primitive openness
to your ministering angels
who are present with care and gentleness
and great nourishment.

In the Lenten season, give us freedom
to reconfigure our lives
as a testing field between the force of Satan
and the food of your angels.

Enter our lives with power for newness,
deliver us from a sense of naïve mastery,
and give us honest contact with our vulnerability.

Enter the deep places of our life and claim us for your purposes.
We would be more free than we are,
more bold than we dare,
more obedient than we choose.

We wait for the gift of your large gift of life
that will wrench us away from death
to the miracle of Easter joy. Amen

By Walter Brueggemann, biblical scholar and teacher, from Prayers for a Privileged People.

Luci Shaw, “Judas, Peter” [Poetry for Lent]

Poetry for Lent 2.001

Every Thursday during Lent, I post a poem that I find helpful for deeper engagement with Jesus’ journey to the Cross and the significance of Lent. Here is Luci Shaw’s poem “Judas, Peter” from Polishing the Petoskey Stone: New and Selected Poems. Luci Shaw has served as a writer in residence at Regent College (Vancouver, BC) since 1998 and is the author of eleven volumes of poetry.


because we are all
betrayers, taking
silver and eating
body and blood and asking
(guilty) is it I and hearing
him say yes
it would be simple for us all
to rush out
and hang ourselves

but if we find grace
to cry and wait
after the voice of morning
has crowed in our ears
clearly enough
to break out hearts
he will be there
to ask us each again
do you love me?


Previous poems in this series:

John Donne, ‘Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness”

Langston Hughes, “The Ballad of Mary’s Son”

Gerard Manley Hopkins, “I Wake and Feel the Fell of Dark, Not Day”