1

Mary Our Contemporary

"Mother of God," the wanderer said,
          "I am but a common king,
          Nor will I ask what saints may ask,
          To see a secret thing.

          "The gates of heaven are fearful gates
          Worse than the gates of hell;
          Not I would break the splendours barred
          Or seek to know the thing they guard,
          Which is too good to tell.

          "But for this earth most pitiful,
          This little land I know,
          If that which is for ever is,
          Or if our hearts shall break with bliss,
          Seeing the stranger go?

          "When our last bow is broken, Queen,
          And our last javelin cast,
          Under some sad, green evening sky,
          Holding a ruined cross on high,
          Under warm westland grass to lie,
          Shall we come home at last?"

          And a voice came human but high up,
          Like a cottage climbed among
          The clouds; or a serf of hut and croft
          That sits by his hovel fire as oft,
          But hears on his old bare roof aloft
          A belfry burst in song.

          "The gates of heaven are lightly locked,
          We do not guard our gain,
          The heaviest hind may easily
          Come silently and suddenly
          Upon me in a lane.

          "And any little maid that walks
          In good thoughts apart,
          May break the guard of the Three Kings
          And see the dear and dreadful things
          I hid within my heart.

          "The meanest man in grey fields gone
          Behind the set of sun,
          Heareth between star and other star,
          Through the door of the darkness fallen ajar,
          The council, eldest of things that are,
          The talk of the Three in One.

          "The gates of heaven are lightly locked,
          We do not guard our gold,
          Men may uproot where worlds begin,
          Or read the name of the nameless sin;
          But if he fail or if he win
          To no good man is told.

          "The men of the East may spell the stars,
          And times and triumphs mark,
          But the men signed of the cross of Christ
          Go gaily in the dark.

          "The men of the East may search the scrolls
          For sure fates and fame,
          But the men that drink the blood of God
          Go singing to their shame.

          "The wise men know what wicked things
          Are written on the sky,
          They trim sad lamps, they touch sad strings,
          Hearing the heavy purple wings,
          Where the forgotten seraph kings
          Still plot how God shall die.

          "The wise men know all evil things
          Under the twisted trees,
          Where the perverse in pleasure pine
          And men are weary of green wine
          And sick of crimson seas.

          "But you and all the kind of Christ
          Are ignorant and brave,
          And you have wars you hardly win
          And souls you hardly save.

          "I tell you naught for your comfort,
          Yea, naught for your desire,
          Save that the sky grows darker yet
          And the sea rises higher.

          "Night shall be thrice night over you,
          And heaven an iron cope.
          Do you have joy without a cause,
          Yea, faith without a hope?"

          Even as she spoke she was not,
          Nor any word said he,
          He only heard, still as he stood
          Under the old night's nodding hood,
          The sea-folk breaking down the wood
          Like a high tide from sea.

          He only heard the heathen men,
          Whose eyes are blue and bleak,
          Singing about some cruel thing
          Done by a great and smiling king
          In daylight on a deck.

          He only heard the heathen men,
          Whose eyes are blue and blind,
          Singing what shameful things are done
          Between the sunlit sea and the sun
          When the land is left behind.

GK Chesterton, The Ballad of the White Horse

3

Saint Bernard on the Holy Name of Mary

“And the Virgin’s name was Mary. Let us speak a little about this name, which signifies star of the sea, and which so well befits the Virgin Mother. Rightly is She likened to a star; for as a star emits its ray without being dimmed, so the Virgin brought forth Her Son without receiving any injury – the ray takes nothing from the brightness of the star, nor the Son from His Mother’s integrity. This is the noble star risen out of Jacob, whose ray illumines the whole earth, gives warmth rather to souls than to bodies, cherishing virtues, withering vices. Mary, I say, is that bright and incomparable star, whom we need to see raised above this vast sea, shining by Her merits, and giving us light by Her example.

Oh! whosoever thou art that seest thyself, amid the tides of this world, tossed about by storms and tempests rather than walking on the land, turn not thine eyes away from the shining of this star if thou wouldst not be overwhelmed by the hurricane. If squalls of temptations arise, or thou fall upon the rocks of tribulation, look to the star, call upon Mary. If thou art tossed by the waves of pride or ambition, detraction or envy, look to the star, call upon Mary. If anger or avarice or the desires of the flesh dash against the ship of thy soul, turn thine eyes towards Mary. If, troubled by the enormity of thy crimes, ashamed of thy guilty conscience, terrified by dread of the judgment, thou beginnest to sink into the gulf of sadness or the abyss of despair, think of Mary. In dangers, in anguish, in doubt, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let Her be ever on thy lips, ever in thy heart; and the better to obtain the help of Her prayers, imitate the example of Her life. Following Her, thou strayest not; invoking Her, thou despairest not; thinking of Her, thou wanderest not; upheld by Her, thou fallest not; shielded by Her, thou fearest not; guided by Her, thou growest not weary; favored by Her, thou reachest the goal. And thus dost thou experience in thyself how good is that saying: And the Virgin’s name was Mary.”