And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

søndag 25. mars 2012

Annunciation Canticles

Today is the Feast of the Annunciation, one of the feast-days ascribed to the Virgin Mary in the Roman sanctorale. This feast commemorates the archangel Gabriel's visit to the Virgin as told in Luke 1, and this event has resulted in numerous pieces of art and music throughout Christian culture. Being a non-denominational Christian I usually do not celebrate the Annunciation, but in the course of my Medieval scholarship I have become more fascinated with the phenomenon and decided to attend an Annunciation concert in the cathedral of Trondheim. The concert was a wonderful experience and as I sat there I was trying to compose a poem for this particular occasion. As a finishing touch to this Annunciation I present the result below.

The Cestello Annunciation by Sandro Botticelli

And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord
- Luke 1:48

Annunciation Canticles

Prelude: The Kingdom of March

Now March, the kingdom of contrite concessions
Draws to its end.
Clouds in their mute procession
Filters the light for angels to descend.

Now I, a sinner, this annunciation
Offer my light.
Such is my celebration
For that one light that burns throughout my night.

Beata Viscera

After Perotin

As notes descend and rise a light is born,
A light in darkness peering through the glass
Dividing earth and Heaven. The orient corn
Burgeons gently through the withered grass.

March has its end, its numbered days will pass;
The mourning tapers dwindle in the sand
While Mary bearing Mankind's looking-glass,
Accepts the lily from the angel's hand.

Ave Maria

Bearer of Christ, Hail Mary,
Bright as a burning wick!
Love is the light you carry;
Mine is a candlestick.
- Trondheim, March 25, 2012


 Beata Viscera: This monophonic musical piece attributed to Pérotin (fl. c.1200) is a celebration of the blessed womb of the Virgin Mary. The poem is an incomplete Spenserian sonnet whose opening lines came to me while the choir performed Beata Viscera.

Orient corn: This is a reference to Thomas Traherne's Centuries of Meditation. The phrase "oriental and immortal wheat" has connotations of a childhood remembered - at least the way it is used by Derek Walcott - and is here an elaborate metaphor for rememberance of childhood.

Mankind's looking-glass: The idea here is that Christ, as a perfect human being, represents a mirror image of the inherently faulty humanity. Christ becomes here the looking-glass in which we may look to find our imperfections reflected by His perfection.

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