Sunday, 3 December 2006

Seasonal thoughts

Today is the first Sunday in Advent. This is the best season for choral singing and I am enriched by the composers, artists and poets who have found a vehicle for their own philosophy in the Christian calendar.

The Angel Gabriel from heaven came
with wings of drifted snow
with eyes of flame,
All Hail, said he, thou virgin maid Mary
most highly favoured lady,

Fra Angelico - Annunciation

In 1899, Rainer Maria Rilke wrote 'Die Wort des Engels'

You are not nearer God than we;
he's far from everyone.
And yet your hands most wonderfully
reveal his benison.
From woman's sleeves none every grew
so ripe, so shimmeringly:
I am the day, I am the dew,
you, Lady, are the Tree.

Pardon, now that my long journey's done,
I had forgot to say
what he who sat as in the sun,
grand in his gold array,
told me to tell you, pensive one
(space has bewildered me);
I am the start of what's begun,
you, Lady, are the Tree.

The angels tremble in their choir,
grow pale, and separate:
never were longing and desire
so vague and yet so great.
Something perhaps is going to be
that you perceived in dream.
Hail to you ! for my soul can see
that you are ripe and teem.

You lofty gate, that any day
may open for our good:
you ear my longing songs assay,
my word - I know now - lost its way
in you as in a wood.

And thus your last dream was designed
to be fulfilled by me.
God looked at me: he made me blind ...

You, Lady, are the Tree.

Translated by J B Leishman


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