Memorial of St. Agnes – a poem by Alfred Tennyson



Deep on the convent-roof the snows
Are sparkling to the moon:
My breath to heaven like vapour goes:
May my soul follow soon!
The shadows of the convent-towers
Slant down the snowy sward,
Still creeping with the creeping hours
That lead me to my Lord:
Make Thou my spirit pure and clear
As are the frosty skies,
Or this first snowdrop of the year
That in my bosom lies.

As these white robes are soil’d and dark,
To yonder shining ground;
As this pale taper’s earthly spark,
To yonder argent round;
So shows my soul before the Lamb,
My spirit before Thee;
So in mine earthly house I am,
To that I hope to be.
Break up the heavens, O Lord! and far,
Thro’ all yon starlight keen,
Draw me, thy bride, a glittering star,
In raiment white and clean.

He lifts me to the golden doors;
The flashes come and go;
All heaven bursts her starry floors,
And strows her lights below,
And deepens on and up! the gates
Roll back, and far within
For me the Heavenly Bridegroom waits,
To make me pure of sin.
The sabbaths of Eternity,
One sabbath deep and wide–
A light upon the shining sea–
The bridegroom with his bride!

St. Agnes (292-304 AD) is one of the most revered and famous saints of the early Church. Her courageous martyrdom was so inspiring to early Christians that her name was inserted into numerous litanies of saints, and she is included on the list of apostles and martyrs in the Roman Canon, today known as Eucharistic Prayer I.

Agnes was born into a noble Roman family. She was a beautiful young woman of twelve or thirteen years of age when many suitors desired her hand in marriage, but Agnes had committed herself to a life of consecrated virginity as a spouse of Christ. She was then denounced to the authorities as a Christian during the reign of Emperor Diocletian. She was condemned to be dragged naked through the streets into a brothel to be abused. She miraculously escaped from this predicament with her virginity intact, and was then ordered to be burned at the stake. Her persecutors failing in this attempt also, she was finally killed by beheading.

St. Agnes has two symbols: a palm branch, the symbol of martyrdom, and a lamb, because her name is so similar to the Latin word agnus which means “lamb.” She is the patron saint of young girls, the Girl Scouts, purity, and Christian virtue.

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2 Responses to Memorial of St. Agnes – a poem by Alfred Tennyson

  1. GC says:

    And St Agnes’ lambs:

  2. Celeste Angelus says:

    Reblogged this on Contemplans Profundes and commented:
    Here is an eloquent poem by Alfred Tennyson about St. Agnes, whose inspiring story of martyrdom and chastity should serve as an example to all Christians.

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