The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air we Breathe

A poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ.

Granada – The Madonna (The Virgin of the Rosary) painting in church Monasterio de la Cartuja by unknown artist of 18. cent.
  • Wild air, world-mothering air,
  • Nestling me everywhere,
  • That each eyelash or hair
  • Girdles; goes home betwixt
  • The fleeciest, frailest-flixed
  • Snowflake; that’s fairly mixed
  • With, riddles, and is rife
  • In every least thing’s life;
  • This needful, never spent,
  • And nursing element;
  • My more than meat and drink,
  • My meal at every wink;
  • This air, which, by life’s law,
  • My lung must draw and draw
  • Now but to breathe its praise,
  • Minds me in many ways
  • Of her who not only
  • Gave God’s infinity
  • Dwindled to infancy
  • Welcome in womb and breast,
  • Birth, milk, and all the rest
  • But mothers each new grace
  • That does now reach our race—
  • Mary Immaculate,
  • Merely a woman, yet
  • Whose presence, power is
  • Great as no goddess’s
  • Was deemèd, dreamèd; who
  • This one work has to do—
  • Let all God’s glory through,
  • God’s glory which would go
  • Through her and from her flow
  • Off, and no way but so.
  • I say that we are wound
  • With mercy round and round
  • As if with air: the same
  • Is Mary, more by name.
  • She, wild web, wondrous robe,
  • Mantles the guilty globe,
  • Since God has let dispense
  • Her prayers his providence:
  • Nay, more than almoner,
  • The sweet alms’ self is her
  • And men are meant to share
  • Her life as life does air.
  • If I have understood,
  • She holds high motherhood
  • Towards all our ghostly good
  • And plays in grace her part
  • About man’s beating heart,
  • Laying, like air’s fine flood,
  • The deathdance in his blood;
  • Yet no part but what will
  • Be Christ our Saviour still.
  • Of her flesh he took flesh:
  • He does take fresh and fresh,
  • Though much the mystery how,
  • Not flesh but spirit now
  • And makes, O marvellous!
  • New Nazareths in us,
  • Where she shall yet conceive
  • Him, morning, noon, and eve;
  • New Bethlems, and he born
  • There, evening, noon, and morn
  • Bethlem or Nazareth,
  • Men here may draw like breath
  • More Christ and baffle death;
  • Who, born so, comes to be
  • New self and nobler me
  • In each one and each one
  • More makes, when all is done,
  • Both God’s and Mary’s Son.
  • Again, look overhead
  • How air is azurèd;
  • O how! nay do but stand
  • Where you can lift your hand
  • Skywards: rich, rich it laps
  • Round the four fingergaps.
  • Yet such a sapphire-shot,
  • Charged, steepèd sky will not
  • Stain light.   Yea, mark you this:
  • It does no prejudice.
  • The glass-blue days are those
  • When every colour glows,
  • Each shape and shadow shows.
  • Blue be it: this blue heaven
  • The seven or seven times seven
  • Hued sunbeam will transmit
  • Perfect, not alter it.
  • Or if there does some soft,
  • On things aloof, aloft,
  • Bloom breathe, that one breath more
  • Earth is the fairer for.
  • Whereas did air not make
  • This bath of blue and slake
  • His fire, the sun would shake,
  • A blear and blinding ball
  • With blackness bound, and all
  • The thick stars round him roll
  • Flashing like flecks of coal,
  • Quartz-fret, or sparks of salt,
  • In grimy vasty vault.
  • So God was god of old:
  • A mother came to mould
  • Those limbs like ours which are
  • What must make our daystar
  • Much dearer to mankind;
  • Whose glory bare would blind
  • Or less would win man’s mind.
  • Through her we may see him
  • Made sweeter, not made dim,
  • And her hand leaves his light
  • Sifted to suit our sight.
  • Be thou then, thou dear
  • Mother, my atmosphere;
  • To wend and meet no sin;
  • Above me, round me lie
  • Fronting my froward eye
  • With sweet and scarless sky;
  • Stir in my ears, speak there
  • Of God’s love, O live air,
  • Of patience, penance, prayer:
  • World-mothering air, air wild,
  • Wound with thee, in thee isled,
  • Fold home, fast fold thy child.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air we Breathe

  1. Mary Salmond says:

    Very cool. Very imaginative!


  2. tunaonfriday says:

    It’s breathtaking…


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s