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A poem for Easter

Easter Wings

Lord, Who createdst man in wealth and store,

        Though foolishly he lost the same,

              Decaying more and more,

                      Till he became

                        Most poore:

                        With Thee

                      O let me rise,

              As larks, harmoniously,

        And sing this day Thy victories:

Then shall the fall further the flight in me.

My tender age in sorrow did beginne;

  And still with sicknesses and shame

        Thou didst so punish sinne,

                  That I became

                   Most thinne.

                    With Thee

                Let me combine,

      And feel this day Thy victorie;

    For, if I imp my wing on Thine,

Affliction shall advance the flight in me.

George Herbert (1593–1633)

A poem for Good Friday

Crucifixion

"Weep not for Me, Mother, 
in the grave I have life."

I.

The choir of angels glorified the great hour,
the heavens melted in flames.
He said to His Father: "Why hast Thou forsaken me?" 
and to His Mother: "Oh, weep not for Me..."

II.

Mary Magdalene smote her breast and wept,
the disciple whom He loved turned to stone,
but where the Mother stood in silence
nobody even dared look.

Anna Akhmatova (1889–1966)

Two poems for Advent (1 and 2); one for Christmas (3); and probably the most famous of all Epiphany poems (4).

1. Advent Calendar

He will come like last leaf's fall.
One night when the November wind
has flayed the trees to bone, and earth
wakes choking on the mould,
the soft shroud's folding.

He will come like frost.
One morning when the shrinking earth
opens on mist, to find itself
arrested in the net
of alien, sword-set beauty.

He will come like dark.
One evening when the bursting red
December sun draws up the sheet 
and penny-masks its eye to yield
the star-snowed fields of sky.

He will come, will come,
will come like crying in the night,
like blood, like breaking,
as the earth writhes to toss him free.
He will come like child.

Rowan Williams, The Poems of Rowan Williams, Perpetua Press 2002 
 
 
2. Blackbird in Fulham
 
A John the Baptist bird which comes before
The light, chooses an aerial
Toothed like a garden rake, puts a prong at each shoulder,
Opens its beak and becomes a thurifer
Blessing dark above dank holes between the houses,
Sleek patios or rag-and-weed-choked messes.

Too aboriginal to notice these,
Its concentration is on resonance
Which excavates in sleepers memories
Long overgrown or expensively paved-over,
Of innocence unmawkish, love robust.
Its sole belief, that light will come at last.
The point is proved and, casual, it flies elsewhere 
To sing more distantly, as though its tune 
Is left behind imprinted on the air, 
Still legible, though this the second carbon.
And puzzled wakers lie and listen hard 
To something moving in their minds' backyard. 

P J Kavanagh, Collected Poems, Carcanet 1992
 
 
3. When a Star Shone

 It was in a stable by an inn

 where all the animals were gathered in

 sharing mules and asses hay,

 they had no other place to lay

 when a star shone in the east.

 

 Mary had a child, a baby boy,

 the animals, they shared her joy.

 Wrapped by Joseph, then placed with care

 on straw in manger, to sleep peacefully there

 when a star shone in the east.

 

 Some shepherds poor, out on the hill,

 guarding their sheep on night dark and still

 were visited by a host from above

 that told them of that Child's great love,

 when a star shone in the east.

 

 Three wise men on camels riding,

 bearing gifts, a life describing,

 Gold and frankincense and myrrh

 following that brilliant shining star

 when a star shone in the east.

 

 To that stable by the inn

 shepherds and kings they gathered in

 and knelt before Him on the hay

 to greet their new King, born that day

 when a star shone in the east.

 

 Roger Stapenhill

 

4. Journey of the Magi

'A cold coming we had of it, 
Just the worst time of the year 
For a journey, and such a long journey: 
The ways deep and the weather sharp, 
The very dead of winter
.' 
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory, 
Lying down in the melting snow. 
There were times we regretted 
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces, 
And the silken girls bringing sherbet. 
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling 
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women, 
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters, 
And the cities hostile
 and the towns unfriendly 
And the villages dirty and charging high prices: 
A hard time we had of it. 
At the end we preferred to travel all night, 
Sleeping in snatches, 
With the voices singing in our ears, saying 
That this was all folly. 

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation; 
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness

And three trees
 on the low sky, 
And an old white horse
 galloped away in the meadow. 
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel, 
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver, 
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins. 
But there was no information, and so we continued 
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon 
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory

All this was a long time ago, I remember, 
And I would do it again, but set down 
This set down 
This: were we led all that way for 
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly, 
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death, 
But had thought they were different; this Birth was 
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death. 
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms, 
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation

With an alien people clutching their gods. 
I should be glad of another death.

T S Eliot