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The Readings

(spelling and typography somewhat modernized)

John Dryden
"Veni, Creator Spiritus"
Translated in Paraphrase

Creator Spirit, by whose aid The World’s Foundations first were laid, Come, visit ev’ry pious Mind; Come, pour thy Joys on Human Kind; From Sin, and Sorrow set us free; And make thy Temples worthy Thee.

O, Source of uncreated Light, The Father’s promis’d Paraclite! Thrice Holy Fount, thrice Holy Fire, Our Hearts with Heav’nly Love inspire; Come, and thy Sacred Unction bring To Sanctify us, while we sing!

Plenteous of Grace, descend from high, Rich in thy sev’n-fold Energy! Thou strength of his Almighty Hand, Whose Pow’r does Heav’n and Earth command: Proceeding Spirit, our Defence, Who dost the Gift of Tongues dispence, And crown’st thy Gift with Eloquence!

Refine and purge our Earthy Parts; But, oh, inflame and fire our Hearts! Our Frailties help, our Vice control; Submit the Senses to the Soul; And when Rebellious they are grown, Then, lay thy hand, and hold ’em down.

Chase from our Minds th’ Infernal Foe; And Peace, the fruit of Love, bestow; And, lest our Feet should step astray, Protect, and guide us in the way.

Make us Eternal Truths receive, And practise, all that we believe: Give us thy self, that we may see The Father and the Son, by thee.

Immortal Honour, endless Fame, Attend th’ Almighty Father’s Name: The Saviour Son be glorified, Who for lost Man’s Redemption died: And equal Adoration be, Eternal Paraclete, to thee.

George Herbert

I cannot ope mine eyes, But Thou art ready there to catch My morning soul and sacrifice: Then we must needs for that day make a match.

My God, what is a heart? Silver, or gold, or precious stone, Or star, or rainbow, or a part Of all these things, or all of them in one?

My God, what is a heart, That Thou shouldst it so eye and woo, Pouring upon it all Thy art, As if that Thou hadst nothing else to do?

Indeed, man's whole estate Amounts, and richly, to serve Thee: He did not heav'n and earth create, Yet studies them, not Him by Whom they be.

Teach me Thy love to know; That this new light, which now I see, May both the work and workman show; Then by a sun-beam I will climb to Thee.

Gerard Manley Hopkins
"The Windhover"

To Christ our Lord

I caught this morning morning's minion, king- dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing, As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear, Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.

George Herbert
"The Sacrifice"

All ye who pass by, whose eyes and mind To worldly things are sharp, but to Me blind To Me, Who took eyes that I might you find: Was ever grief like Mine?

The princes of My people make a head Against their Maker: they do wish Me dead, Who cannot wish, except I give them bread: Was ever grief like Mine?

Without Me, each one who doth now Me brave Had to this day been an Egyptian slave; They use that power against Me which I gave: Was ever grief like Mine?

Mine own Apostle who the bag did bear, Though he had all I had, did not forbear To sell Me also, and to put Me there: Was ever grief like Mine?

For thirty pence he did My death devise Who at three hundred did the ointment prize, Not half so sweet as My sweet sacrifice: Was ever grief like Mine?

Therefore My soul melts, and My heart's dear treasure Drops blood, the only beads My words to measure: Oh, let this cup pass, if it be Thy pleasure: Was ever grief like Mine?

These drops being tempered with a sinner's tears, A balsom are for both the hemispheres, Curing all wounds but mine, all but My fears: Was ever grief like Mine?

Yet My disciples sleep; I cannot gain One hour of watching; but their drowsy brain Comforts not Me, and doth My doctrine stain: Was ever grief like Mine?

' Arise! arise! they come! 'Look how they run Alas, what haste they make to be undone! How with their lanterns do they seek the sun! Was ever grief like Mine?

With clubs and staves they seek Me as a thief, Who am the way of truth, the true relief, Most true to those who are My greatest grief: Was ever grief like Mine?

Judas, dost thou betray Me with a kiss? Canst thou find hell about My lips, and miss Of life just at the gates of life and bliss? Was ever grief like Mine?

See, they lay hold on Me, not with the hands Of faith, but fury; yet at their commands I suffer binding, Who have loosed their bands: Was ever grief like Mine?

All My disciples fly; fear puts a bar Betwixt My friends and Me: they leave the star That brought the wise men of the East from far: Was ever grief like Mine?

Then from one ruler to another, bound They lead Me, urging that it was not sound What I taught; comments would the text confound; Was ever grief like Mine?

The Priest and rulers all false witness seek 'Gainst Him Who seeks not life, but is the meek And ready Paschal Lamb of this great week: Was ever grief like Mine?

Then they accuse Me of great blasphemy, That I did thrust into the Deity, Who never thought that any robbery: Was ever grief like Mine?

Some said that I the Temple to the floor In three days razed, and raiséd as before: Why, He that built the world can do much more: Was ever grief like Mine?

Then they condemne Me all, with that same breath Which I do give them daily, unto death; Thus Adam my first breathing rendereth: Was ever grief like Mine?

They bind and lead Me unto Herod; he Sends Me to Pilate: this makes them agree; But yet their friendship is My enmity: Was ever grief like Mine?

Herod and all his bands do set Me light, Who teach all hands to war, fingers to fight, And only am the Lord of hosts and might: Was ever grief like Mine?

Herod in judgement sits, while I do stand, Examines Me with a censorious hand; I him obey, Who all things else command: Was ever grief like Mine?

The Jews accuse Me with despitefulness, And, vying malice with My gentleness, Pick quarrels with their only happiness: Was ever grief like Mine?

I answer nothing, but with patience prove If stony hearts will melt with gentle love: But who does hawk at eagles with a dove? Was ever grief like Mine?

My silence rather doth augment their cry; My dove doth back into My bosom fly, Because the raging waters still are high: Was ever grief like Mine?

Hark how they cry aloud still, Crucify! It is not fit He live a day! they cry, Who cannot live less then eternally: Was ever grief like Mine?

Pilate, a stranger, holdeth off; but they, Mine own dear people, cry, Away, away! With noises confuséd frighting the day: Was ever grief like Mine?

Yet still they shout, and cry, and stop their ears, Putting My life among their sins and fears, And therefore wish my blood on them and theirs: Was ever grief like Mine?

See how spite cankers things! these words, aright Uséd and wishéd, are the whole world's light; But honey is their gall, brightness their night: Was ever grief like Mine?

They choose a murderer, and all agree In him to do themselves a courtesy; For it was their own cause who killéd Me: Was ever grief like Mine?

And a seditious murderer he was; But I the Prince of Peace, peace that doth pass All understanding more then heav'n doth glass: Was ever grief like Mine?

Why, Caesar is their only king, not I. HE clave the stony rock when they were dry, But surely not their hearts, as I well try: Was ever grief like Mine?

Ah, how they scourge Me! yet my tenderness Doubles each lash: and yet their bitterness Winds up My grief to a mysteriousness: Was ever grief like Mine?

They buffet Me and box Me as they list, Who grasp the earth and heaven with My fist, And never yet whom I would punish missed: Was ever grief like Mine?

Behold, they spit on Me in scornful wise, Who by My spittle gave the blinde man eyes, Leaving his blindness to Mine enemies: Was ever grief like Mine?

My face they cover, though it be divine: As Moses' face was veiled, so is Mine, Lest on their double-dark souls either shine: Was ever grief like Mine?

Servants and abjects flout Me, they are witty; 'Now prophesy who strikes Thee' is their ditty; So they in Me deny themselves all pity: Was ever grief like Mine?

And now I am delivered unto death; Which each one calls for so with utmost breath, That he before Me well-nigh suffereth: Was ever grief like Mine?

Weep not, dear friends, since I for both have wept When all My tears were blood, the while you slept: Your tears for your own fortunes should be kept: Was ever grief like Mine?

The soldiers lead Me to the common-hall: There they deride Me, they abuse Me all; Yet for twelve heav'nly legions I could call: Was ever grief like Mine?

Then with a scarlet robe they Me array, Which shows My blood to be the only way, And cordial left to repair man's decay: Was ever grief like Mine?

Then on My head a crown of thorns I wear; For these are all the grapes Sion doth bear, Though I My vine planted and wat'réd there: Was ever grief like Mine?

So sits the Earth's great curse in Adam's fall Upon My head; so I remove it all From th'earth unto My brows, and bear the thrall: Was ever grief like Mine?

Then with the reed they gave to Me before They strike My head, the rock from whence all store Of heav'nly blessings issue evermore: Was ever grief like Mine?

They bow their knees to Me, and cry, 'Hail, King!' What ever scoffs or scornfulness can bring, I am the floor, the sink, where they it fling: Was ever grief like Mine?

Yet since man's scepters are as frail as reeds, And thorny all their crowns, bloody their weeds, I, Who am Truth, turn into truth their deeds: Was ever grief like Mine?

The soldiers also spit upon that Face Which angels did desire to have the grace, And prophets, once to see, but found no place: Was ever grief like Mine?

Thus trimméd forth they bring Me to the rout, Who 'Crucify Him!' cry with one strong, shout. God holds His peace at man, and man cries out: Was ever grief like Mine?

They lead Me in once more, and putting then Mine own clothes on, they lead Me out again. Whom devils fly, thus is He tossed of men: Was ever grief like Mine?

And now weary of sport, glad to ingross All spite in one, counting My life their loss, They carry Me to My most bitter cross: Was ever grief like Mine?

My cross I bear My self, until I faint: Then Simon bears it for Me by constraint, The decreed burden of each mortal saint: Was ever grief like Mine?

0, all ye who pass by, behold and see: Man stole the fruit, but I must climb the tree, The tree of life to all but only Me: Was ever grief like Mine?

Lo, here I hang, charged with a world of sin, The greater world o' th' two; for that came in By words, but this by sorrow I must win: Was ever grief like Mine?

Such sorrow as if sinful man could feel, Or feel his part, he would not cease to kneel Till all wer melted, though he were all steel: Was ever grief like Mine?

But, My God, My God, why leav'st Thou Me, The Son in Whom Thou dost delight to be? My God, My God Never was grief like Mine.

Shame tears My soul, My body many a wound; Sharp nails pierce this, but sharper that confound,- Reproachs which are free, while I am bound: Was ever grief like Mine?

'Now heal Thyself, Physician; now come down.' Alas, I did so, when I left My crown And Father's smile for you, to feel His frown: Was ever grief like Mine?

In healing not Myself there doth consist All that salvation which ye now resist; Your safety in My sickness doth subsist: Was ever grief like Mine?

Betwixt two thieves I spend My utmost breath, As he that for some robbery suffereth: Alas, what have I stolen from you? death: Was ever grief like Mine?

A king My title is, prefixt on high; Yet by My subjects am condemned to die A servile death in servile company: Was ever grief like Mine?

They gave Me vinegar mingled with gall, But more with malice: yet, when they did call, With manna, angels' food, I fed them all: Was ever grief like Mine?

They part My garments, and by lot dispose My coat, the type of love, which once cured those Who sought for help, never malicious foes: Was ever grief like Mine?

Nay, after death their spite shall further go; For they will pierce My side, I full well know; That as sin came, so Sacraments might flow: Was ever grief like Mine?

But now I die; now all is finishéd; My woe man's weal, and now I bow My head: Only let others say, when I am dead, Never was grief like Mine.

Christina Georgina Rossetti
"Good Friday"

Am I a stone and not a sheep That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy Cross, To number drop by drop Thy Blood's slow loss, And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee; Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly; Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon Which hid their faces in a starless sky, A horror of great darkness at broad noon— I, only I.

Yet give not o'er, But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock; Greater than Moses, turn and look once more And smite a rock.

John Milton
"On His Blindness"

When I consider how my light is spent,

Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide. And that one Talent which is death to hide, Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent

To serve therewith my Maker, and present My true account, least he returning chide, 'Doth God exact day-labour, light denied,'

I fondly ask; But patience to prevent

That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need Either man's work or his own gifts, who best Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best, his State

Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed And post o'r Land and Ocean without rest: They also serve who only stand and wait.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

All are not taken; there are left behind Living Belovèds, tender looks to bring And make the daylight still a happy thing, And tender voices, to make soft the wind: But if it were not so—if I could find No love in all this world for comforting, Nor any path but hollowly did ring Where 'dust to dust' the love from life disjoined; And if, before those sepulchres unmoving I stood alone (as some forsaken lamb Goes bleating up the moors in weary dearth) Crying 'Where are ye, O my loved and loving?'— I know a voice would sound, 'Daughter, I AM. Can I suffice for Heaven and not for earth?'

John Donne
Holy Sonnet X

Death be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so, For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow, Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill mee. From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be, Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow, And soonest our best men with thee do go, Rest of their bones, and souls delivery. Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men, And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell, And poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well, And better then thy stroke; why swell'st thou then? One short sleepe past, we wake eternally, And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

Gerard Manley Hopkins
"God's Grandeur"

The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining from shook foil; It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod? Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent; There lives the dearest freshness deep down things; And though the last lights off the black West went Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs — Because the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
"The Cry of the Human"


‘There is no God’ the foolish saith, But none ‘There is no sorrow,’ And nature oft the cry of faith In bitter need will borrow: Eyes, which the preacher could not school, By wayside graves are raisèd, And lips say ‘God be pitiful,’ Who ne'er said ‘God be praisèd.’ Be pitiful, O God!


The tempest stretches from the steep The shadow of its coming, The beasts grow tame and near us creep, As help were in the human; Yet, while the cloud-wheels roll and grind, We spirits tremble under— The hills have echoes, but we find No answer for the thunder. Be pitiful, O God!


The battle hurtles on the plains, Earth feels new scythes upon her; We reap our brothers for the wains, And call the harvest—honor: Draw face to face, front line to line, One image all inherit,— Then kill, curse on, by that same sign, Clay—clay, and spirit—spirit. Be pitiful, O God!


The plague runs festering through the town, And never a bell is tolling, And corpses, jostled 'neath the moon, Nod to the dead-cart's rolling: The young child calleth for the cup, The strong man brings it weeping, The mother from her babe looks up, And shrieks away its sleeping. Be pitiful, O God!


The plague of gold strikes far and near, And deep and strong it enters; This purple chimar which we wear Makes madder than the centaur's: Our thoughts grow blank, our words grow strange, We cheer the pale gold-diggers, Each soul is worth so much on 'Change, And marked, like sheep, with figures. Be pitiful, O God!


The curse of gold upon the land The lack of bread enforces; The rail-cars snort from strand to strand, Like more of Death's White Horses: The rich preach ‘rights’ and ‘future days,’ And hear no angel scoffing, The poor die mute, with starving gaze On corn-ships in the offing. Be pitiful, O God!


We meet together at the feast, To private mirth betake us; We stare down in the winecup, lest Some vacant chair should shake us: We name delight, and pledge it round— ‘It shall be ours to-morrow!’ God's seraphs, do your voices sound As sad, in naming sorrow? Be pitiful, O God!


We sit together, with the skies, The steadfast skies, above us, We look into each other's eyes, ‘And how long will you love us?’ The eyes grow dim with prophecy, The voices, low and breathless,— ‘Till death us part!’—O words, to be Our best , for love the deathless! Be pitiful, O God!


We tremble by the harmless bed Of one loved and departed: Our tears drop on the lips that said Last night ‘Be stronger-hearted!’ O God—to clasp those fingers close, And yet to feel so lonely! To see a light upon such brows, Which is the daylight only! Be pitiful, O God!


The happy children come to us And look up in our faces; They ask us ‘Was it thus, and thus, When we were in their places?’ We cannot speak;—we see anew The hills we used to live in, And feel our mother's smile press through The kisses she is giving. Be pitiful, O God!


We pray together at the kirk For mercy, mercy solely: Hands weary with the evil work, We lift them to the Holy. The corpse is calm below our knee, Its spirit, bright before Thee: Between them, worse than either, we— Without the rest or glory. Be pitiful, O God!


We leave the communing of men, The murmur of the passions, And live alone, to live again With endless generations: Are we so brave? The sea and sky In silence lift their mirrors, And, glassed therein, our spirits high Recoil from their own terrors. Be pitiful, O God!


We sit on hills our childhood wist, Woods, hamlets, streams, beholding The sun strikes through the farthest mist The city's spire to golden: The city's golden spire it was, When hope and health were strongest, But now it is the churchyard grass We look upon the longest. Be pitiful, O God!


And soon all vision waxeth dull; Men whisper ‘He is dying;’ We cry no more ‘Be pitiful!’ We have no strength for crying: No strength, no need. Then, soul of mine, Look up and triumph rather! Lo, in the depth of God's Divine, The Son adjures the Father, Be pitiful , O God!

John Donne
"Holy Sonnet II"

As due by many titles I resign My self to thee, O God, first I was made By thee, and for thee, and when I was decayed Thy blood bought that, the which before was thine; I am thy son, made with thy self to shine, Thy servant, whose pains thou hast still repaid, Thy sheep, thine Image, and, till I betrayed My self, a temple of thy Spirit divine; Why doth the devil then usurp on me? Why doth he steal, nay ravish that's thy right? Except thou rise and for thine own work fight, Oh I shall soon despair, when I do see That thou lov'st mankind well, yet wilt not choose me, And Satan hates me, yet is loath to lose me.

John Donne
"Holy Sonnet XIV"

Batter my heart, three personed God; for, you As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend; That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow mee, and bend Your force, to break, blow, burn and make me new. I, like an usurpt town, to another due, Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end, Reason your viceroy in me, me should defend, But is captived, and proves weak or untrue. Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain, But am betrothed unto your enemy: Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again, Take me to you, imprison me, for I Except you enthrall me, never shall be free, Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

George Gordon, Lord Byron
"The Destruction of Sennacherib"

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold, And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold; And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea, When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green, That host with their banners at sunset were seen; Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown, That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast, And breathéd in the face of the foe as he passed; And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill, And their hearts but once heavéd, and for ever grew still!

And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide, But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride; And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf, And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider distorted and pale, With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail; And the tents were all silent, the banners alone, The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail, And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal; And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword, Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

P.A. Clayton
"The Lament for Saul"

Saul asked of him how of the least should lead of baby Benjamin, small Matri's mote, the son of Kish, that Saul should lift this load and fight the armored foe, their menace meet. Yet for impatient pride he paid his peace; he lost the Lord's good Spirit, drove to stones his first son's friend, whose playing brought repose, and Saul and son both fell to Philistines. No deeds could David's streams of tears restrain. He mourned the mighty fallen in the fields, their warrior's weapons broken as their bones. The lambs were lost or scattered from their folds, the grain was gone; the gardens, bare of beans, yet shepherds shield their people through their pain.

John Donne
"Holy Sonnet XI"

Spit in my face you Jews, and pierce my side, Buffet, and scoff, scourge, and crucify me, For I have sinned, and sinned, and only he, Who could do no iniquity, hath died: But by my death can not be satisfied My sins, which pass the Jews impiety: They killed once an inglorious man, but I Crucify him daily, being now glorified. Oh let me then, his strange love still admire: Kings pardon, but he bore our punishment. And Jacob came clothed in vile harsh attire But to supplant, and with gainful intent: God clothed himself in vile mans flesh, that so He might be weak enough to suffer woe.

John Donne
"Holy Sonnet XV"

Wilt thou love God, as he thee! then digest, My Soul, this wholsome meditation, How God the Spirit, by Angels waited on In heaven, doth make his Temple in thy brest. The Father having begot a Son most blest, And still begetting, (for he ne'r begun) Hath deigned to choose thee by adoption, Coheir to his glory, and Sabbath's endless rest. And as a robbed man, which by search doth find His stol'n stuff sold, must lose or buy't again: The Son of glory came down, and was slain, Us whom he had made, and Satan stol'n, to unbind. 'Twas much, that man was made like God before, But, that God should be made like man, much more.

Christina Georgina Rossetti
"A Bruised Reed Shall He Not Break"

I will accept thy will to do and be, Thy hatred and intolerance of sin, Thy will at least to love, that burns within And thirsteth after Me: So will I render fruitful, blessing still, The germs and small beginnings in thy heart, Because thy will cleaves to the better part.— Alas, I cannot will.

Dost not thou will, poor soul? Yet I receive The inner unseen longings of the soul, I guide them turning towards Me; I control And charm hearts till they grieve: If thou desire, it yet shall come to pass, Though thou but wish indeed to choose My love; For I have power in earth and heaven above.— I cannot wish, alas!

What, neither choose nor wish to choose? and yet I still must strive to win thee and constrain: For thee I hung upon the cross in pain, How then can I forget? If thou as yet dost neither love, nor hate, Nor choose, nor wish,—resign thyself, be still Till I infuse love, hatred, longing, will.— I do not deprecate.

Christina Georgina Rossetti
"If Only"

If I might only love my God and die! But now He bids me love Him and live on, Now when the bloom of all my life is gone, The pleasant half of life has quite gone by. My tree of hope is lopped that spread so high, And I forget how summer glowed and shone, While autumn grips me with its fingers wan And frets me with its fitful windy sigh. When autumn passes then must winter numb, And winter may not pass a weary while, But when it passes spring shall flower again; And in that spring who weepeth now shall smile, Yea, they shall wax who now are on the wane, Yea, they shall sing for love when Christ shall come.