The Child's Purchase

Author: Coventry Patmore




(A Prologue)

As a young Child, whose Mother, for a jest, To his own use a golden coin flings down, Devises blythe how he may spend it best, Or on a horse, a bride-cake, or a crown, Till, wearied with his quest, Nor liking altogether that nor this, He gives it back for nothing but a kiss, Endow'd so I With golden speech, my choice of toys to buy, And scanning power and pleasure and renown, Till each in turn, with looking at, looks vain, For her mouth's bliss, To her who gave it give I it again.

Ah, Lady elect, Whom the Time's scorn has saved from its respect, Would I had art For uttering this which sings within my heart! But, lo, Thee to admire is all the art I know. My Mother and God's; Fountain of miracle! Give me thereby some praise of thee to tell In such a Song As may my Guide severe and glad not wrong Who never spake till thou'dst on him conferr'd The right, convincing word! Grant me the steady heat Of thought wise, splendid, sweet, Urged by the great, rejoicing wind that rings With draught of unseen wings, Making each phrase, for love and for delight, Twinkle like Sirius on a frosty night! Aid thou shine own dear fame, thou only Fair, At whose petition meek The Heavens themselves decree that, as it were, They will be weak!

Thou Speaker of all wisdom in a Word, Thy Lord! Speaker who thus could'st well afford Thence to be silent;--ah, what silence that Which had for prologue thy 'Magnificat?'-- O, Silence full of wonders More than by Moses in the Mount were heard, More than were utter'd by the Seven Thunders; Silence that crowns, unnoted, like the voiceless blue, The loud world's varying view, And in its holy heart the sense of all things ponders! That acceptably I may speak of thee, Ora pro me!

Key-note and stop Of the thunder-going chorus of sky-Powers; Essential drop Distill'd from worlds of sweetest-savour'd flowers To anoint with nuptial praise The Head which for thy Beauty doff'd its rays, And thee, in His exceeding glad descending, meant, And Man's new days Made of His deed the adorning accident! Vast Nothingness of Self, fair female Twin Of Fulness, sucking all God's glory in! (Ah, Mistress mine, To nothing I have added only sin, And yet would shine!) Ora pro me!

Life's cradle and death's tomb! To lie within whose womb, There, with divine self-will infatuate, Love-captive to the thing He did create, Thy God did not abhor, No more Than Man, in Youth's high spousal-tide, Abhors at last to touch The strange lips of his long-procrastinating Bride; Nay, not the least imagined part as much! Ora pro me!

My Lady, yea the Lady of my Lord, Who didst the first descry The burning secret of virginity, We know with what reward! Prism whereby Alone we see Heav'n's light in its triplicity; Rainbow complex In bright distinction of all beams of sex, Shining for aye In the simultaneous sky, To One, thy Husband, Father, Son, and Brother, Spouse blissful, Daughter, Sister, milk-sweet Mother: Ora pro me!

Mildness, whom God obeys, obeying thyself Him in thy joyful Saint, nigh lost to sight In the great gulf Of his own glory and thy neighbour light; With whom thou west as else with husband none For perfect fruit of inmost amity; Who felt for thee Such rapture of refusal that no kiss Ever seal'd wedlock so conjoint with bliss; And whose good singular eternally 'Tis now, with nameless peace and vehemence, To enjoy thy married smile, That mystery of innocence; Ora pro me!

Sweet Girlhood without guile, The extreme of God's creative energy; Sunshiny Peak of human personality; The world's sad aspirations' one Success; Bright Blush, that sav'st our shame from shamelessness; Chief Stone of stumbling; Sign built in the way To set the foolish everywhere a-bray; Hem of God's robe, which all who touch are heal'd; To which the outside Many honour yield With a reward and grace Unguess'd by the unwash'd boor that hails Him to His face, Spurning the safe, ingratiant courtesy Of suing Him by thee; Ora pro me!

Creature of God rather the sole than first; Knot of the cord Which binds together all and all unto their Lord; Suppliant Omnipotence; best to the worst; Our only Savior trom an abstract Christ And Egypt's brick-kilns, where the lost crowd plods, Blaspheming its false Gods; Peace-beaming Star, by which shall come enticed, Though nought thereof as yet they weet, Unto thy Babe's small feet, The Mighty, wand'ring disemparadised, Like Lucifer, because to thee They will not bend the knee; Ora pro me!

Desire of Him whom all things else desire! Bush aye with Him as He with thee on fire! Neither in His great Deed nor on His throne-- O, folly of Love, the intense Last culmination of Intelligence,-- Him seem'd it good that God should be alone! Basking in unborn laughter of thy lips, Ere the world was, with absolute delight His Infinite reposed in thy Finite; Well-match'd: He, universal being's Spring, And thou, in whom art gather'd up the ends of everything! Ora pro me!

In season due, on His sweet-fearful bed, Rock'd by an earthquake, curtain'd with eclipse, Thou shar'd'st the rapture of the sharp spear's head, And thy bliss pale Wrought for our boon what Eve's did for our bale; Thereafter, holding a little thy soft breath, Thou underwent'st the ceremony of death; And, now, Queen-Wife, Sitt'st at the right hand of the Lord of Life, Who, of all bounty, craves for only fee The glory of hearing it besought with smiles by thee! Ora pro me!

Mother, who lead'st me still by unknown ways, Giving the gifts I know not how to ask, Bless thou the work Which, done, redeems my many wasted days, Makes white the murk, And crowns the few which thou wilt not dispraise, When clear my Songs of Lady's graces rang, And little guess'd I 'twas of thee I sang!

Vainly, till now, my pray'rs would thee compel To fire my verse with thy shy fame, too long Shunning world-blazon of well-ponder'd song; But doubtful smiles, at last, 'mid thy denials lurk; From which I spell, 'Humility and greatness grace the task Which he who does it deems impossible!'

Copyright © 1996 Catholic Information Network (CIN) - December 19, 1996