Verse > Anthologies > The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse > 195. Mary Mother of Divine Grace, compared to the Air we breathe
Nicholson & Lee, eds.  The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. 1917.
195. Mary Mother of Divine Grace, compared to the Air we breathe
By Gerard Manley Hopkins  (1844–1889)
WILD air, world-mothering air,
  Nestling me everywhere,
That each eyelash or hair
Girdles; goes home betwixt
The fleeciest, frailest-flixed        5
Snow-flake; that’s fairly mixed
With riddles, and is rife
In every least thing’s life;
This needful, never spent
And nursing element;       10
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,—       15
Minds me in many ways
Of her who not only
Gave God’s infinity,
Dwindled to infancy,
Welcome in womb and breast,       20
Birth, milk, and all the rest,
But mothers each new grace
That does now reach our race,
Mary Immaculate,
Merely a woman, yet       25
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,       30
God’s glory, which would go
Thro’ her and from her flow
Off, and no way but so.
  I say that we are wound
With mercy round and round       35
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       40
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.       45
  If I have understood,
She holds high motherhood
Towards all our ghostly good,
And plays in grace her part
About man’s beating heart,       50
Laying like air’s fine flood
The death-dance in his blood;
Yet no part but what will
Be Christ our Saviour still.
Of her flesh He took flesh:       55
He does take, fresh and fresh,
Though much the mystery how,
Not flesh but spirit now,
And wakes, O marvellous!
New Nazareths in us,       60
Where she shall yet conceive
Him, morning, noon, and eve;
New Bethlems, and He born
There, evening, noon and morn
Bethlem or Nazareth,       65
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       70
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       75
Where you can lift your hand
Skywards: rich, rich it laps
Round the four finger-gaps.
Yet such a sapphire-shot
Charged, steepèd sky will not       80
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.       85
Blue be it: this blue heaven
The seven or seven times seven
Hued sunbeam will transmit
Perfect, nor alter it.
Or if there does some soft       90
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       95
This 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,      100
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,      105
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      110
Made sweeter, not made dim,
And her hand leaves His light
Sifted to suit our sight.
  Be thou, then, O thou dear
Mother, my atmosphere;      115
My happier world wherein
To wend and meet no sin;
Above me, round me lie
Fronting my froward eye
With sweet and scarless sky;      120
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,      125
Fold home, fast fold thy child.



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