Project Canterbury

The Altar; or Meditations in Verse on the Great Christian Sacrifice

By Isaac Williams

London: Joseph Masters, 1849.

XXV. The Blessed Virgin and S. John


"Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?
Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee."

Not in the glowing centre of all bliss,
But in the sea of overwhelming woe,
Of sorrow beyond sorrows which men know,
The Teacher's chair is set; the dark abyss
Surrounds Him, yet can move no thought amiss,
Or ruffle with impatience His meek Brow,
Calm as the face of summer lake. And now
What is the lesson at death's gate, but this--
The touching lore of filial piety,
With human sweet affections at the close,
Amid the multitude of dying throes?
And these Thy loving words for ever rest,
Like a rose-ting├Ęd cloud on evening sky
That lingers, of the golden rays possessed.


"Their soul was poured out into their mother's bosom."

That cloud is soon to fall in tears, when night
Drops on that Mother of all mothers--left
To solitude and stillness, and bereft
Of hope beyond all hope, and guiding light.
The sword is in her soul, and out of sight
Her wounds drop tears of blood, yet every pang
Is known to Him Whose death-pale looks now hang,
In pity and compassions infinite,
Upon His Mother. Mother! blessed name
Of mother nearest to the human heart!
Affection first to come, last to depart!
And He, Who all things hallows to new love,
Shall to His children grant His Church to claim
As Mother, and a filial love to prove.


"Thou art a place to hide me in."

If such Thy blessing upon filial love,
That it should be the root of love Divine
And semblance, and, matured in hallowed shrine,
Nurtured and fed by dews of Heaven, should prove
Love of a Father Who doth dwell above;--
Itself diffusing in all discipline,
Beneath the fostering of the eternal Dove;--
Then, Lord, how awful was that love of Thine
To her that bore Thee in a virgin's womb,
Upon whose breasts Thine infant yearnings hung,
To whom Thine infant hymns of praise were sung,
Who watched Thy dying, saw Thee in the tomb?
But in compassion to our spirits frail,
All is withdrawn within the silent veil.


"He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me."

And yet e'en filial love Thou hast put by,
In singleness of spirit to sustain
And build the walls of Thine unearthly reign,
Which doth require a nobler piety.
As where the Sun meridian mounts on high,
The shadows pass away from hill and plain,
And nothing but the substance doth remain
Beneath the blue encircling of the sky;
Or as when Day doth his broad pinions shake,
The lantern worms which shone within the brake
Hide, and the lights which heaven's high pathway trod.
So are all lesser duties full of one
Which all fulfils,--the presence of our Sun;
And filial love is lost in love of God.


"Whosoever shall do the will of My Father Which is in Heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother."

Wonderful nearness unto God made Man,
"My brother, sister, mother!" thus we see
Strangely fulfilled that other mystery;
To Thy true children, in the eternal plan,
Manifold more vouchsafed for life's short span,
As "brethren, sisters, mothers," and to be
The pledge of everlasting life with Thee;
Kindred that turn not to the grey and wan,
But Christ our very Brother--gracious gift!
"My earthly Mother I to thee resign,--
My Mother, loved disciple, to be thine;
Thou of thy kindred art for Me bereft,
By Me awhile and by thy brother left:
Yet I am still thy Brother, thou art Mine."


"Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it."

"Woman, behold thy son!"--him that finds rest
Upon the bosom of Goodness Infinite,
Till truth, and love, and everlasting light,
Were ever on his tongue and in his breast.
Oh, above women she, and he most blest
Of men; though now of all, to human sight,
Most pitiable both, with nought but night
Around their sorrows! with their weight oppress'd,
He takes thee to his home with nursing care.
And yet what home hath he who nothing hath,
Except to share his solitary path,
Bereaved with thee bereaved? yea, 'tis to share
The twofold light of faith amid the gloom,
And in the Will Divine to find a home.

Project Canterbury