Verse > Anthologies > The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse > 365. A Great Mystery
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Nicholson & Lee, eds.  The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. 1917.
  
365. A Great Mystery
By Anna Bunston (Mrs. De Bary)
  
        Shall I, the gnat which dances in Thy ray,
Dare to be reverent?—COVENTRY PATMORE


STRANGELY, strangely, Lord, this morning
  Camest Thou beneath my roof,
Shorn of all Thy royal adorning,
  Stripp’d of judgement and reproof,
The King of kings yet gladly scorning,        5
  Every plea but love’s behoof.
‘Can this be God?’ I said, ‘who enters,
  This be God who climbs my stair?
God sits high in heavenly centres,
  And though He hath us in His care,       10
’Tis as His adopted children,
  Slaves redeemed from Satan’s snare.
God is mightier than the mountains,
Far more majesty would wear,
This One comes like summer fountains,       15
  Hath no snow upon His hair.
With eagle pinions God will cover
  Those who seek for refuge there,
But these are dove-like wings that hover,
  God was never half so fair.’       20
Then with voice like falling water
  Viewless angels sang to me,
Fear not thou, O virgin daughter,
  Thy King desires thy poverty.
 
At that ‘Ave Maria’       25
  I arose and I obeyed;
O my King Cophetua,
  I, Thy blessed beggar-maid,
Who once lay among the potsherds
  Stand in silver plumes arrayed;       30
I, who lonely in the vineyards
  Morn and noon and evening strayed.
Now am wrapt in Thine embraces,
  ’Neath Thy banner ‘Love’ am laid,
Made partaker of Thy graces,       35
  I, the outcast beggar-maid.
 
No excuse and no invention
  Makes me less unworthy Thee,
No prostration, no pretension
  Of unique humility,       40
But Thy glorious condescension
  Blazes through my misery,
And Thy love finds full extension
  In the nothingness of me.
Dark my soul, yet Thou hast sought her,       45
  My night allows Thy day to shine,
Thou the grape art, I the water—
  Both together make the wine.
I the clay and Thou the craftsman,
  I the boat and Thou the strand,       50
I the pencil, Thou the draughtsman,
  I the harp and Thou the hand.
 
But the world with envy raging
  Fain would snatch me, Lord, from Thee,
And Death and Hell their war are waging,       55
  Therefore go not far from me.
By the mystery of this housel,
  By this momentary truth,
By the love of this espousal,
  By this kindness of my youth,       60
By Thy promise of remembrance,
  By that sweet perversity
That makes my dark uncomely semblance
  Seem desirable to Thee—
Leave me not lest faith should falter,       65
  O! secure my fealty,
I the victim on Thine altar,
  Thou the fire consuming me.

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