Saturday, October 2, 2010

Pearls of Wisdom

A few stanzas from an unknown poet of the middle ages, entitled Pearl, translated by J.R.R. Tolkien.  It's from a collection of lesser known works also translated by Tolkien(perhaps more known to those who ready Tolkien and English literature, than those who don't).  Pearl is a poem, in some stanzas a hymn really, of doctrinal theme on salvation by which the father is finally convinced that baptized infant, although dead, is very much alive in the Lamb's book of life.  As far as commentary, that will suffice.  Hereafter are a few select stanzas that capture the sublime consolation of the Gospel.  May those who have faced similar loss of infant young, from conception forward, be comforted by these words and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our affliction (2 Corinthians 1:4-7).

Enow 'tis known that Man's high kind
At first for perfect bliss was bred.
Our eldest father that grace resigned
Through an apple upon which he fed.
We were all damned, for that food assigned
To die in grief, all joy to shed,
And after in flames of hell confined
To dwell for ever unrespited.
But soon a healing hither sped:
Rich blood ran on rough rood-bough,
And water fair.  In that hour of dread
The grace of God grew great enow.

Enow there went forth from that well
Water and blood from wounds so wide:
The blood redeemed us from pains of hell,
Of the second death the bond untied;
The water is baptism, truth to tell,
That spear so grimly ground let glide.
It washes away the trespass fell
By which Adam drowned us from Bliss divide
In blessed hour restored, I trow,
Save those that He hath drawn aside;
And the grace of God is great enow.
To righteous men - have you seen it there? -
In the Psalter David a verse applied:
"Do not, Lord, Thy servant to judgment bear;
For to Thee none living is justified."
So when to that Court you must repair
Where all our cases shall be tried,
If on right you stand, lest you trip beware,
Warned by these words that I espied.
But He on rood that bleeding died,
Whose hands the nails did harshly smite,
Grant you may pass, when you are tried,
By innocence and not by right.
The Pearl immaculate purchased dear
The jeweller gave all his goods to gain
Is like the realm of heaven's sphere:
So said the Lord of land and main;
For it is flawless, clean and clear,
Endlessly round, doth joy contain,
And is shared by all the righteous here.
Lo! amid my breast it doth remain;
There my Lord, the Lamb that was bleeding slain,
In token of peace it placed in state.
I bid you the wayward world disdain
And procure your pearl immaculate!
'My immaculate Lamb, my final end
Beloved, Who all can heal,' said she,
'Chose me as a spouse, did to bridal bend
That once would have seemed unmeet to be.
From your weeping world when I did wend
He called me to His felicity:
"Come hither to me, sweetest friend,
For no blot nor spot is found in thee!"
Power and beauty he gave to me;
In his blood he washed my weeds in state,
Crowned me clean in virginity,
And arrayed me in pearls immaculate.'
Of Jerusalem my tale doth tell,
If you will know what His nature be,
My Lamb, my Lord, my dear Jewel,
My Joy, my Bliss, my Truelove free.
Isaiah the prophet once said well
In pity for His humility:
"That glorious Guiltless they did fell
Without cause or charge of felony,
As sheep to the slaughter led was He,
And as lamb the shearer in hand doth hem
His mouth he closed without plaint or plea,
When the Jews Him judged in Jerusalem."

In Jerusalem was my Truelove slain,
On the rood by ruffians fierce was rent;
Willing to suffer all our pain
To Himself our sorrows sad He lent.
With cruel blows His face was flain
That was to behold so excellent:
He for sin to be set at naught did deign,
Who of sin Himself was innocent.
Beneath the scourge and thorns He bent,
And stretched on a cross's brutal stem
As meek as lamb made no lament,
And died for us in Jerusalem.

+ Amen +

Pearl, stanzas 54-55, 59, 62, 64, 67-68Translated by J.R.R. Tolkien.  Ballantine Books, 1975.

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