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The Black Virgin

Written by: G K Chesterton | Biography
 | Quotes (94) |
 One in thy thousand statues we salute thee 
On all thy thousand thrones acclaim and claim 
Who walk in forest of thy forms and faces 
Walk in a forest calling on one name 
And, most of all, how this thing may be so 
Who know thee not are mystified to know
That one cries "Here she stands" and one cries "Yonder" 
And thou wert home in heaven long ago. 

Burn deep in Bethlehem in the golden shadows,
Ride above Rome upon the horns of stone,
From low Lancastrian or South Saxon shelters
Watch through dark years the dower that was shine own:
Ghost of our land, White Lady of Walsinghame,
Shall they not live that call upon thy name
If an old song on a wild wind be blowing
Crying of the holy country whence they came? 

Root deep in Chartres the roses blown of glass 
Burning above thee in the high vitrailles, 
On Cornish crags take for salute of swords 
O'er peacock seas the far salute of sails, 
Glooming in bronze or gay in painted wood, 
A great doll given when the child is good, 
Save that She gave the Child who gave the doll, 
In whom all dolls are dreams of motherhood. 

I have found thee like a little shepherdess 
Gay with green ribbons; and passed on to find 
Michael called Angel hew the Mother of God 
Like one who fills a mountain with a mind: 
Molten in silver or gold or garbed in blue, 
Or garbed in red where the inner robe burns through, 
Of the King's daughter glorious within: 
Change shine unchanging light with every hue. 

Clothed with the sun or standing on the moon 
Crowned with the stars or single, a morning star, 
Sunlight and moonlight are thy luminous shadows, 
Starlight and twilight thy refractions are, 
Lights and half-lights and all lights turn about thee, 
But though we dazed can neither see nor doubt thee, 
Something remains. Nor can man live without it 
Nor can man find it bearable without thee. 

There runs a dark thread through the tapestries 
That time has woven with all the tints of time 
Something not evil but grotesque and groping, 
Something not clear; not final; not sublime; 
Quaint as dim pattern of primal plant or tree 
Or fish, the legless elfins of the sea, 
Yet rare as this shine image in ebony 
Being most strange in its simplicity. 

Rare as the rushing of the wild black swans
The Romans saw; or rocks remote and grim
Where through black clouds the black sheep runs accursed 
And through black clouds the Shepherd follows him. 
By the black oak of the aeon-buried grove 
By the black gems of the miner's treasure-trove 
Monsters and freaks and fallen stars and sunken- 
Most holy dark, cover our uncouth love. 

From shine high rock look down on Africa 
The living darkness of devouring green 
The loathsome smell of life unquenchable, 
Look on low brows and blinking eyes between, 
On the dark heart where white folk find no place, 
On the dark bodies of an antic race, 
On all that fear thy light and love thy shadow, 
Turn thou the mercy of thy midnight face. 

This also is in thy spectrum; this dark ray; 
Beyond the deepening purples of thy Lent 
Darker than violet vestment; dark and secret 
Clot of old night yet cloud of heaven sent: 
As the black moon of some divine eclipse, 
As the black sun of the Apocalypse, 
As the black flower that blessed Odysseus back 
From witchcraft; and he saw again the ships. 

In all thy thousand images we salute thee, 
Claim and acclaim on all thy thousand thrones 
Hewn out of multi-colored rocks and risen 
Stained with the stored-up sunsets in all tones- 
If in all tones and shades this shade I feel, 
Come from the black cathedrals of Castille 
Climbing these flat black stones of Catalonia, 
To thy most merciful face of night I kneel.