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The Blessed Virgin Compared To The Air We Breathe

 Wild air, world-mothering air,
Nestling me everywhere,
That each eyelash or hair
Girdles; goes home betwixt
The fleeciest, frailest-flixed
Snowflake; that 's fairly mixed
With, riddles, and is rife
In every least thing's life;
This needful, never spent,
And nursing element;
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,
Minds me in many ways
Of her who not only
Gave God's infinity
Dwindled to infancy
Welcome in womb and breast,
Birth, milk, and all the rest
But mothers each new grace
That does now reach our race—
Mary Immaculate,
Merely a woman, yet
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,
God's glory which would go
Through her and from her flow
Off, and no way but so.
I say that we are wound With mercy round and round 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 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.
If I have understood, She holds high motherhood Towards all our ghostly good And plays in grace her part About man's beating heart, Laying, like air's fine flood, The deathdance in his blood; Yet no part but what will Be Christ our Saviour still.
Of her flesh he took flesh: He does take fresh and fresh, Though much the mystery how, Not flesh but spirit now And makes, O marvellous! New Nazareths in us, Where she shall yet conceive Him, morning, noon, and eve; New Bethlems, and he born There, evening, noon, and morn— Bethlem or Nazareth, 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 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 Where you can lift your hand Skywards: rich, rich it laps Round the four fingergaps.
Yet such a sapphire-shot, Charged, steepèd sky will not 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.
Blue be it: this blue heaven The seven or seven times seven Hued sunbeam will transmit Perfect, not alter it.
Or if there does some soft, 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 His 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, 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 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 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; My happier world, wherein To wend and meet no sin; Above me, round me lie Fronting my froward eye With sweet and scarless sky; 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, Fold home, fast fold thy child.

Poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins
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