Friday, December 27, 2013

Eagle and sun gaze at each other

I went looking on the web for a poem related to St. John the Evangelist and found that Christina Rossetti had written a number of Christmastide poems. I am not sure whether the following is one poem written in two stages or two poems on the same subject.

It helps when reading to know that, in iconography, John the Evangelist and his Gospel are often represented by or accompanied by an eagle. Each of the Gospels has a symbol: Matthew, a man; Mark, a lion; Luke, an ox; and John, an eagle. It also helps to know that people used to believe that the eagle was the only animal that could gaze into the sun (information from this article: The Man, The Ox, The Lion, and The Eagle, by Marian Therese Horvat, Ph.D.).

St. John The Apostle

Feast Day: December 27

Source: The Poetical Works of Christina Georgina Rossetti, with a Memoir and Notes by William Michael Rossetti (1904), page 159

Earth cannot bar flame from ascending,
Hell cannot bind light from descending,
Death cannot finish life never ending.

Eagle and sun gaze at each other,
Eagle at sun, brother at Brother,
Loving in peace and joy one another.

O St. John, with chains for thy wages,
Strong thy rock where the storm-blast rages,
Rock of refuge, the Rock of Ages.

Rome hath passed with her awful voice,
Earth is passing with all her joys,
Heaven shall pass away with a noise.

So from us all follies that please us,
So from us all falsehoods that ease us,–
Only all saints abide with their Jesus.

Jesus, in love looking down hither,
Jesus, by love draw us up thither,
That we in Thee may abide together.

Before 1893

'Beloved, let us love one another,' says St. John,
Eagle of eagles calling from above:
Words of strong nourishment for life to feed upon,
'Beloved, let us love.'

Voice of an eagle, yea, Voice of the Dove:
If we may love, winter is past and gone;
Publish we, praise we, for lo it is enough.

More sunny than sunshine that ever yet shone,
Sweetener of the bitter, smoother of the rough,
Highest lesson of all lessons for all to con,
'Beloved, let us love.'

Before 1886

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