{This came up recently, in a discussion of the Assumption. The relevant verse is near the end. But it’s full of good things; also about our Lady as mediatrix of all graces, and co-redemptrix. It’s daring, perhaps, as the author, Coventry Patmore, not infrequently was. Anyway, it is a Laodicean Marian post, for May.}

“The Child’s Purchase” by Coventry Patmore

 As a young Child, whose Mother, for a jest,
To his own use a golden coin flings down,
Devises blythe how he may spend it best,
Or on a horse, a bride-cake, or a crown,
Till, wearied with his quest,
Nor liking altogether that nor this,
He gives it back for nothing but a kiss,
Endow’d so I
With golden speech, my choice of toys to buy,
And scanning power and pleasure and renown,
Till each in turn, with looking at, looks vain,
For her mouth’s bliss,
To her who gave it give I it again. 

   Ah, Lady elect,
Whom the Time’s scorn has saved from its respect,
Would I had art
For uttering this which sings within my heart!
But, lo,
Thee to admire is all the art I know.
My Mother and God’s; Fountain of miracle!
Give me thereby some praise of thee to tell
In such a Song
As may my Guide severe and glad not wrong
Who never spake till thou’dst on him conferr’d
The right, convincing word!
Grant me the steady heat
Of thought wise, splendid, sweet,
Urged by the great, rejoicing wind that rings
With draught of unseen wings,
Making each phrase, for love and for delight,
Twinkle like Sirius on a frosty night! 

Aid thou thine own dear fame, thou only Fair,
At whose petition meek
The Heavens themselves decree that, as it were,
They will be weak!
Thou Speaker of all wisdom in a Word,
Thy Lord!
Speaker who thus could’st well afford
Thence to be silent;—ah, what silence that
Which had for prologue thy ‘Magnificat?’—
O, Silence full of wonders
More than by Moses in the Mount were heard,
More than were utter’d by the Seven Thunders;
Silence that crowns, unnoted, like the voiceless blue,
The loud world’s varying view,
And in its holy heart the sense of all things ponders!
That acceptably I may speak of thee,
Ora pro me 

   Key-note and stop
Of the thunder-going chorus of sky-Powers;
Essential drop
Distill’d from worlds of sweetest-savour’d flowers
To anoint with nuptial praise
The Head which for thy Beauty doff’d its rays,
And thee, in His exceeding glad descending, meant,
And Man’s new days
Made of His deed the adorning accident!
Vast Nothingness of Self, fair female Twin
Of Fulness, sucking all God’s glory in!
(Ah, Mistress mine,
To nothing I have added only sin,
And yet would shine!)
Ora pro me 

   Life’s cradle and death’s tomb!
To lie within whose womb,
There, with divine self-will infatuate,
Love-captive to the thing He did create,
Thy God did not abhor,
No more
Than Man, in Youth’s high spousal-tide,
Abhors at last to touch
The strange lips of his long-procrastinating Bride;
Nay, not the least imagined part as much!
Ora pro me 


My Lady, yea, the Lady of my Lord,
Who didst the first descry
The burning secret of virginity,
We know with what reward!
Prism whereby
Alone we see
Heav’n’s light in its triplicity;
Rainbow complex
In bright distinction of all beams of sex,
Shining for aye
In the simultaneous sky,
To One, thy Husband, Father, Son, and Brother,
Spouse blissful, Daughter, Sister, milk-sweet Mother;
Ora pro me 

   Mildness, whom God obeys, obeying thyself
Him in thy joyful Saint, nigh lost to sight
In the great gulf
Of his own glory and thy neighbour light;
With whom thou wast as else with husband none
For perfect fruit of inmost amity;
Who felt for thee
Such rapture of refusal that no kiss
Ever seal’d wedlock so conjoint with bliss;
And whose good singular eternally
‘Tis now, with nameless peace and vehemence,
To enjoy thy married smile,
That mystery of innocence;
Ora pro me 

   Sweet Girlhood without guile,
The extreme of God’s creative energy;
Sunshiny Peak of human personality;
The world’s sad aspirations’ one Success;
Bright Blush, that sav’st our shame from shamelessness;
Chief Stone of stumbling; Sign built in the way
To set the foolish everywhere a-bray;
Hem of God’s robe, which all who touch are heal’d;
To which the outside Many honour yield
With a reward and grace
Unguess’d by the unwash’d boor that hails Him to His face,
Spurning the safe, ingratiant courtesy
Of suing Him by thee;
Ora pro me 

   Creature of God rather the sole than first;
Knot of the cord
Which binds together all and all unto their Lord;
Suppliant Omnipotence; best to the worst;
Our only Saviour from an abstract Christ
And Egypt’s brick-kilns, where the lost crowd plods,
Blaspheming its false Gods;
Peace-beaming Star, by which shall come enticed,
Though nought thereof as yet they weet,
Unto thy Babe’s small feet,
The Mighty, wand’ring disemparadised,
Like Lucifer, because to thee
They will not bend the knee;
Ora pro me 

   Desire of Him whom all things else desire!
Bush aye with Him as He with thee on fire!
Neither in His great Deed nor on His throne—
O, folly of Love, the intense
Last culmination of Intelligence,—
Him seem’d it good that God should be alone!
Basking in unborn laughter of thy lips,
Ere the world was, with absolute delight
His Infinite reposed in thy Finite;
Well-match’d: He, universal being’s Spring,
And thou, in whom are gather’d up the ends of everything!
Ora pro me 


In season due, on His sweet-fearful bed,
Rock’d by an earthquake, curtain’d with eclipse,
Thou shar’d’st the rapture of the sharp spear’s head,
And thy bliss pale
Wrought for our boon what Eve’s did for our bale;
Thereafter, holding a little thy soft breath,
Thou underwent’st the ceremony of death;
And, now, Queen-Wife,
Sitt’st at the right hand of the Lord of Life,
Who, of all bounty, craves for only fee
The glory of hearing it besought with smiles by thee!
Ora pro me 


Mother, who lead’st me still by unknown ways,
Giving the gifts I know not how to ask,
Bless thou the work
Which, done, redeems my many wasted days,
Makes white the murk,
And crowns the few which thou wilt not dispraise.
When clear my Songs of Lady’s graces rang,
And little guess’d I ’twas of thee I sang!
Vainly, till now, my pray’rs would thee compel
To fire my verse with thy shy fame, too long
Shunning world-blazon of well-ponder’d song;
But doubtful smiles, at last, ‘mid thy denials lurk;
From which I spell,
‘Humility and greatness grace the task
Which he who does it deems impossible!’


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