After Prayers, Lie Cold


Arise my body, my small body, we have striven
Enough, and He is merciful; we are forgiven.
Arise small body, puppet-like and pale, and go,
White as the bed-clothes into bed, and cold as snow,
Undress with small, cold fingers and put out the light,
And be alone, hush’d mortal, in the sacred night,
-A meadow whipt flat with the rain, a cup
Emptied and clean, a garment washed and folded up,
Faded in colour, thinned almost to raggedness
By dirt and by the washing of that dirtiness.
Be not too quickly warm again. Lie cold; consent
To weariness’ and pardon’s watery element.
Drink up the bitter water, breathe the chilly death;
Soon enough comes the riot of our blood and breath.

C.S. Lewis, Poems (1964)

Eliot: Will the Aged Eagle Stretch Its Wings?

I’m probably a bit harsh to say that the only good thing about Ash Wednesday is the following poem by British poet T. S. Eliot, but after reading the moving words, perhaps you’ll see why I love the poem so much. For all those who dare not stretch their wings in their aged sickness, who do not dare to turn again, may Eliot’s words be a balm and soothing reminder of the Word without a word.

Ash Wednesday

T.S. Eliot

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?
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