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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 18, No. 10. July 15, 1954

The Madonna of the Poets

The Madonna of the Poets

Before Dante, having passed through all the sphere of his "Paradise", through all the hierarchies of saints and angels, could approach the Beatific Vision itself, he turned, with Saint the joy in the eyes of all the other saints", with these words:

Virgin mother, daughter of your son.
Lowly yet raised higher than every other creature.
Established end of the eternal plan,
It was through you alone that human nature
Was to ennobled that its own Creator
Did not disdain to be made in its making.

If the Incarnation is the turning point of history, the one event that can allow the promise, "I said, You are Godi", to be fulfilled, that point it itself determined by the life of her "in whose womb that Love was kindled:

Oh how much it must have cost the Angles
not suddenly to burst into song, as into tears.
for they new that this night the Mother is born
to the Son, to the One who will soon appear.
diligence is that mother of good [unclear: icul]

(Rilke, Life of Merry)

That the duel birth was announced even to her by an Angel, does not diminish her, but rather shows that with her and through her we also can attain the Angels' being. That is why we can address her, like the penitent ones in Goathe's "Faust":

Mary, in soaring
To kingdoms eternal,
Hear our imploring,
Thou beyond rival,
Fount of survival . . .
Uniquely tender,
Thou queen of splendor,
Thy visage render
Benign towards my felicity!
She is also the "mater dolorose",

she who "stood in tears by the cross while her son was hanging." (Stebat Mater) That is how she appeared to Holder in, under the shadow of his madness:

For your sake, Madonna,
And for the sake of your son,
I have suffered much . . .
Yet, heavenly one, yet will I
Praise you, and I do not fear
That my mind will fail
Within your blessed power.

(To the Madonna)

To Word worth, she is the perfection of womanhood, the Madonna of the Immaculate Conception:

Mother, whose virgin bosom was uncrossed
With the least shade of thought to sin allied:
Woman! above all women glorified.
Our tainted nature's solitary boast.

Already four hundred years earlier a medieval English poet had written:

Moder and mayden
Was never non but she:
Well may switch a lady
Godes moder be.

Earlier again, the Provencal poet Amaul Daniel had seen in the Virgin Mary the suprahuman cremplar of "amor courteous":

Thus your desire
Greater than God's
For Our Lady of Puy-de-Dome.

(L'Aura Amara)

Perhaps those poets, however, have come closest to the Madonna, who have seen that her being is characterised completely by her giving birth to God the Son, she being likewise born of Him. Francois Villon, the last and greatest of the Vegenten, expresses this in the Ballade that he made for his mother, "Pour Prier Nostre Dame." In weaving his own name into his lines, he is recognising another incarnation—one that takes place within himself, to that he in turn can participate in the incarnation outside himself:

V ous portastes, digne Vierge, princess,
I esus regnant, qui N'a ne fin ne cesse.
L e Tout Puissant, prenant nostre foiblesse,
L aissa les cieuls et nous vint serourir,
O ffrit a mart sa tres chiere jeunesse.
N ostra Seigneur tel ost, tel le confesse,
En cesta foy je vueil vivre et mourir.

This, finally, is the theme stated in the perfection and simplicity of John of the cross fragment, his copla:

With the Word Divine
The Virgin, pregnant,
Comes along the road
If you give her lodging.

Inserted by the

Cathalic Students' Guild