The Lamb and His Maidens

Canto XV

"This Jerusalem Lamb had never a patch
Of other hue than brilliant white,
On which no spot nor stain could stretch,
The white wool was so rich and rife.
Therefore each soul that had ne'er a touch
Is for that Lamb a worth wife.
And though each day a store he fetch,
Among us comes neither struggle nor strife;
But each one singly would we were five--
The more the merrier, so God me bless!
In company great, our love doth thrive
In honor more and never the less.


"To less of bliss may none us bring
Who bear this pearl upon our breast;
For they on mischief ne'er could think
Who wear spotless pearls all in a crest.
Although our corpses in the clods cling
And thou art raving in rue without rest,
Throughout We all still have our knowing:
To one death our hope is full addressed.
On the Lamb who glads us our care is cast;
With mirth his love feast doth us bless;
Each one's bliss is biggest and best,
Yet no one's honor ever the less.

The daughter, "a corpse that in the clods clings."

The father "raving in rue without rest."

A tremendous insight.

The daughter knows that her physical death was of no ultimate significance. Sooner or later it had to take place; she was, at best, a rose that flowers and fails.

The father thinks his dying to happiness, his raving in rue, does have significance--as proof of his offended innocence and a work that makes him deserving of consolation and restitution. He is wrong.

To one death our hope is full addressed. It is only that voluntary, vicarious death on the cross that has any ultimate significance, for all other deaths are caught up, when the Jeweler can get past the death of his daughter, past the death of his own happiness, and get centered onto this death of God--it is only then that true comfort will make itself felt.


"Lest thou my tale find less than sound,
In the Apocalypse 'tis written so:
'I saw,' says John, 'the Lamb take stand
On the Mount of Zion in glory aglow
And with him maidens a hundred thousand
And four and forty thousand also.
On all their foreheads written I found
The Lamb's and his Father's names in a row.
A hue from heaven I then heard too--
Like welling waters running in rush
And thunder rolling through mountains blue.
The loudness, I think, had never been less.


"'Nonetheless, though it shouted sharp,
And litany loud although it were,
A note full new I heard sound forth;
To listen to it was lovely dear!
As harper harping on his harp
That new song now they sang full clear,
in sonorous notes, a gentle carp.
Full fair the modes of melody were
Right before our God's great chair
And the four beasts that him profess
And the elders of mien demure,
Their song they sang nevertheless.


"'Nevertheless, none's e'er had a throat--
For all the crafts that ever they knew--
That they of that song might sing a note,
Except those of the Lamb's retinue;
For they alone from the earth are bought
As firstfruits which to God are due.
To the gentle Lamb are they betrothed,
Like to himself in looks and hue;
For never a lie nor tale untrue
E'er touched their tongues in any distress.'
That cleansed company can never remove
From its matchless Master, nevertheless!"


"Nevertheless my pardon grant," Quod I, "my pearl, though I questions pose;
I should not flout thy reflections frank,
Whom Christ for his bridal chamber chose.
I'm mingled with muck and mold so dank;
And thou art so rich, a resplendent rose--
Abiding here on this blissful bank
Where love of life one cannot lose.
Now, gracious, who simplicity doth enclose,
I would ask of thee a thing express;
And though I'm a bumpkin so verbose,
Let my prayer prevail nevertheless.

This canto, it so happens, has six stanzas. That could be because an interpolator at some point inserted an extra (although which of the six it might be is by no means evident). It could be that the poet simply lost count; the writing of the poem had to involve keeping track of any number of things at the same time. It could be that the poet wanted to show the poem who is master; if he wants an extra stanza, he'll put it in.

Nevertheless, notice the stanza's first line; he does beg our pardon.

Copyright (c) 1983