May One See the New Jerusalem?

Canto XVI

"Nevertheless, upon thee I call--
If thou canst see to its being done--
Since thou are glorious, without gall,
Withhold never this plea of my own.
Have ye no dwelling in castle wall,
No manor that ye can call home?
Thou tellest of Jerusalem, the realm royal
Where David dear was placed on throne;
But in these woods it ne'er was known;
But in Judea 'tis, that noble abode.
As ye are spotless under the moon,
So should your home be without mote.

With this canto, the poet has thrown a curve I cannot handle. The new link word he introduces is "mote." No problem. From the Anglo-Saxon there had come into English the word "mote" meaning "a speck or flaw." Thus we read in Mt. 6:3 KJV, "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"

However, as chance (or mischance) would have it, from the French there had also come into English another word "mote." meaning originally, a mound or hill. Later (and with our poet) it came to mean a city or fortress set on a hill. Still later it came to designate such a fortress surrounded by water. And finally, it became "moat," identifying the water barrier itself.

But our oh-so-clever poet chose to use both "motes" as his link word, moving freely from one to the other. And thus for us to attempt a translation of either word would be to lose the linkage altogether. However, if the poet's original readers were smart enough to read the word one way or the other, I guess you are, too. But be prepared for him to describe the new Jerusalem as "the mote without a mote." And, of course, "moteless" is to be read "flawless."


"This moteless band of which thou dost tell,
Of thousands thronged, so great a rout,
So many ye be, a great citadel
Ye must have, without a doubt
So comely a pack of jolly jewels,
'Twere ill that they should lie without.
And where I tarry in this dell
(I see no buildings hereabout)
I trow alone ye wend in and out
To look on the glory of this graceful growth.
If thou has other lodgings stout,
Now show to me that merry mote."


"The mote thou meanest in Judah-land,"
That special spirit then to me spake,
",That's the city the Lamb had planned
To suffer in sorely for man's sake--
The old Jerusalem, ye understand;
For there old guilt was finally slaked.
But the new, here alighted at God's command,
The apostle in Apocalypse as theme did take.
The Lamb there without spots black
Hath now fetched thither his fair drove;
And as his flock is without fleck,
So is his mote without a mote.


"Of motes two, it cut it clean,
And both called Jerusalem naytheless--
To you that is to say, I ween,
'City of God' or 'Vision of Peace.'
For making our peace one was the scene;
In pain to suffer the Lamb it chose.
In the other is nothing but peace to glean
That ever shall last and never foreclose.
That is the town toward which we close
From the time our flesh by death is smote;
There glory and bliss forever grows
For the company without a mote."


"Moteless maid with majesty mingling,"
Then said I to that lovely flower,
"Bring me to that beautiful building,
And let me see that blissful bower."
Said she, "That God will to nothing bring;
Thou mayest not enter within his tower.
But, for thee, of the Lamb I've asked this thing,
For sight thereof, through great favor.
Without to see that clean closure
Thou mayest; but within, not a foot
To stretch in the street has thou vigor,
Unless thou wert clean, without a mote.

Copyright (c) 1983