After the heaped piles and the corn sheaves waiting
To be collected, gathered into barns,
After all fruits have burst their skins, the sating
Season cools and turns,
And then I think of something that you said
Of when you held the chalice and the bread.
I spoke of Mass and thought of it as close
To how a season feels which stirs and brings
Fire to the hearth, food to the hungry house
And strange, uncovered things –
God in a garden then in sheaves of corn
And the white bread a way to be reborn.
I thought of priest as midwife and as mother
Feeling the pain, feeling the pleasure too,
All opposites together,
Until you said no one could feel such passion
And still preserve the power of consecration.
And it is true. How cool the gold sheaves lie,
Rich without need to ask for more
Richness. The seed, the simple thing must die
If only to restore
Our faith in fruitful, hidden things. I see
The wine and bread protect our ecstasy.
‘Harvest and Consecration’ from The Collected Poems by Elizabeth Jennings (Carcanet Press), reproduced by permission of David Higham Associates.
Elizabeth Jennings CBE (1926-2001) was one of the finest British poets of her generation and considered the most influential poet writing about religion in English since Gerard Manley Hopkins. Her subjects were frequently life as experienced through human experience and its interaction with religious faith.