Elizabeth Jennings


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.