Thursday, March 11, 2010

End Beyond the End

Acrostic, by St. Simeon Metaphrastes
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

A h, tears upon mine eyelids, sorrow on mine heart,
I bring Thee soul-repentance, Creator as Thou art!
B ounding joyous actions, deep as arrows go;
Pleasures self-revolving, issue into woe!
C reatures of our mortal, headlong rush to sin:
I have seen them; of them -- ah me, -- I have been!
D uly pitying Spirits, from your spirit-frame,
Bring your cloud of weeping, -- worthy of the same!

E lse I would be bolder; if that light of Thine,
Jesus, quell the evil, let it on me shine!
F ail me truth, is living, less than death forlorn,
When the sinner readeth -- "better be unborn"?
G od, I raise toward Thee both eyes of my heart,
With a sharp cry -- "Help me!" -- while mine hopes depart.
H elp me! Death is bitter, all hearts comprehend;
But I fear beyond it -- end beyond the end.

I nwardly behold me, how my soul is black:
Sympathize in gazing, do not spurn me back!
K nowing that Thy pleasure is not to destroy,
That Thou fain wouldst save me -- this is all my joy.
L o, the lion, hunting spirits in their deep,
(Stand beside me!) roareth -- (help me!) nears to leap.
M ayst Thou help me, Master! Thou art pure alone,
Thou alone art sinless, one Christ on a throne.

N ightly deeds I loved them, hated day's instead;
Hence this soul-involving darkness on mine head.
O Word, who constrainest things estranged and curst,
If Thy hand can save me, that work were the first!
P ensive o'er my sinning, counting all its ways,
Terrors shake me, waiting adequate dismays.
Q uenchless glories many, hast Thou -- many a rod --
Thou, too, hast Thy measures. Can I bear Thee, God?

R end away my counting from my soul's decline,
Show me of the portion of those saved of Thine!
S low drops of my weeping to Thy mercy run:
Let its rivers wash me, by that mercy won!
T ell me what is worthy, in our dreary now,
As the future glory? (madness!) what, as THOU?
U nion, oh, vouchsafe me to Thy fold beneath,
Lest the wolf across me gnash his gory teeth!

V iew me, judge me gently! spare me, Master bland
Brightly lift Thine eyelids, kindly stretch Thine hand!
W inged and choral angels! 'twixt my spirit lone,
And all deathly visions, interpose your own!
Y ea, my Soul, remember death and woe inwrought --
After-death affliction, wringing earth's to nought!
Z one me, Lord, with graces! Be foundations built
Underneath me; save me! as Thou know'st and wilt!

[Translator's Note: The omission of our X (in any case too sullen a letter to be employed in the service of an acrostic) has permitted us to write line for line with the Greek! -- E.B.]

I rather like Browning's 'Zone me, Lord, with graces!'.

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