Today we are half way through the first period of official lockdown, and it is poetry day. I’m turning to a poet of the modern era who is better known as a critic, theologian and novelist. But this poem is one of my favourites. It is a memory: of being an Edwardian schoolboy, in the time of Empire, Missionaries, and Christendom.
Arise my body, my small body, we have striven
Enough, and He is merciful; we are forgiven.
Arise small body, puppet-like and pale, and go,
White as the bed-clothes into bed, and cold as snow,
Undress with small, cold fingers and put out the light,
And be alone, hush’d mortal, in the sacred night,
-A meadow whipt flat with the rain, a cup
Emptied and clean, a garment washed and folded up,
Faded in colour, thinned almost to raggedness
By dirt and by the washing of that dirtiness.
Be not too quickly warm again. Lie cold; consent
To weariness’ and pardon’s watery element.
Drink up the bitter water, breathe the chilly death;
Soon enough comes the riot of our blood and breath.
C. S. Lewis