Candlemas Poetry – and also Candlemas Eve

16_02_01 Presentation Bellini smToday is Candlemas Eve, and tomorrow is the Feast of the Purification.  We call it Candlemas because, with the references to light in the liturgy, we bless candles.

Here are some poems for Candlemass

First and foremost, making a reference to the removal of Christmas decorations…

Ceremony Upon Candlemas Eve
by Robert Herrick

Down with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and misletoe ;
Down with the holly, ivy, all,
Wherewith ye dress’d the Christmas Hall :
That so the superstitious find
No one least branch there left behind :
For look, how many leaves there be
Neglected, there (maids, trust to me)
So many goblins you shall see.

And the longer version of the same…

Down with the rosemary and bays,
Down with the mistletow;
Instead of holly now upraise
The greener box for show.

The holly hitherto did sway,
Let box now domineer,
Until the dancing Easter day,
Or Easter’s Eve appear.

Then youthful box which now hath grace
Your houses to renew,
Grown old, surrender must his place
Unto the crisped yew.

When yew is out, then birth comes in,
And many flowers beside,
Both of a fresh and fragrant kin,
To honour Whitsuntide.

Green rushes then, and sweetest bents,
With cooler oaken boughs,
Come in for comly ornaments,
To readorn the house.

Thus times do shift;
Each thing his turn doth hold;
New things succeed,
As former things grow old.

A Candlemas Dialogue

by Christina Georgina Rossetti (after 1891)

‘Love brought Me down: and cannot love make thee
Carol for joy to Me?
Hear cheerful robin carol from his tree,
Who owes not half to Me
I won for thee.’

‘Yea, Lord, I hear his carol’s wordless voice;
And well may he rejoice
Who hath not heard of death’s discordant noise.
So might I too rejoice
With such a voice.’

‘True, thou hast compassed death: but hast not thou
The tree of life’s own bough?
Am I not Life and Resurrection now?
My Cross, balm-bearing bough
For such as thou.’

‘Ah me, Thy Cross! – but that seems far away;
Thy Cradle-song to-day
I too would raise and worship Thee and pray:
Not empty, Lord, to-day
Send me away.’

‘If thou wilt not go empty, spend thy store;
And I will give thee more,
Yea, make thee ten times richer than before.
Give more and give yet more
Out of thy store.’

‘Because Thou givest me Thyself, I will
Thy blessed word fulfil,
Give with both hands, and hoard by giving still:
Thy pleasure to fulfil,
And work Thy Will.’

Mary’s Purification

Sr. M. Bernetta, O.S.F. Robert, Cyril. Our Lady’s Praise In Poetry.
Poughkeepsie, New York: Marist Press, 1944.

Out went the stupid to wash the snow,
To cleanse the lily of Christ.
Wouldn’t you think that they all should know
The pearl who couldn’t be priced?
Wiser to purify the crystal stone,
To call the tulip unclean,
Than to wash the rose that God’s hand had sown,
Young Mary, the innocent Queen.


Francesca Franciscan Magazine – February 1960

The Mother brings her Candle
To the Temple of Desire,
In wax of flesh and weakness
But soul-wick full of fire!
A light to pierce the darkness,
Redemption for our race,
The gift of expiation
Before our Father’s face!
A flame of contradiction
To tyrant, Gentile, Jew,
But holocaust for ages,
Each dawn will see anew!
O take your Candle, Mary,
Too soon you’ll suffer loss
In Love’s great conflagration
On the altar of the Cross!

Please share!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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8 Responses to Candlemas Poetry – and also Candlemas Eve

  1. Suburbanbanshee says:

    The line is: “When yew is out, then birch comes in”

    Herrick has another poem about using the Yule log also on Candlemas, which would take some managing:

    Ceremonies for Candlemas Day

    Kindle the Christmas brand, and then
    Till sunset let it burn;
    Which quench’d, then lay it up again
    Till Christmas next return.

    Part must be kept, wherewith to teend
    The Christmas log next year;
    And where ’tis safely kept, the fiend
    Can do no mischief there.

  2. Suburbanbanshee says:

    There’s a really old play from 1512, called “Candlemas-Day.” Here’s a bit of it, in modernized spelling.


    O Jesu, chief cause of our welfare,
    In yon tapers there be things three,
    Wax, wick, and light, which I shall declare
    To the apporprid by morality:

    Lord, wax betokeneth Thine humanity,
    And wick betokeneth Thy soul most sweet,
    Yon light I liken to the Godhead of Thee,
    Brighter than Phoebus for all his fervent heat…

    Now shalt Thou exile woe and all languor,
    And of mankind, to appease infernal strife,
    Record of prophets, Thou shalt be Redemptor,
    And singular Repast of everlasting life.

  3. Suburbanbanshee says:

    “To Thee, appropriate by morality”

  4. James in Perth says:

    In the Armenian Catholic Church, Candlemas is so important that it is moved to Sunday and replaces the usual Sunday readings. A special prayer is recited before the blessing of the candles and all are invited to take a candle home to remember Christ as the light of our life.

    We celebrate St. Vartan’s Day too this week – an important memorial of all the Armenians who resisted the imposition of Zoroastrianism on the Armenian nation and the thousands of martyrs who fought to resist.

    This is also a special day on my personal calendar. I have a wonderful memory of singing in the secondary choir at St. Peter’s Basilica on February 2, 2001 – just after the close of the Jubilee Year. We were seated just behind the high altar and not much more than 100 feet from Pope St. John Paul II. It was a beautiful memory as my mother was there in the congregation and got a nice photo of the Pope as he passed by.

  5. Tony Phillips says:

    Kate Rusby has a lovely version of Herrick’s poem. Am I allowed to post youtube links here? If so, have a listen:

  6. Semper Gumby says:

    Thanks for the Candlemas poems Fr. Z, just read them at the end of the work day while listening to the first few minutes of Mozart’s “Gran Partita” serenade.

  7. Pingback: Candlemas | CatholicSaints.Info

  8. Charles E Flynn says:

    From Candlemas in Art : A pictorial Presentation – by Maureen Mullarkey :

    While in temple, the family meets Simeon, an elderly devout who lived with the Holy Spirit’s promise that he would not die before he had seen the Messiah. How he must have haunted the temple, each day a round of expectation and frustration. Finally, the old man meets a couple he has not seen before. In that instant, he recognizes the consummation of his longing in the child they carry. He asks to take the infant into his arms and, with prophetic joy, cries “my eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples.” His exultant prayer is the last of the three great New Testament canticles, after the Magnificat (Canticle of Mary) and the Benedictus (Canticle of Zachary).