Lovely poetry about Candlemas, the beautiful Feast of the Purification, Presentation of the Lord

Candlemas is coming up, the Feast of the Purification, as it is traditionally called. 

We call it Candlemas because, with the references to light in the liturgy, we bless candles.

Candlemas is the conclusion of the Advent/Christmas cycle.  We are 40 days from the Nativity of our Lord.  Liturgically, the Marian Antiphon and response changes.  We have been singing Alma Redemptoris Mater since the beginning of Advent.  This ends on Candlemas.   Hereafter we sing Ave Regina Caelorum through Lent until Spy Wednesday of Holy Week.

Because of the antiquity of the feast, there are many cultural traditions for its celebration.  For example, in some French speaking regions it is customary to eat crêpes, in Mexico tamales.   I am contemplating the other Christmas pudding I made this year.

Also, I now have a beautiful crêpe pan sent some time ago from my wishlist by a kind reader.

Here are some poems for Candlemas.

First and foremost, making a reference to the removal of Christmas decorations, is a lovely poem by Robert Herrick (+1674).  In some places, people take down their decorations on Twelfth Night.  In others, Candlemas.

This poem traces something of the shifting seasons of the liturgical year and reminds us of the bitter and sweet passing of time.

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. [Pentecost]

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.

I do like that last stanza, which is taken up in a lovely rendering of the poem, by Kate Rusby from a Christmas album – US HERE – UK HERE.

Next, something quite old and in an ancestor of Modern English.  It is from a manuscript in the Bodleian Library (MS Eng. poet. e. I, f. 38 f.).  To pronounce it you have to get some of the Norman French back into your tongue.  Here it is with a cheat version.

When I hear that Latin revértere, I immediately call to mind two moments in the Old Testament.  First, in the Lamentations of Jeremiah, Jerusalem is called to “turn about and go back” to the Lord.  Also, and more important for this carol, the Song of Songs comes up: Revertere revertere Sulamitis revertere revertere ut intueamur te HERE

Revertere, revertere
The queen of blysse and of beaute.
Revertere, revertere,
The queen of bliss and of beauty.
Behold what lyfe that we ryne ine,
Frayl to fale and ever lyke to syne
Thorow owr enmys entysyng;
Therefor we syng and cry to the:
Behold what life that we run in,
Frail to fall and ever like to sin
Through our enemy’s enticing;
Therefore we sing and cry to thee:
Come hyder, Lady, fayryst floure,
And kepe us, Lady, from doloure;
Defend us, Lady, and be owr socoure,
For we cease not to cal to the:
Come hither, Lady, fairest flower,
And keep us, Lady, from dolour;
Defend us, Lady, and be our succour,
For we cease not to call to thee:
Torne owr lyfe, Lady, to Goddys luste,
Syne to fle and fleschly luste,
For aftur hym in the we trust
To kep us frome adversyte.
Turn our life, Lady, to God’s lust, [pleasure]
Sin to flee and fleshly lust,
For, after him, in thee we trust
To keep us from adversity.
Thys holy day of Puryfycacyon
To the temple thou bare owr salvacyon
Jhesu Cryst, thin own swet Sone,
To whome thefor now syng we:
This holy day of Purification
To the temple thou bare our salvation,
Jesu Christ, thine own sweet Son,
To whom therefore now sing we:
Farwell, Crystmas gayer and fre!
Farwell, Newers Day with the!
Farwell, the holy Epyphane!
And to Mary now syng we:
Farewell, Christmas fair and free!
Farewell, New Year’s Day with thee!
Farewell, the holy Epiphany!
And to Mary now sing we:

Revertere… turn around and for the last time gaze back at the joy of Christmas.

Of course we have to have something from Rossetti (+1894)

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.’


How about a couple more?

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!

Finally… St. John Henry Newman’s 1849 poem “Candlemas”:

The Angel-lights of Christmas morn,
Which shot across the sky,
Away they pass at Candlemas,
They sparkle and they die.

Comfort of earth is brief at best,
Although it be divine;
Like funeral lights for Christmas gone,
Old Simeon’s tapers shine.

And then for eight long weeks and more,
We wait in twilight grey,
Till the high candle sheds a beam
On Holy Saturday.

We wait along the penance-tide
Of solemn fast and prayer;
While song is hush’d, and lights grow dim
In the sin-laden air. {280}

And while the sword in Mary’s soul
Is driven home, we hide
In our own hearts, and count the wounds
Of passion and of pride.

And still, though Candlemas be spent
And Alleluias o’er,
Mary is music in our need,
And Jesus light in store.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Diana says:

    That Kate Rusby cd is my FAVORITE! She does some amazing Christmas music CDs. Just came out with a new one. And I love how she doesn’t shy away from including Jesus and Mary, like everyone else these days during Christmas.

  2. Benedict Joseph says:

    Simply beautiful.

  3. JARay says:

    What a delight to read these beautiful poems. I read them all even the olde Engelish…but then, I grew up with English that sounded like that. Words like thee, thy, thine were normal parts of speech in my childhood.

  4. Lepanto ! says:

    Beautiful all! Poetry is a lost art.

    Had the sweetest Christmas in *years*. Everyone around me though, including my own dear family, has long-moved on from the season. Not me this time as it has been my daily reflection and meditation.

    Does anyone know which artist performed the version of the Coventry Carol that was background music on one of Fr. Z’s AdventCastz? She was very Kate Rusby sounding herself.

    Thanks for this latest and last Christmas gift!

  5. Bernie2020 says:

    Very nice! Thumbs up especially for the Rossetti poem.

  6. Polonia says:

    Very beautiful sentiments especially for my daily prayer. Why don’t the NO parishes in my area at the very least mention that it’s prudent to have blessed candles? It’s near impossible to have a priest find the time to bless a candle (or a metal or anything else like my house ) do they know about Candlemas? Seems to me they could bless thousands of them all at the same time if they wanted to. And I don’t mention all this as a criticism of our priests. I’m genuinely confused by the downplay of devotion.
    Our tradition mass parish (Mater Dei) of course observes this feast, but due to health reasons I had to work hard to figure out how to get my blessed candles because I was not able to attend mass there myself. I did find a friend who could help me out. But I surmise all the other parishioners in our area don’t even know about this gift of the church because it’s not mentioned. It’s so perplexing to me. What is the reasoning behind silencing devotional practices? Does it depend on the devotional life of the particular priest at the parish? Is it diocesan decision, what is it?

    Dallas TX

  7. Chris in Maryland 2 says:

    Here is T.S Eliot’s beautiful poem for Candlemas:

    A Song for Simeon

    Lord, the Roman hyacinths are blooming in bowls and
    The winter sun creeps by the snow hills;
    The stubborn season has made stand.
    My life is light, waiting for the death wind,
    Like a feather on the back of my hand.
    Dust in sunlight and memory in corners
    Wait for the wind that chills towards the dead land.

    Grant us thy peace.
    I have walked many years in this city,
    Kept faith and fast, provided for the poor,
    Have taken and given honour and ease.
    There went never any rejected from my door.
    Who shall remember my house, where shall live my children’s children
    When the time of sorrow is come?
    They will take to the goat’s path, and the fox’s home,
    Fleeing from the foreign faces and the foreign swords.

    Before the time of cords and scourges and lamentation
    Grant us thy peace.
    Before the stations of the mountain of desolation,
    Before the certain hour of maternal sorrow,
    Now at this birth season of decease,
    Let the Infant, the still unspeaking and unspoken Word,
    Grant Israel’s consolation
    To one who has eighty years and no to-morrow.

    According to thy word,
    They shall praise Thee and suffer in every generation
    With glory and derision,
    Light upon light, mounting the saints’ stair.
    Not for me the martyrdom, the ecstasy of thought and prayer,
    Not for me the ultimate vision.
    Grant me thy peace.
    (And a sword shall pierce thy heart,
    Thine also).
    I am tired with my own life and the lives of those after me,
    I am dying in my own death and the deaths of those after me.
    Let thy servant depart,
    Having seen thy salvation

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