Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A Baptismal Poem

I am an equal-opportunity sacramentalist. I am not focussed exclusively on the Eucharist -- although I do consider it the central and most important (and ordinary) of all the sacraments claimed or identified by the Christian tradition. And to demonstrate that point, I post a poem by Vassar Miller. I have never studied Ms. Miller in any literature or literature-and-faith class, and most of what I know about her is contained in this encomium. (I shall not address her Texan-ness.)

This is a poem I found during my college years, in a volume entitled My Bones Being Wiser, and I have treasured it since my callow youth (if it is not redundant so to speak of one's youth -- though I'm not sure that I have grown beyond callow, either). It has come to mean much more since the birth and baptism of my own daughter -- and becomes more eminently and obviously true with each year into adolescence! -- and with the baptism of each of my godchildren. While I could write a long meditation on this poem, I'll let it speak for itself -- with hopes that it speaks as deeply to you as it does to me.

At a Child’s Baptism
by Vassar Miller

For Sarah Elizabeth

Hold her softly, not for long
Love lies sleeping on your arm,
Shyer than a bird in song,
Quick to fly off in alarm.

It is well that you are wise,
Knowing she for whom you care
Is not yours as prey or prize,
No more to be owned than air.

To your wisdom you add grace
Which will give your child release
From the ark of your embrace
That she may return with peace

Till she joins the elemental.
God Himself now holds your daughter
Softly, too, by this most gentle
Rein of all, this drop of water.

From: My Bones Being Wiser © 1960-63


Jim said...

Thanks for sharing that with us, Dwight. The imagery in the last verse is stunning.

Anonymous said...

I am that Sara(h) Elizabeth. Vassar Miller was my Godmother. I wish I had gotten to know her. I'll meet her in heaven someday.