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  • Hymns to the Church
  • Gertrud von le Fort (bio)


lord, a dream of Thee lies on my soul, but I cannot reach Thee for all my gates are barred!

I am besieged as by armies, I am locked in my everlasting solitude.

My hands are broken and my head is bruised in trying to escape, all the images of my spirit have become shadows.

For no ray falls from Thee into the depth of my loneliness, it is lighted only by the moonbeams of my soul.

How did you come in to me, O voice of my God? Is it only the cry of wild birds over the waters?

I have carried you to all the mountains of hope, but they too are but my own hilltops.

I have gone down to the waters of despair, but they are not deeper than my own heart.

My love is like a stairway in the soul—but ever and forever I am only in myself. [End Page 145]

I can find no rest in my many chambers, the stillest of them is like a single cry.

The last of them is yet but an antechamber, the holiest of them is like an awaiting, the darkest of all yet like a song of day!

From "Return to the Church"


and behold, the voice of your commandment speaks to me:

What I break is not broken and what I bend down to the dust that I raise up.

I have been without grace to you because of grace, and out of compassion I have been pitiless.

I have dazzled and blinded you till your borders are effaced. I have overshadowed you that you may no longer find your defences.

As an island is swallowed by the sea so have I engulfed you that I might float you into eternity.

I have become a mock to your understanding and a violence to your nature,

That I might bolt and bar you like a prison and drag you before the gates of your spirit.

For where your inmost thirst would take you, the fountains of earth have ceased to flow,

Where your last nostalgia fades blue, all the clocks of time are stopped.

See, I carry on my wings the white shadows of otherness,

And my forehead feels the breath of another shore.

It is for this that I must be a wilderness to your reason, and a nothingness on your lips,

But to your soul I am the start and the way home, I am the rainbow of her peace with God above the clouds. [End Page 146]

From "The Holiness of the Church"


you are like a rock that plunges into eternity, but the generation of my day is like sand that falls into nothingness.

It is like dust that whirls about itself.

It has raised its blood to be a law of the spirit and the name of its people to a divinity.

Because of this you lie as hoar-frost on the forests of its dreams and like snow on the lofty cedars of its pride.

For you bow not your neck to the yoke men would put upon it, nor will you lend your voice to their error.

You throw nations down before you that you may save them,

You bid them rise up that they may work their salvation.

See, their boundaries are like a wall of shadow in your sight, and the roar of their hate is like laughter,

The clash of their weapons is like tinkling glass and their victories are as tapers in small chambers.

But your victory stretches from morning until evening and your wings spread over every sea.

Your arms enfold men of every colour and your breath blows over all generations.

Your boundaries are without boundaries, for you carry in your heart the compassion of the Lord.


you wear a mantle woven of purple threads that were not spun on earth.

Your brow is adorned by a veil that our angels have wept for you:

Because you bear love to all those who would injure you; you bear great love to all those who hate you.

Your rest is ever...


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pp. 145-164
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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