After Gerard Manley Hopkins’ The Starlight Night
lift up your eyes on high and see Who created these stars.
he whispered the promise’s opening like a prayer
as we gazed into the darkened skies.
he told me of the friend who, in patience,
spoke those words of wonder into the night
and how holy awe reopened his eyes.
it’s barely dark enough on our street for my eyes
to pick out the more familiar stars,
the brighter planets wheeling across the night.
i remember that distant moment and his prayer;
could i too learn this kind of holy patience?
not one of them is missing, i breathe to the skies.
the lowering clouds have veiled the skies;
no light shines through to lift my eyes.
and this time there is no patience.
You’ve given names to all the stars!
can’t You hear this lonely little prayer?
sorrow settles in for the night.
but even He had His own dark night,
when He wept blood beneath the skies
and sorrow found its tongue in prayer.
even then His dearest friends had no eyes
to see Him, He Who spoke the stars—
and even then, how He bore them with patience.
and perhaps it is with patience
that the very darkness of the night
waits to be illuminated by the stars;
perhaps the vast and wonder-studded skies
anticipate the moment that our eyes
will finally lift and our hearts leap into our mouths in prayer.
then teach me, Great Keeper, the kind of prayer
that likewise waits with patience;
Illuminator, lend me sight beyond my eyes
that, even in the aching night
i might believe the blackest of my skies
is shot through with the brightness of Your stars.
i lift my face to the stars and watch, prayer
flowing from wonder at the sky’s enduring beauty. patience.
it takes four years of night for the light to reach our eyes.