Hail Mary, thou blessed among women, generations shall rise up to greet,
After ages of wrangles and dogma, I come with a prayer to thy feet.
Where Gabriel's red plumes were a wind in the lanes of thy lilies at eve,
We love, who have done with the churches, we worship, who may not believe.
Shall I reck that the chiefs we revolt with, stern elders with scoff and with frown,
Have scourged from thine altar the kneelers, and reft from thy forehead the crown?
For God's light for the world has burnt through it, the thought whereof thou wert the sign,
As a sign, for all faiths are as symbols, as human, and man is divine.
We know that men prayed to their image and crowned their own passions as powers,
We know that their gods were their shadows, nor are 'shamed of this queen that was ours:
We know as the people the priest is, as the men are the goddess shall be,
And all harlots were worshipped in Cyprus, all maidens and mothers in thee.
Who shall murmur of dreams or be sour when the tale of thy triumph is told,
When thy star rose a sun and a meteor o'er empires and cities of old?
When against the dim altars of passion, the garlands of queens god-embraced,
Come the peace of a poor Jewish maid in the lily-like pride of the chaste,
Came weak, without swords of the flesh, without splendours of lyres or of pen,
As a naked appeal to things pure in the hearts of the children of men;
And e'en as she walked as one dreaming, sweet, pale as the evening star,
The spell of the wanton was snapped, and the revel of gods rolled afar,
And she brightened the glens that were gloomy, and softened the tribes that were wild,
Till the world grew a worshipping choir round the shapes of a mother and child.
(G.K. Chesterton, The Debater, Feb. 1893)
These are the first two of five stanzas. HT: The Magnificat