(Poem #1860) The Vigil-at-Arms
Keep holy watch with silence, prayer, and fasting Till morning break, and all the bugles play; Unto the One aware from everlasting Dear are the winners: thou art more than they. Forth from this peace on manhood's way thou goest, Flushed with resolve, and radiant in mail; Blessing supreme for men unborn thou sowest, O knight elect! O soul ordained to fail!
(from 'A Roadside Harp', 1893) I didn't really understand what this poem was all about until I went and looked up the vigil at arms. One website had this to say: After this, the squire attended a banquet where they had the last food they would recieve for many hours. that night, they laid their weapons on the altar of the chapel so they could be blessed by the priest. The spent the rest of the night praying. This part of the ceremony was called the Vigil at Arms and it reminded the squire to only use his weapons for the service of to only use his weapons for the service of God. -- http://home.texoma.net/~oops/index.html The poem matches its subject matter well - the weighty, solemn tone of the ceremony comes through nicely, and even though this is not a poem that has aged gracefully, serendipitously the dated, Victorian feel of the lines actually helps take the reader back to a still earlier age, increasing the sense of immersion in a now-vanished ritual. I must admit, though, that I don't care for the last line. While I see what Guiney is aiming for, it strikes a dissonant note that, while it does make the reader step back and take a second look, does not really enhance the poem. martin [Links] Biography: [broken link] http://www.poemhunter.com/louise-imogen-guiney/biography/poet-6656/ We've run one Guiney poem before, from her "London: Twelve Sonnets": http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/610.html Full text of "A Roadside Harp": [broken link] http://www.indiana.edu/~letrs/vwwp/guiney/roadside.htm