Anna Hempstead Branch: The Monk in the Kitchen

The Monk in the Kitchen

Anna Hempstead Branch

I

Order is a lovely thing; On disarray it lays its wing, Teaching simplicity to sing. It has a meek and lowly grace, Quiet as a nun's face. Lo — I will have thee in this place! Tranquil well of deep delight, Transparent as the water, bright — All things that shine through thee appear As stones through water, sweetly clear. Thou clarity, That with angelic charity Revealest beauty where thou art, Spread thyself like a clean pool. Then all the things that in thee are Shall seem more spiritual and fair, Reflections from serener air — Sunken shapes of many a star In the high heavens set afar.

II

Ye stolid, homely, visible things, Above you all brood glorious wings Of your deep entities, set high, Like slow moons in a hidden sky. But you, their likenesses, are spent Upon another element. Truly ye are but seemings — The shadowy cast-off gleamings Of bright solidities.  Ye seem Soft as water, vague as dream; Image, cast in a shifting stream.

III

What are ye? I know not. Brazen pan and iron pot, Yellow brick and grey flag-stone That my feet have trod upon — Ye seem to me Vessels of bright mystery. For ye do bear a shape, and so Though ye were made by man, I know An inner Spirit also made And ye his breathings have obeyed.

IV

Shape the strong and awful Spirit, Laid his ancient hand on you. He waste chaos doth inherit; He can alter and subdue. Verily, he doth lift up Matter, like a sacred cup. Into deep substance he reached, and lo Where ye were not, ye were; and so Out of useless nothing, ye Groaned and laughed and came to be. And I use you, as I can, Wonderful uses, made for man, Iron pot and brazen pan.

V

What are ye? I know not; Nor what I really do When I move and govern you. There is no small work unto God. He requires of us greatness; Of his least creature A high angelic nature, Stature superb and bright completeness. He sets to us no humble duty. Each act that he would have us do Is haloed round with strangest beauty. Terrific deeds and cosmic tasks Of his plainest child he asks. When I polish the brazen pan I hear a creature laugh afar In the gardens of a star, And from his burning presence run Flaming wheels of many a sun. Whoever makes a thing more bright, He is an angel of all light. When I cleanse this earthen floor My spirit leaps to see Bright garments trailing over it. Wonderful lustres cover it, A cleanness made by me. Purger of all men's thoughts and ways, With labor do I sound Thy praise, My work is done for Thee. Whoever makes a thing more bright, He is an angel of all light. Therefore let me spread abroad The beautiful cleanness of my God.

VI

One time in the cool of dawn Angels came and worked with me. The air was soft with many a wing. They laughed amid my solitude And cast bright looks on everything. Sweetly of me did they ask That they might do my common task. And all were beautiful — but one With garments whiter than the sun Had such a face Of deep, remembered grace, That when I saw I cried —  "Thou art The great Blood-Brother of my heart. Where have I seen thee?" —  And he said, "When we are dancing 'round God's throne, How often thou art there. Beauties from thy hands have flown Like white doves wheeling in mid-air. Nay — thy soul remembers not? Work on, and cleanse thy iron pot."

VII

 What are we?  I know not.