Easy contentment, innocent curiosity,
For one, untroubled slumber,
For the other, a word puzzle.
Yet the signs are painfully immediate:
The yarn-winder empty now,
Later to be draped with a passioned love;
The scroll offering a rhyme to learn –
‘Lamb of God, Lamb of God, Lamb of God’.
What lies between these three
And a desert resonating a prophet’s voice
And a mountain where the meek are blessed?
Perhaps the woman’s waiting-song
Is sung to them again and again
That its words may take root in each heart:
The mighty humbled, the starving feasted,
The cowed emboldened, the haughty turned.
With each generation, then, we bless you, Mother,
For bearing the pain
Of what you know you will see of these two
And for rejoicing in spirit
At the liberty their words bring near.
Guercino’s Virgin and Child with John the Baptist (c.1615) is in the collection of the National Gallery of Scotland.