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“Hast thy dark descending and most art merciful then.”
Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Wreck of the Deutschland

You who are both Beginning and Ending
          Though You have neither;
Maker both of light and darkness, blending
          Judgment and mercy, infinite Father;
By your inexorable power ever sending
         Tranquil clouds and frightening fire:

Pity us, your depraved people, impaired
By evil envy of your consummate power. Spare
Us from blindness as your potent sun is ascending
To where the slashing slant of its demanding glare
         Pierces: a solar arrow, dividing
                    The dry bones of night’s petrifying
                              Skeleton from the multiplying
Marrow of morning. 

                                  At the narrow line between
Midnight’s black and morning’s first lighting—
Dawn and its vast, veiled, unbearable meaning—
          You, forever everywhere,
In, with, over your severe sun’s burning, sever,
                    Discerning unseen
          Thoughts and intents of hearts in hiding.

          And when twilight’s ember is ending,
When Your sternly merciful earthly sun is sending
                   The day’s last ray’s flash—then,
                                 Invisible, all-seeing Sun,
                   From this, your reverse dawn,
          Remember your verdict of mercy again.
Fall on our infernal groaning world grown dire
With the villainous mark of man whose flaming desire
                                            Is to be as God. 
Then You, Relentless Love, Consuming Fire,
          Have your dark descending
And be most merciful then.

—Cynthia Erlandson

Photo by Avi.zoetic via Creative Commons. Image cropped