Tabb’s Poetry XLII



Again as in the desert way,
Behold my guides—a cloud by day,
   A flame by night:
For darkness wakens with the morn,
But dreams, of midnight slumber born,
   Bring back the light. 

In Blindness

For me her life to consecrate,
   My Lady Light
Within her shadowy convent gate
   Is lost to sight.

I may not greet her; but a grace—
   A gleam divine—
The rapture of her hidden face
   Suffuses mine. 


The day is nearer to the night
   Than to another day:
If closer to the living Light,
   In darkness let me stay. 


I loved her countenance whereon,
   Despite the longest day,
The tenderness of visions gone
   In shadow seemed to stay.
And now, when faithless sight is fled
   Beyond my waking gaze,
Of darkness I am not afraid—
   It is my Mammy’s face.

The sun is gone; & the forsaken sea—
   Her glance a tear
Wherein all depths of tenderness appear—
   Looks back at me,
Where I upon the strand,
The center of the lone horizon, stand
   Forlorn as she,
To know that when her darkness drifts away
   Mine own must stay.

John B. Tabb

For a recitation, click the play button:

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Father Tabb lost his sight completely about a year before he died.

“Blind”: Later Poems, p. 108; Poetry, p. 258. March 1909. The poem alludes to Exodus 13:21-22.

“In Blindness”: Later Poems, p. 110; Poetry, p. 258. October 1908. My Lady Light: St. Francis of Assisi had figuratively taken Lady Poverty as his bride; Father Tabb’s Lady Light is figuratively consecrated (dedicated to a sacred purpose) to life in a convent.

“Proximity”: Later Poems, p. 112; Poetry, p. 355. 1910. Living Light: the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Mammy”: Later Poems, p. 109; Poetry, p. 258. 1910. Mammy: “This is the American Southern child’s name for the negro nurse” (footnote in Later Poems). In childhood, Father Tabb’s nanny had been Jenny Thompson, with whom he remained friends for the rest of her life. He wrote this couplet-prayer at the time of Thompson’s death: “To her, O Tenderness Divine / Be Thou, as she to me and mine!”

“Dejection”: Later Poems, p. 48; Poetry, p. 259. March 1906.


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