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.
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
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.
For a recitation, click the play button:[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/118572986″ width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
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.