Wednesday, September 17, 2014

'A Feather On the Breath of God'*


The sting of the lash against my back
the early dawn, my sisters' sighs
Oh God, I stand before you,
a humble and unlearned woman

why have you sent me these visions?
who will listen?
who will believe?

you breathe on my life
- a simple feather -
you leave me no choice,
and so I fly

I so love Susan's prompt at Mid Week Motif: the work of mystic and visionary, Hildegard von Bingen. I have loved her music for decades. It harks me back to those dark winter mornings at Mass when I was a teen: the incense, the holiness, the candles, the chanting of the beautiful Latin phrases. 

Hildegard lived from 1098 – 1179, not one of the best times to be a woman, and she was humble and often referred to herself as an unlearned woman. But her heart was pure and she saw visions from the age of three. At the age of 42, she received instruction from God to "write down that which you see and hear". She was hesitant to share her visions and became ill. Finally, she began to transcribe her visions.

" I set my hand to the writing. While I was doing it, I sensed... the deep profundity of scriptural exposition; and, raising myself from illness by the strength I received, I brought this work to a close – though just barely – in ten years. (...) And I spoke and wrote these things not by the invention of my heart or that of any other person, but as by the secret mysteries of God I heard and received them in the heavenly places. And again I heard a voice from Heaven saying to me, 'Cry out therefore, and write thus!'

On 17 September 1179, when Hildegard died, her sisters claimed they saw two streams of light appear in the skies and cross over the room where she was dying.

*A Feather on the Breath of God is an award-winning album of sacred vocal music written in the 12th century by the German abbess Hildegard of Bingen.

It is an album of early medieval plainchant, the title of which is taken from a passage in Hildegard’s writings that is her own description of herself:

"Listen: there was once a king sitting on his throne. Around him stood great and wonderfully beautiful columns ornamented with ivory, bearing the banners of the king with great honour. Then it pleased the king to raise a small feather from the ground and he commanded it to fly. The feather flew, not because of anything in itself but because the air bore it along. Thus am I '"A feather on the breath of God."[3]

source: Wikipedia

Kids, I am just back from my trip and am still digging my way out of my crammed inbox at two p.m. Fortunately I  responded to Susan's wonderful prompt before I left. That was clever of me. Once I am out of my inbox I will start trying to catch up online, which may take another day or two.


  1. I love your perspective you take us to.her...and 42..a magical age after all!

  2. years ago I sang a rendition of some of her work. I wish then that I had done some research into her work. Thanks Sherry. Hope it's been a great trip

  3. true Sherry. Your piece just made me giggle to myself. But I loved your explanation. :)

  4. Really a lovely poem, Sherry! I am sure it would be difficult for the one who received the visions.

  5. This is so very beautiful, Sherry!!

  6. The whip of the first stanza and the feather of the third are an amazing and insightful contrast--just the sort of thing Hildegard "saw." She flew against all odds for a woman of her time--but this poem, Sherry, is an encouragement for any poet.

  7. Thank you! Am listening to her music right now

    ALOHA from Honolulu
    =^..^= . <3

  8. Love the music, the title. Can't believe I went through Catholic Schools all my life and never heard of this Saint until a few years ago.

  9. Thank you Sherry I have come to know about a great honorable multi talented scholar perfect so divine and so close to Nature. Amazing poet and the last lines really touch the spirit =one feels so light and peaceful...

  10. A wonderful POV poem. Definitely a set of questions that may have gone through her mind.

  11. I like the saint's example of the poetic analogy of the feather...something seemingly insignificant but incredibly beautiful, mysterious and profound.One of the great tenets of the original Christian faith that mysteries abound beyond our limited realm..which only those visionaries through music art and literature can grasp an infinitesimal part of its vastness.


I so appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.
Thank you so much. I will be over to see you soon!