The fifth ‘great ‘O’ antiphon calls on Christ as the Oriens, the Morning Star, the Dayspring, and it comes as an answer to the sense of darkness and captivity in the fourth antiphon, O Clavis‘ I find the idea of Christ as rising light in the east very moving, for He is Alpha, the ‘Beginning’. The Translation of this antiphon which gives ‘Dayspring’ for Oriens I especially love, both because ‘Dayspring’ suggests at one and the same time, both light and water, two primal goods in life which I love in combination, especially light reflected on water, and also because ‘Dayspring’ was the name of a ship my great grandfather built for Scottish missionaries. It was from the deck of a little gaff cutter, also called Dayspring, that I saw the dawn, after a long period of darkness. And that personal moment of transfigured vision and release forms the opening image of this sonnet. I should also mention that the line from Dante means “I saw light in the form of a river’ another touchstone moment for me in the Paradiso. As before you can either click the play button to hear the antiphon and sonnet, otr click the hyperlink on the title to go to my audioboo page and hear all the sonnets in turn. You can read more about the antiphons on Julia Holloway’s lovely site Umilita
The rather blurry picture above is a photo of a watercolour I was painting at the time I wrote this sonnet. Thanks to Margo Krebs Neale for the photo after the poem.
O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae,
et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina sedentes
in tenebris, et umbra mortis
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
E vidi lume in forme de riviera Paradiso XXX; 61
First light and then first lines along the east
To touch and brush a sheen of light on water
As though behind the sky itself they traced
The shift and shimmer of another river
Flowing unbidden from its hidden source;
The Day-Spring, the eternal Prima Vera.
Blake saw it too. Dante and Beatrice
Are bathing in it now, away upstream…
So every trace of light begins a grace
In me, a beckoning. The smallest gleam
Is somehow a beginning and a calling;
“Sleeper awake, the darkness was a dream
For you will see the Dayspring at your waking,
Beyond your long last line the dawn is breaking”.