Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE CHRISTENING, by AMY SHERMAN BRIDGMAN

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE CHRISTENING, by                    
First Line: O little one
Last Line: Let us go!
Subject(s): Baptism; Children; Christenings; Childhood

O little one,
I'm holding you, close-cuddled on my arm, --
(What if I should forget the ritual
In merely holding you!)
I am your father: you, my first-born:

And your mother's dead.

O Baby, can I remember anything but that!

'Sh! The droning voice begins, --
(It's kind, though, Baby, and she loved it:) --

"Hath this child already been baptized, or no?"

Why do they ask such silly things of you?
They know the answer.
It's the unanswerable we cry for
You and I:
Reality concerns us.

"For as much as all men are born in sin" --

You weren't, my darling;
Never mind the foolish words:

"I beseech you to call upon God the Father."

Oh, do I not call on Him,
Through long nights and heartsick days!
Who else can help us?

"Grant this child that which by nature he cannot have."

It will be enough, Sweetheart,
If you have half the sweetnesses your mother had.

The voice drones on --

"And be made a living member of the same."

But she is dead!
Why then should you, or I, be living?

Forgive the sudden fierceness, Dear,
'Sh! Don't begin to cry.
He's praying now: --

"So give, now, unto us who ask:
Let us who seek, find:
Open the gate unto us who knock."

O little one, all that's for us!
We ask: we seek: we knock.
And now, keep very still,
While I put all my mind on promising for you.

. . . . . . . .

"Now I have promised by God's help" --

I have:
But oh, my little one,
Will even that be potent without hers?
Who sponsored me?
Who, thus, for me, so fruitlessly renounced "the desires of the flesh"?

I want her terribly!

And, little son, does any one of them
Know fully what he means, I wonder, when he says, --

"The world, the flesh and the devil"?
Listen again:

"May also be endued with heavenly virtues and everlastingly rewarded" --

You will be, Love, if I can teach you as your mother would.

He wants your sweet name now:
She chose it --

"And do sign him with the sign of the Cross."
And there I kiss you, Sweet, for her
And for the agony she bore in bearing you.

He's saying now --

"Manfully to fight under his banner
And to continue Christ's faithful soldier."

Is that the rightful language of the Church?

Oh, shame, my baby, shame
To speak those words above your downy head!

Rather let all who pray, beseech that soldiers, banners, fighting all,
Be banished from the earth
Before you come to manhood,
For you and I must knock where she may open,
And she loved Peace.

So, little one,
I'm holding you, close-cuddled on my arm;
He's done now:
Let us go!

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