What is my body that was never mine, That, fevered, it should waste below the deck? I rise, instead, to face the ocean’s brine, The Muslim’s wrath, the ending of my trek. What is the ball that penetrates my chest, If not the lead that tipped the Roman’s scourge And ripped across my Savior’s guiltless breast? A second—third—my blood—the swelling surge! But one hand left, the right! O Mother sweet, Who bids me sheathe the sword to lift the pen, Though I should be enslaved, protect God’s fleet, That my poor wounds may heal the hearts of men! For, thy Son’s stripes shall mend a soldier’s scars, But raise a poet to the deathless stars. Sanctissimi Rosarii Beatae Mariae Virginis Anno MMXVII Poet's Note Today is the feast of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, instituted throughout the Universal Church by Pope St. Pius V to celebrate Christendom’s defeat of Islam on the seas of the Mediterranean. Pope St. Pius V attributed the Christian victory at the Battle of Lepanto to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was invoked on the day of the battle through a campaign to pray the Rosary throughout Europe. The Holy Father called on all of Europe to recite the Rosary and ordered a 40 hour devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary in Rome during the time the naval battle took place. Despite the Holy League’s fleet being vastly outnumbered, all but 13 of the nearly 300 Turkish ships were captured or sunk. The Christian forces won a decisive battle, saving all of Christendom by checking the expansion of Turkish power. One of the men who fought in the battle was Miguel de Cervantes, the future poet and author of the greatest novel ever written, Don Quixote de la Mancha. Already dying of a fatal fever, the captain of his ship, the Marquesa, insisted that he wait the battle out below deck rather than risk certain death through exposure to the elements, let alone the enemy. Cervantes refused, saying: “. . . up to now I have served as a good soldier. I shall not do less on this occasion, even though I am weak and full of fever. It is better that I should fight in the service of God and the king and die for them, than keep under cover.” But dying for others would be a much longer process than Cervantes ever imagined. During the battle of Lepanto, he took three balls, two in the chest, and another which left his left hand mutilated. Years later, in 1575, Cervantes was captured by the Turks and forced into slavery in Algiers for four years. During his captivity he was praised for his charity towards the other prisoners; he was known to share his food and bring his fellow captives back to the faith. He was finally ransomed in 1580 by the Trinitarian friars and his family and returned to Spain. It was only in the last part of his life that Cervantes, the soldier, became Cervantes the poet, the greatest Spanish author who ever lived. My poem, entitled, “Flagellation I,” is about the transformation from soldier to poet through the imitation of Christ at the pillar, a meditation, in other words, on the Second Sorrowful Mystery of the Most Holy Rosary. Underlying the poem is the hidden theme of scourging of the Mystical Body, which is the Catholic Church, at this time of world-wide persecution. Joseph Charles MacKenzie is a traditional lyric poet, First Place winner of the Scottish International Poetry Competition (Long Poem Section). His poetry has appeared in The New York Times, The Scotsman (Edinburgh), The Independent (London), US News and World Report, Google News, and many other outlets. He writes primarily for the Society of Classical Poets (New York).