Beyond the brimming ages Gabriel waits,
his foremost message burning on his breath.
Through time men slide, creeping through the gates
of birth and out again the doors of death.

He sees kings rise and kingdoms fall to dust;
he sees unnumbered souls unfleshed; to some
he gives slight hints, but the full knowledge must
wait, for his best words are not for them.

Then at last, coming from afar
he sees, gleaming like a golden pin
in time’s folds, Mary, rising like a star
above the fretted seas of what had been;

bright hinge on which the gate of Heaven creaks,
to her he turns, inclines himself, and speaks.


J.C. Scharl lives in Colorado and works as a writer of poetry and criticism. 

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7 Responses

  1. J. Simon Harris

    This is beautiful work. I really like the enjambment at the end of line 7, and the way it encourages the reader to place stress on the word “must”, which would likely be unstressed in a prose reading. It’s a small thing, but indicative of a masterful handling of meter.

    • Monty

      If you were to read Mr Tweedie’s Comment below; and, with that in mind, conduct a careful re-reading of the Poem . . one wonders if you would (could?) still describe it as “a masterful handling of meter”?

      And if, after re-reading, you were to maintain the same view; one also wonders if you’d care to elaborate on your use of the word “masterful”?

  2. Carole Mertz

    I love the topic of this poem, the rhyming, and the way you “hinged” it.

    • Monty

      One wonders, after reading that you “love . . the rhyming” of the Poem, if you might’ve missed the author’s attempt to rhyme “some/them” and “pin/been”? Is that ‘lovable’?

  3. Joseph Charles MacKenzie

    The enjambment at line 7 is actually abusive precisely because its moral force is drained by the word that follows. “Must,” if it be at the end of a verse, is best followed by a full stop as, for example, in Sam Gilliland’s sonnet, “Invitation” (by which he opens my book, “Sonnets for Christ the King”):

    “Read and remember, read because you must!”

    I find this poem neither angelogical nor Mariological in spite of the claim of its title. Angels are messengers. Therefore the Annunciation is a communication from God to Mary. Instead of “his foremost message” is should be “God’s foremost message,” God being both the causa materialis and causa finalis of what He places in the angel’s mouth.

    The problem with using adjectives for mere coloration or effect, is that they can drain a poem of meaning. The word “fiery” is all the reader gets about the Annunciation in this sonnet, a word that does not lead us to a contemplation of the angel’s actual message. Otherwise, the message itself is not even present in the poem, although many of its words are much more highly charged than “fiery,” to take the one work “grace” as an example.

    Mariologically speaking, Mary cannot be a mere “pin in the fold of time” since her relationship to time is considerably more substantial than the pretty metaphor suggests. Consider: If Christ is the Second Person of Holy Trinity, and therefore eternal, and if the Godhead never has the Christ in the divine intellect without the means by which the Son is made man, namely Mary, then Mary is in God’s mind from all eternity in a way that is Christologically unique, via her special relation to the Son. Both scripture and the Sacred Liturgy make this plain. A pin i time, golden or not, doesn’t come anywhere near to this.

    I can certainly appreciate the allusion to the Mary the Stella Maris, the Star of the Sea, but the poem fails to link this title to the Annunciation (which is not present in the poem)—a task that would exceed one sonnet’s capacity to begin with.

    Finally, Mary is reduced to a cardinal. The Latin word “cardo” means a hinge. While the poem acknowledges Mary’s title of Stella Maris, it then denies her, quite awkwardly, the one title that is most closely related to Gabriel’s very reason for being sent to her, the title of Janua Caeli, or Gate of Heaven—one of her most ancient titles. This is why “gate” is not capitalized in the poem.

    In fact, Mary is not even an active participant in the poem. Just as important as God’s communication to Mary is Mary’s response: the “Fiat” which echoes the word of the Creator in creating the world.

    Poetry is not “meter + rhyme + turns of rhetoric.” It must also be true.

  4. James A. Tweedie

    I will not take issue with Mr. McKenzie’s comments re the relative merits and/or shortcoming of the poem’s Mariology. I will, however, point out that the poem is written from the point of view of Gabriel and his eager desire to deliver the message which had been burning on his tongue for a long, long time! Sometimes, when the spotlight is placed on a secondary, functionary character in a play, it is inevitable that the primary characters (in this case Mary and the three persons of the Trinity)—without being diminished or devalued in any way—fall into the shadows for a moment as the lesser actor’s character and perspective are being explored, which I believe this poem is attempting to do.

    As to the poem’s meter, I note departure from iambic pentameter in line 1 (Gabriel has three syllables, not two), line 3 (which is short one syllable, apparently replaced with a metrical pause), line 8 (missing one syllable—the opening iamb), line 9 (missing two syllables), line 10 (missing one syllable), and line 11 (where the syllabic accent is off-rhythm). Each of these hiccups could have been easily resolved with a little prepublication editing. Even so, I enjoyed the poem and the story it told.

  5. Alan Sugar

    “And in all of this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
    And though the last light off the black West wind went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward springs—
    Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! Bright wings.”
    — Gerard Manley Hopkins (God’s Grandeur)

    … oh, if only that foremost message were burning on everyone’s breath…

    With ah!

    The whispering promise of spring.


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