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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9 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.

  2. Carole Mertz

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Mike Hill

    J.C. Scharl ……… “works as a writer of poetry and criticism”, so I suppose that inevitably invites criticism, whether constructive or snotty, and maybe a classicalpoets entry requires tight adherence to certain norms. However, I heard this poem for the first time today, beautifully read at Kings College, and broadcast to poets and non-poets alike, and it touched me. I shall return to this excellent poem and share it with others. Congratulations to J.C.Scharl.

  6. Rich Maffeo

    I will not get bound up in discussion of the meter or other ‘essentials’ of poetry. What touched me was the beautiful imagery this poem evoked. Well done, Ms Scharl. I will be sharing it with others.

  7. Peter m Cooke, U.K.

    The age of the sonnet is not passed, it seems. I too heard it in the King’s College Cambridge aril service on Christmas Eve and was deeply touched by it. I write one who has been writing poetry for more than sixty years. Well done!

  8. Jenn

    I also heard this last Christmas on the Kings broadcast and now have it sitting on my desktop. It is one of my favourite poems:-) Well done!!

  9. Yvonne

    I heard it too last Christmas. I was very moved by how it made me think about the vastness of the universe, our lack of understanding of time and, of course, the task given to Gabriel. Magical.


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