Enrobed in blue—enthroned and crowned—her Son,
__With proffered blessing, safely in her hands—
__The Queen of Heaven reigns on high as one
__Who holds in love all those whom she commands.
Her palace is the church which bears her name,
__Her holy veil secure within its walls,
__Where pilgrim choirs process to her acclaim
__And Stabat Maters echo through the halls.
The Western Rose her signet’s royal seal;
__Her walls adorned with tapestries of glass.
__With tears she joins her subjects as they kneel
__To worship and receive her Son at Mass.
And all the while, above each sculpted door,
The unmatched spires of Chartres Cathedral, soar.

 

 

James A. Tweedie is a recently retired pastor living in Long Beach, Washington. He likes to walk on the beach with his wife. He has written and self-published four novels and a collection of short stories. He has several hundred unpublished poems tucked away in drawers.


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11 Responses

  1. Peter Hartley

    James – I once did a 66 mile walk on pilgrimage from Notre-Dame Dame in Paris to Notre-Dame in Chartres (over two-and-a-half days, nothing very arduous) but I remember we could see Chartres from a long way off and it felt like coming home and partly because it had demanded some effort it became in my mind the finest Gothic immensity I had ever seen. I don’t know how the seating capacity compares with some football stadia but they had to take ‘em all out. Standing room only. Breathing the atmosphere in that Cathedral tells you better than anything there must be a God somewhere.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Peter,

      I can’t say that I’ve ever walked to Chartres—I’ve driven a car or taken the train. But I do have a treasured photo I took in 1973 looking across a wheat field with nothing on the horizon but the cathedral and its spires ascending as if to heaven. No doubt the exact same view that inspired peasants and kings back in the Middle Ages. The recent controversial restoration which has re-covered the interior with what is believed to have been its original white plaster brightens the place wonderfully, but steals some of the mystery from its previous time-worn darkness. Fortunately, the lighter color on the walls does not appear to have made the ethereal beauty of the windows any less spectacular.

      My latest visit allowed me time to explore the old city all the way down to the river. After the rain stopped and the sun came out it was very pleasant to view the cathedral from many different angles. If you haven’t read it, you must savor Henry Adams’ classic book, Mount San Michel and Chartres—a book that has inspired and guided me since my high school days. And what you say about God and Chartres is spot on—although, as my poem points out, the church was specifically built to honor Our Lady and enshrine her holy relic.

      By the way, capturing the flowered bee in the photograph was serendipitous insofar as 1. It landed on the flower as I focused the shot and I did not even know it was there until after I took the picture, and 2. The honeybee is, coincidently, one of the iconic symbols for the Virgin Mary, which made its sudden, unexpected appearance even more remarkable.

      Reply
      • Peter Hartley

        James – I’m sure that white plaster wasn’t always white plaster and that your “time-worn darkness” will have featured frequently over the years. I think the thickness and density or opacity of a chancel or rood screen is a good thermometer of the ardour of a particular age too. At periods when a great sense of mystery was probably invoked the screen was so dense you could scarcely see what was going on at the altar, and in more enlightened (in every sense) times they would even go to the makeshift extent of chopping the stiles out under the tracery and hacking holes (squints) through the wainscot. I can’t help thinking that on appearances alone Chartres looks better with the mystery and a basilica perhaps better without.

  2. Julian D. Woodruff

    Thank you, Mr. Tweedie
    I think this is the best of your place sonnets I have seen. Mr. Hartley has aptly mentioned the breathtaking sight of the church rising over the wheat fields as one approaches it from the direction of Paris. On my first visit, in the thickest fog, I could see nothing of it until it loomed in its immensity, thirty feet or so from me. Those impressions, along with the windows, the sculpture, and the erosion of the floor from the procession of penitents, all on their knees, are my strongest memories.
    But I’m uncertain today’s world has the will to guard it, to say nothing to bend back towards the world of faith that created this wonder …

    Because of foresight, Notre Dame de Chartres
    retained its priceless glass against the attack
    of storming troops arrived from foreign parts.
    (Too bad of such precaution there was lack
    when it came to that church’s treasury.)
    Do there exist today the troops that would
    make of this place a distant memory,
    for lack of due resistance, if they could?

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Thank you, Julian, for your kind words and for your trenchant verse, which asks an interesting question.

      Reply
  3. Margaret Coats

    James, I can’t think of an adjective superlative enough for this sonnet. Like Peter Hartley, I’ve been on the Pentecost Pilgrimage, once as a walker with the Orange County, California, contingent, and once taking prayer hours at a Versailles church to support the walkers that parish had sent. Unlike Peter, I found the trek arduous, and I was greatly impressed with Europeans twenty years older than myself keeping up the pace while having enough breath to explain to young pilgrims the value of traditional practices.
    The sonnet’s words and images speak of so many memories, above all the strength of her to whom the cathedral is dedicated, and who kept me going to arrive at the pilgrimage Mass, along with that glorious marching column of thousands of others–itself an unforgettable sight as it moves from the woods into open fields. Your photos, James, complement your poem superbly.

    Julian, I appreciate your lines and question as well. I heard that it was Dwight David Eisenhower himself who preserved Chartres Cathedral in World War II. Allied forces were taking fire, and he was urged to take out enemy lookouts presumed to be in the spires. He refused; all honor to him.

    Reply
    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Wow, what a story, Ms Coats!
      What general or president would respond similarly today? Or dare to? I’m reviewing the ranks of US politicians speculatively. (I don’t know enough about military personnel to do so with them.)

      Reply
  4. R M Moore

    Thank you so much for that great poem. It is always refreshing to read uplifting things about our Queen of Heaven.

    Reply
  5. C.B. Anderson

    There are no sentiments in these comments I wouldn’t second, but, to nitpick, the last comma in the poem is not only unnecessary, but is also misplaced. No comma ever needs to come between a subject and its predicate.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      C.B. You are absolutely correct. I discovered the error after the poem was posted and had corrected it on my computer even before I read your comment. Thanks for sharing your eagle-eye.

      Reply
  6. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    James, I love the sonnet and the pictures – I adore that symbolic bee! I only have one complaint. Those horrible words: “Last Part in the Favorite Places Sonnet Series”. Surely, but surely, a well-travelled man with the ability to write spot-on sonnets has many more places to share with his captive audience. More please, Sir!

    Reply

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