With the dawn of a new church year, we have launched a new feature on our website, a weekly post of poetry that resonates with the lectionary readings for that week.
*** Revised Common Lectionary ***
Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22
The Choosing of Esther
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
(FROM THE DRAMA OF MIZPAH)
Tell me thy name!
My name, great sire, is Esther.
So thou art Esther? Esther! ’tis a name
Breathed into sound as softly as a sigh.
A woman’s name should melt upon the lips
Like Love’s first kisses, and thy countenance
Is fit companion for so sweet a name!
Thou art most kind. I would my name and face
Were mine own making and not accident.
Then I might feel elated at thy praise,
Where now I feel confusion.
Thou hast wit
As well as beauty, Esther. Both are gems
That do embellish woman in man’s sight.
Yet they are gems of second magnitude!
Dost thou possess the one great perfect gem–
The matchless jewel of the world called love?
Sire, in the heart of every woman dwells
That wondrous perfect gem!
Then, Esther, speak!
And tell me what is love! I fain would know
Thy definition of that much-mouthed word,
By woman most employed–least understood.
What can a humble Jewish maiden know
That would instruct a warrior and a king?
I have but dreamed of love as maidens will,
While thou hast known its fulness. All the world
Loves Great Ahasueras!
All the world
Fears great Ahasueras! Kings, my child,
Are rarely loved as anything but kings.
Love, as I see it in the court and camp,
Means seeking royal favor. I would know
How love is fashioned in a maiden’s dreams.
Sire, love seeks nothing that kings can bestow.
Love is the king of all kings here below;
Love makes the monarch but a bashful boy,
Love makes the peasant monarch in his joy;
Love seeks not place, all places are the same,
When lighted by the radiance of love’s flame.
Who deems proud love could fawn to power and splendour
Hath known not love, but some base-born pretender.
If this be love, I would know more of it.
Speak on, fair Esther! What is love beside?
Love is in all things, all things are in love.
Love is the earth, the sea, the skies above;
Love is the bird, the blossom, and the wind;
Love hath a million eyes, yet love is blind;
Love is a tempest, awful in its might;
Love is the silence of a moon-lit night;
Love is the aim of every human soul;
And he who hath not loved hath missed life’s goal!
But tell me of thyself, of thine own dreams!
How wouldst thou love, and how be loved again?
Who most doth love thinks least of love’s return;
She is content to feel the passion burn
In her own bosom, and its sacred fire
Consumes each selfish purpose and desire.
‘Tis in the giving, love’s best rapture lies,
Not in the counting of the things it buys.
Yet, is there not vast anguish and despair
In love that finds no answering word or smile?
So radiant is love, it lends a glow
To each dark sorrow and to every woe.
To love completely is to part with pain,
Nor is there mortal who can love in vain.
Love is its own reward, it pays full measure,
And in love’s sharpest grief lies subtlest pleasure.
Methinks, a mighty warrior, lord or king
Must in thy fancy play the lover’s part;
None else could wake such reverential thought.
When woman loves one born of lowly state,
Her thought gives crown and scepter to her mate;
Yet be he king, or chief of some great clan,
She loves him but as woman loves a man.
Monarch or peasant, ’tis the same, I wis
When once she gives him love’s surrendering kiss.
*** This poem is in the public domain,
and may be read in a live-streamed worship service.