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The Poetry of the Breviary

In addition to being one of the public prayers of the Church and an important tool to study the Faith, the Liturgy of the Hours is a treasury of Christian poetry. The poems are collected in the fourth appendix of the Breviary. Here are a few selections:

De Profundis
 Out of my soul’s depths to thee my cries have sounded;
 Let thine ears my plaints receive, on just fear grounded.
 Lord, should’st thou weigh our faults, who’s not confounded?
 But with grace thou censur’st thine when they have erred,
 Therefore shall thy blessed name be loved and feared.
 E’en to thy throne my thoughts and eyes are reared.
 Thee alone my hopes attend, on thee relying;
 In thy sacred word I’ll trust, to thee fast flying,
 Long ere the watch shall break, the morn descrying.
 In the mercies of our God who live secured,
 May of full redemption rest in him assured,
 Their sin-sick souls by him shall be recured.

- Thomas Campion

A Hymn to God the Father
 Hear me, O God!
 A broken heart
 Is my best part:
 Use still thy rod
 That I may prove
 Therein, thy love.
 If thou hadst not
 Been stern to me,
 But left me free,
 I had forgot
 Myself and thee.
 For sin’s so sweet,
 As minds ill bent
 Rarely repent,
 Until they meet
 Their punishment.
 Who more can crave
 Than thou hast done:
 That gav’st a Son,
 To free a slave?
 First made of nought;
 With all since bought.
 Sin, Death, and Hell
 His glorious Name
 Quite overcame;
 Yet I rebel,
 And slight the same.
 But I’ll come in,
 Before my loss,
 Me farther toss,
 As sure to sin
 Under His Cross.
 
- Ben Jonson
 
To Keep a True Lent
 Is this a Fast, to keep
 The larder lean?
 And clean
 From fat of veals and sheep?
 Is it to quit the dish
 Of flesh, yet still
 To fill
 The platter high with fish?
 Is it to fast an hour,
 Or ragg’d to go,
 Or show
 A down-cast look and sour?
 No: ’tis a Fast to dole
 Thy sheaf of wheat
 And meat
 Unto the hungry soul.
 It is to fast from strife
 And old debate,
 And hate;
 To circumcise thy life.
 To show a heart grief-rent;
 To starve thy sin,
 Not bin;
 And that’s to keep thy Lent.
 
- Robert Herrick

Love
 Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
 Guilty of dust and sin.
 But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
 From my first entrance in,
 Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
 If I lacked anything.
 ‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here’:
 Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
 ‘I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear
 I cannot look on Thee.’
 Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
 ‘Who made the eyes but I?’
 ‘Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame
 Go where it doth deserve.’
 ‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘who bore the blame?’
 ‘My dear, then I will serve.’
 ‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste My meat.’
 So I did sit and eat.

- George Herbert
Liturgy of the Hours is available in Verbum.
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