“The Annunciation” Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi Botticelli ca. 1485-92. Public Domain.
Words By Nikolai Gumilyov Translated by Simon Franklin
In ancient days, when God cast down his gaze Upon the newly created world, Words could stop the sun, Words could shatter cities.
Eagles didn’t spread their wings, And stars huddled, horror-stricken, round the moon, Whenever words, like pink flame, Drifted through the heights.
But lower down in life came numbers, Like domestic, subjugated cattle; Clever number can convey All shade of meaning.
The gray, old sage, who had transcended good and evil And subdued them to his will, Had not the nerve to risk a sound, So, with his staff, he traced a number in the sand.
But we’ve forgotten that only words Stay radiant among earthly troubles, And in the Gospel of St. John It does say that the word is God.
We have set their limits At the meager boundaries of matter, And, like bees in a vacated hive, Dead words smell foul.
Today is Lady Day, or the Feast of the Annunciation. This holy day commemorates the visit of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary in our gospel story from Luke. In it, the angel approaches Mary and announces that she will carry and give birth to Jesus. This day has been observed since the early fourth century and is celebrated today by Protestants and Catholics alike around the world. It also means that Christmas is exactly nine months away.
Because of its closeness to the Vernal Equinox, Lady Day was also the traditional new year in the England until 1752. On this day, year-long contracts between landowners and tenant farmers would begin and end. Farming families who were changing farms would travel on March 25th to their new farms and settle in before the planting season.
I enjoy Luke’s telling of this story because Mary is depicted as a wise, curious, and thoughtful character. She is perplexed by the angels greeting