01 December 2015

No halo, no crown … 

The Virgin of Humility” an engraving made in the workshop of Mantegna

A girl sits on a low stool in the darkened corner
of an engraving made five hundred years ago,
her robe draped about her like folds of sculpted marble,
pulled from a copper-plate, sharp etched by a master.
But behind the Virgin’s head is no bright halo,
upon her brow is set no golden crown.

The Mother and her Child enfolded into one being,
her cheek rests against his, and within the shelter
of those large loving hands and strong young arms 
is their quiet and private place none may trespass upon.
There she has no need of any bright halo,
no reason to look for a golden crown.

The Babe in swaddling clothes stares out wide eyed
into the world become his home, chubby feet
resting on his Mother’s sleeve, his curly head
lying securely against his Mother’s breast.
She who never dreams of a bright halo
or the glory of a golden crown.

The Baby and the Mother rest in a world of their own,
suspended in silence, yet ever mutely eloquent
throughout the five hundred years they have been held
within a delicate mesh of perpetual care and love,
she a humble Mother wearing no bright halo,
he no king yearning for a golden crown.

No shepherds come now to kneel in trembling wonder,
no journeying wise men bring gifts here from afar,
no angelic choir lights up the sleeping night sky.
Only a Mother with her precious Baby, sitting in the shadows 
and showing us that perfect Love is its own bright halo 
and our Lord needs wear no golden crown.

I know of two versions of this engraving
one complete with the Virgin’s halo, 
and the other - this one - with neither halo, nor crown.