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Blake’s “On Another’s Sorrow” and “Bishop Matthews’ Blessing”

April 6, 2013

Can I see another’s woe,
And not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another’s grief,
And not seek for kind relief?

Can I see a falling tear,
And not feel my sorrow’s share?
Can a father see his child
Weep, nor be with sorrow fill’d?

Can a mother sit and hear
An infant groan an infant fear?
No, no! never can it be!
Never, never can it be!

And can he who smiles on all
Hear the wren with sorrows small,
Hear the small bird’s grief & care,
Hear the woes that infants bear,
 
And not sit beside the nest,
Pouring pity in their breast;
And not sit the cradle near,
Weeping tear on infant’s tear;
 
And not sit both night & day,
Wiping all our tears away?
O, no! never can it be!
Never, never can it be!

He doth give his joy to all;
He becomes an infant small;
He becomes a man of woe;
He doth feel the sorrow too.

Think not thou canst sigh a sigh
And thy maker is not by;
Think not thou canst weep a tear
And thy maker is not near.

O! he gives to us his joy
That our grief he may destroy;
Till our grief is fled & gone
He doth sit by us and moan.

(William Blake, 1789 – in Ruthven Todd, ed., Blake (1960), pages 51-52.)

This poem touched my heart this past week, as I reflected on it especially in the light of the events of Holy Week and Easter. The image immediately below the poem is of the original plate illustrating it. Embedded below is a unique video by Dolphin Diemer, combining the lyrics of all but the last verse of Blake’s poem and the music of Enya‘s “Smaointe.”

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The Blessing below, “Bishop Matthews’ Blessing,” is one of my favourites. The “Bishop Matthews” in question is the Rt. Rev’d Timothy John Matthews, who was Bishop of Quebec from 1971-1977. Many thanks to Doreen Peters for reuniting me with this Blessing after many years, and to Michael Canning (see his comments at the bottom of this posting) for telling me about its author! I shared Bishop Matthews’ Blessing at the end of our Easter Sunrise Service.

May the Lord Jesus Christ, who walks on wounded feet,
walk with you to the end of the road.
May the Lord Jesus, who serves with wounded hands,
help you to serve each other.
May the Lord Jesus, who loves with a wounded heart,
be your love forever.
Love God wherever you go,
and may you see the face of Jesus in everyone you meet. Amen. 

The video embedded below is of the L’Arche hymn “Lord Jesus, You Shall be My Song as I Journey.” The words for the last line of the last verse are accidentally omitted from the video. They are: “We’ll sing to your dawn at the end of our journey.”

3 Comments
  1. Bishop Matthews was the Bishop of Quebec. He was the one who composed this blessing. There is a garden in Lennoxville, QC at St. George’s, where he had been Rector, which has that Blessing displayed for all to see.

    • Dear Mike:

      Thank you so much for this information! I first heard this blessing when I was a student at seminary in 1984, and have loved it ever since. I’m wondering if this Bishop Matthews was Timothy John Matthews, the Bishop of Quebec from 1971-77? If you have a moment, please let me know. Thanks again.

      God bless you always.

      Your Brother in Jesus,
      Fergus

      • MICHAEL CANNING permalink

        His full name was Timothy John Matthews and he was Bishop of Quebec from 1971-1977. His son Tom was a prof at Bishop’s University and is now retired.
        Your brother in Christ,
        Michael

        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

        That’s great, Michael! Thanks again for sharing this information!

        Your Brother in Jesus,
        Fergus

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