“Watch and pray” – an Advent poem for Lent and lockdown lament

I began a poem late last year that has only recently emerged in its final form. Its roots lay in obsessive listening to the chorale at the heart of BWV 70, an Advent cantata, Wachet! betet! betet! wachet! I’d argue that the chorale itself is one of the most beautiful things ever written, probably because (a) it’s a Bach chorale (b) in a beguiling three-four time, like a waltz. The little German interludes in the poem below are taken from the original text from that chorale (which you can listen to from the 13:28 mark here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGG3ninFM80)

This poem will be read as part of a lament service at Ripon College Cuddesdon, where I am training for priesthood, on Monday night next week to mark the first anniversary of the announcement of a national lockdown in the UK, so I wanted to share it here, too.

Watch and pray

Engulfed by solstice darkness,
I switched off the office light 
And played a Bach chorale 
Full volume in the dark 

Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele

Soon I was on my feet, arms in the air, 
As if my wide, unfilled embrace
Could be enough to draw O Sapientia
Through the ceiling as I wept

und vergiß all Not und Qual

Half-dancing for a verse, I understood
I could not pull him down. 
He was already there: 
We were already waltzing.