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Garden Liturgy

September 17, 2021

Sam Keyes


It was our birthright,

Breathed upon a garden’s dappled glade,

Sung forth from soil, soft-cupped in ageless hands,

To be tended, and in our turn to tend,

By day’s great light to till the budding land,

Then walk as friends by evening’s cooling shade;

Vessels set apart for noble use,

Instruments tuned to the Father’s praise.


Despite the reckless ruin of the fall,

Our once and future call remained unchanged:

To speak in Adam’s tongue a fitting name

For each full-spoken, fearfully-formed thing,

To trace within the founding harmony

The wondrous, gleaming line each breathes to sing,

To join their Gloria of guileless praise, 

Our incense rising fragrant to the king. 


Apprenticed to the workshop of the world,

The master weaver’s hand upon our own,

We learn, by slow degrees, to work our craft,

To throw the shuttle through the warp and weft

Of life’s illumined tapestry, to draw

In unison both seen and unseen threads,

To trace the silver strands through pregnant space,

Deftly stitching reason’s rugged cords

Through mysteries of boundless, shining grace.


As children of a prophet we were blessed

To hide astonished, trembling in the cleft,

As lightning charged once more the quivering air

And fire and glory thundered overhead;

Then, bearing rumours of a coming age,

To stagger down the mountainside again,

Wreathed alike in ecstasy and dread;

To meet the blank and beckoning page below,

And fill its void with fitting things well-said.


In pierced steps, we stagger on the path,

Appointed midwives to the groaning world,

To whisper ragged prayers beside the bed,

To learn the time to weep, the time to laugh,

To sing in solemn and triumphant keys

Of Miserere and Magnificat,

Discerning contours of a timeless face

In every sin-smeared, downcast countenance,

Placing hands within the world’s great wound

In apprehensive love, in trembling faith;

Broken vessels split to pour forth grace.


As branches grafted in we come to learn

The second garden’s tearstained liturgy,

How seeds must fall and die to sprout anew, 

Or how the plough must open earth’s dark wound

To let the tender roots sink through, to feel

Our eager shoots wired firm upon the frame,

The calculated heft each hard, bright spring,

As pruning hooks cleave cherished, fruitless limbs

In hope of heaving branches come the fall;

When time draws nigh to bring the harvest in.


It is our birthright,

As cultivated, cultivating things,

To stand upon the setting of the age,

Amid the ordered rows of ripened vines,

Of boughs bent low with full-orbed, fragrant fruit;

To see, far off, the dreadful pall of smoke

Rising out beyond the circling walls,

As chaff and briar and all unfruitful things

Wilt within the unrelenting flames.

Yet safe within a garden’s dewy glade,

To smell the fertile soil,

To hear the gently rustling leaves,

To walk once more by evening’s cooling shade, 

As deeper friends fast-bound by fiery trials,

To speak of things well done and things well made.

The featured image of “Dawn over Narnia” is courtesy of poet and photographer Sam Keyes. It is used with his gracious permission for Cultivating. 


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  1. Amen Sam, so beautifully spoken. Blessings.

  2. Terri Moon says:

    This poem is so beautifully written and exquisitely read. I need to sit with it for a long time to fully absorb all the meaning, but even the first time through I caught a sense of the grandness of God’s design, and my place in it. Thank you, from the depths of my heart.

  3. Sheila says:

    Sam, this is wonderful, just wonderful. I think it will become something I turn to again (and again) for courage and inspiration.

  4. Bryana Joy says:

    Oh Sam, I really enjoyed your reading of this, and the photo is just exquisite too. Thank you for sharing these with us.

  5. Mary Miller says:

    Absolutely lovely, Sam. Believing as I create this morning…”The master weaver’s hand upon our own,
    We learn, by slow degrees, to work our craft.”

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