Matins, midnight’s bout of prayer,
by yawning monks kneeling there,
eyes half closed, or all the way,
hoping for the break of day.
Lauds‘ laudatory monks, alert,
warmed by the sun, all assert
their blessings, state them to and fro,
no need for rooster’s morning crow.
At Terce, thrice now the prayers have rung,
the blessings chanted, the psalms sung.
The monks, all now fully awake,
bellow their prayers for all our sakes.
Sext is when the monks all ask
blessings on these gifts, the tasks
of kitchen cooks. These monks, cowled,
just men like us whose stomachs growl.
None the hour after the lunch,
when eyes again, I have a hunch,
get heavy-lidded and partly close
against the sun’s bright pm glow.
At Vespers the candles are brightly lit
and day’s end comes to the pews to sit.
Monks ponder charity and bits of grace,
till contentment falls on each one’s face.
Compline marks the end of day,
“Now I lay me down,” they say
These monks, serene, now each has found
peace as the liturgical hours go ’round.
– Roy Beckemeyer, April, 2014
This poem was an exercise for a poetry workshop I am leading called “Poetry by Sevens,” in which we write poems inspired by some subjects typically grouped in sevens. For example, the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Seven Dwarves, the Seven Deadly Sins, etc. This one used the Seven Hours of Liturgical Prayer. I tried to think of monks as just men, not some sublime praying creatures.
The illustration is from Wikimedia Commons and is a self portrait of a 13th Century Benedictine monk, Matthaeus Parisiensis.