I am Fed

Psalme xxiii Steps to the Temple (1646)

Happy me! O happy sheep!

Whom my God, even he it is,

That points me to these ways of bliss;

On whose pastures cheerful spring,

All the year doth sit and sing,

And rejoicing smiles to see

Their green backs were his livery:

Pleasure sings my soul to rest,

Plenty wears me at her breast,

Whose sweet temper teaches me

Nor wanton, nor in want to be.

At my feet the blubbering mountain

Weeping, melts into a fountain,

Whose soft silver-sweating streams

Make high noon forget his beams:

When my wayward breath is flying,

He calls home my soul from dying,

Strokes and tames my rabid grief,

And does woo me into life:

When my simple weakness strays,

(Tangled in forbidden ways)

He (my Shepherd) is my guide,

He’s before me, on my side,

And behind me, he beguiles

Craft in all her knotty wiles;

He expounds the giddy wonder

Of my weary steps, and under

Spreads a path clear as the day,

Where no churlish rub says nay

To my joy-conducted feet,

Whilst they gladly go to meet

Grace and peace, to meet new lays

Tuned to my great Shepherd’s praise.

Come now all ye terrors, sally

Muster forth into the valley,

Where triumphant darkness hovers

With a sable wing, that covers

Brooking horror. Come thou Death,

Let the damps of thy dull breath

Overshadow even the shade,

And make darkness self afraid;

There my feet, even there shall find

Way for a resolved mind.

Still my Shepherd, still my God,

Thou art with me, still thy rod,

And thy staff, whose influence

Gives direction, gives defense.

At the whisper of thy Word

Crowned abundance spreads my board:

While I feast, my foes do feed

Their rank malice not their need,

So that with the self-same bread

They are starved, and I am fed.

How my head in ointment swims!

How my cup o’erlooks her brims!

So, even so still may I move

By the line of thy dear love;

Still may thy sweet mercy spread

A shady arm above my head,

About my paths, so shall I find

The fair center of my mind

Thy temple, and those lovely walls

Bright ever with a beam that falls

Fresh from the pure glance of thine eye,

Lighting to Eternity.

There I’ll dwell forever, there

Will I find a purer air

To feed my life with, there I’ll sup

Balm and nectar in my cup,

And there my ripe soul will I breathe

Warm into the arms of Death.

Richard Crashaw (1613-1649) was an English priest and metaphysical poet. He was a fellow of Peterhouse College, Cambridge and vicar of Little St. Mary’s, which became a center for High Church Anglican devotion during the reign of King Charles I. He fled to the Continent during the English Civil War, and converted to Roman Catholicism, dying in Italy after several years of great suffering and poverty.


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