Annunciation-a Poem {Denise Levertov}

The Annunciation (1644), by Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
((Second half of the poem))

She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child–but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.

Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,

  only asked

a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
the astounding ministry she was offered:

to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power–
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.

                     Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love–

but who was God.

This was the moment no one speaks of,

when she could still refuse.

A breath unbreathed,




She did not cry, ‘I cannot. I am not worthy,’

Nor, ‘I have not the strength.’

She did not submit with gritted teeth,

                                                       raging, coerced.

Bravest of all humans,

                                  consent illumined her.

The room filled with its light,

the lily glowed in it,

                               and the iridescent wings.


              courage unparalleled,

opened her utterly.


I was given a copy of “The Stream & The Sapphire” by a dear friend and discovered through the Ignatian Spirituality blog that there was more to this poem in my volume.  From their website: “Fr. Kevin Burke, S.J. currently serves as Executive Dean of the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in California. A Levertov fan, Kevin noticed that when the editors at New Directions put together the book “The Stream and the Sapphire,” they mistakenly omitted the last 18 lines. The poem first appeared in her book “A Door in the Hive.” Levertov endorsed and first published her poem in “A Door in the Hive” with those 18 lines as part of intended text. On this feast of Annunciation, please enjoy the full text of her work.” The full poem is HERE.


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