Prayer to the Virgin of Chartres
[New Haven]: [Yale University Press], . Small quarto (10 1/8 inches tall), stitched in original soft blue wrappers, printed in black. Slight creasing and chipping to upper edges of wrapper, else a bright, fresh copy. Nearly-fine. Item #1355
"FOR CENTURIES I BROUGHT YOU ALL MY CARES / AND VEXED YOU WITH THE MURMURS OF A CHILD; / YOU HEARD THE TEDIOUS BURDEN OF MY PRAYERS; YOU COULD NOT GRANT THEM, BUT AT LEAST YOU SMILED"
Privately-printed edition of a poem by Henry Adams in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary—undoubtedly composed around the time of Mont St. Michel and Chartres but only printed after his death for private distribution.
Adams' Prayer to the Virgin of Chartres is a poetical coda of sorts to Mont St. Michel and Chartres (first published in 1904). In tension with the modern world, Adams instead "turned to Chartres and the thirteenth-century for consolation" (Russell Kirk). He found consolation in the High Middle Ages and developed a particular veneration of Our Lady: "Man came to render homage or ask favors. The Queen received him in her palace, where she alone was at home, and alone gave commands." Speaking across seven centuries—to a time when "your Byzantine portal was still young"—the Prayer to the Virgin is divided into two parts: I. Gracious Lady, and II. Prayer to the Dynamo. A petition from "an English scholar of a Norman name," Adams's address to Mary resumes an earlier theme: "once man turned from the ideal of spiritual power, the Virgin, to the ideal of physical power, The Dynamo, his doom was sure." Adams laments: "We made our world and saw that it was good / Ourselves we worship, and we have no Son." Adams regarded Chartres as the Palace of the Queen of Heaven: "If you are to get the full enjoyment of Chartres, you must, for the time, believe in Mary as Bernard and Adam did, and feel her presence as the architects did, in every stone they placed, and every touch they chiselled. After Adams died in 1918, this poem was discovered in his personal papers by his niece Mable Hooper. She arranged with Carl Rollins for a printing at the Yale University Press. The number of copies is unknown but was almost certainly limited to a very small printing for private distribution. Mable later collaborated with Houghton Mifflin on the publication of Letters to a Niece and Prayer to the Virgin of Chartres. Russell Kirk. The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot.