The Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, with St Robert Southwell

Tomorrow is the first Saturday of January. Our Lady has asked that, on five consecutive “First Saturdays”, we make reparation for offences committed against her Immaculate Heart by:

  • going to Confession
  • receiving Holy Communion
  • praying at least five decades of the Holy Rosary
  • meditating for fifteen minutes on one or more mysteries of the Holy Rosary

All of these acts are to be done with the intention of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart.

In order to assist you in your meditation on the mysteries of the rosary during this Christmas season we have provided some meditations on the Joyful Mysteries drawn from the poems of St Robert Southwell, an English priest who was martyred on 21 February 1595. He was an accomplished poet whose work is thought to have influenced William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson.

The First Joyful Mystery: The Annunciation

Our Lady’s Salutation

Spell Eva back and Ave you shall find
The first began the last reversed our harms
An angel’s witching words did Eva blind
An angel’s Ave disenchants the charms
Death first by woman’s weakness entered in
In woman’s virtue life doth now begin.

O Virgin breast the heavens to thee incline
In thee their joy and sovereign they agnize [acknowledge/honour]
Too mean their glory is too match with thine
Whose chaste receipt God more than heaven did prize
Hail fairest heaven that heaven and earth dost bliss
Where virtues stars God son of justice is.

With haughty mind to Godhead man aspired
And was by pride from place of pleasure chased
With loving mind our manhead God desired
And us by love in greater pleasure placed
Man labouring to ascend procured our fall
God yielding to descend cut off our thrall.

The Second Joyful Mystery: The Visitation

The Visitation

Proclaimed Queen and mother of God
The light of earth the Sovereign of Saints
With pilgrim foot up tiring hill she trod
And heavenly style with handmaid’s toil acquaints
Her youth to age her health to sick she lends
Her heart to God to neighbour hands she bends.

A prince she is and mightier prince doth bear
Yet pomp of princely train she would not have
But doubtless heavenly choirs attendant were
Her child from harm, her self from fall to save
Word to the voice, song to the tune she brings
The voice her Word, the tune her ditty sings.

Eternal lights enclosed in her breast
Shot out such piercing beams of burning love
That when her voice her cousin’s ears possessed
The force thereof did force her babe to move
With secret signs the children greet each other
But open praise each leaveth to his mother.

The Third Joyful Mystery: The Nativity of Christ

The Nativity of Christ

Behold the father is his daughter’s son
The bird that built the nest, is hatched therein
The old of years an hour hath not outrun
Eternal life to live doth now begin
The word is dumb, the mirth of heaven doth weep
Might feeble is and force doth faintly creep

O dying souls behold your living spring
O dazzled eyes behold your sun of grace
Dull ears attend what word this word doth bring
Up heavy hearts with joy your joy embrace
From death from dark from deafness from despairs
This light this light this word this joy repairs

Gift better than himself God doth not know
Gift better than his God no man can see
This gift doth here the giver given bestow
Gift to this gift let each receiver be
God is my gift, himself he freely gave me
God’s gift am I and none but God shall have me.

Man altered was by sin from man to beast
Beast’s food is hay, hay is all mortal flesh
Now God is flesh and lies in manger pressed
As hay the brutest sinner to refresh.
O happy field wherein this fodder grew
Whose taste doth us from beasts to men renew.

The burning Babe

As I in hoary winters night stood shivering in the snow
Surprised I was with sudden heat, which made by heart to glow
And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near
A pretty babe all burning bright did in the air appear
Who scorched with excessive heat such floods of tears did shed
As though his floods should quench his flames, which with his tears were fed
Alas quoth he but newly borne in fiery heats I fry
Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I
My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns
Love is the fire and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns
The fuel justice layeth on and mercy blows the coals
The metal in this furnace wrought are men’s defiled souls
For which as now on fire I am to work them to their good
So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.
With this he vanished out of sight and swiftly shrunk away
And straight I called unto mind, that it was Christmas day.

The Fourth Joyful Mystery: The Presentation of Our Lord

The Presentation

To be redeemed the world’s redeemer bought
Two selye turtle doves for ransom pays
O war with empires worthy to be bought
This easy rate doth sound, not drown, thy praise
For since no price can to thy worth amount
A dove yea love due price thou dost account.

Old Simeon cheap pennyworth and sweet
Obtained when thee in arms he did embrace
His weeping eyes thy smiling looks did meet
Thy love his heart they kisses blissed his face
O eyes O heart mean sights and loves avoid
Base not your selves, your best you have enjoyed.

O Virgin pure thou dost these doves present
As due to law not as an equal price
To buy such ware though wouldst thy life have spent
The world to reach his worth could not suffice
If God were to be bought not worldly pelfe
But thou wert fittest price next God himself.

The Fifth Joyful Mystery: The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple

Christ’s Childhood

Till twelve years age, how Christ his childhood spent
All earthly pens unworthy were to write
Such acts to mortal eyes he did present
Whose worth not men but angels must recite
No nature’s blots no childish faults defiled
Where grace was guide and God did play the child

In springing locks lay couched hoary wit
In semblance young, a grave and an ancient port
In lowly looks, high majesty did sit
In tender tongue, sound sense of sagest sort.
Nature imparted all that she could teach
And God supplied where nature could not reach.

His mirth of modest mean a mirror was
His sadness tempered with a mild aspect
His eye to try each action was a glass
Whose looks did good approve and bad correct.
His nature’s gifts, his grace, his word and deed
Well showed that all did from a God proceed.

(Our source for the poems is St Robert Southwell: Collected Poems ed Peter Davidson and Anne Sweeney. However, we have modernised many of the spellings for the convenience of our readers.)