“My Daughter Night” – Excerpt, Charles Péguy, Portal of the Mystery of Hope

“Entombment,” Fra Angelico

O Night, o my daughter Night, the most religious of all my daughters
The most reverent.
Of all my daughters, of all my creatures, the most abandoned into my hands.
You glorify me in Sleep even more than your Brother, Day, glorifies me in Work.
Because in work man only glorifies me by his work.
Whereas in sleep it is I who glorify myself by man’s surrender.
An it’s more certain, and I know better how to go about it.
Night, you are for man a more nourishing food than bread and wine.
Because the man who eats and drinks, if he doesn’t sleep, will not profit from his nourishment.
Ant it will sour and upset his stomach.
But if he sleeps, the bread and wine will become his flesh and blood.
For working. For praying. For sleeping.
Night, you alone dress wounds.
Aching hearts. All out of joint. All torn.
O my dark-eyed daughter, of all my daughters you alone are, and can call yourself, my accomplice.
You are in league with me, because you and me, me through you,
Together we cause man to fall into the trap of my arms
And we take him a bit by surprise.
But one takes what one can get. If anyone knows, it’s me.
Night, you are the beautiful creation
Of my wisdom.
Night, o my daughter Night, o my silent daughter
At Rebecca’s well, at the well of the Samaritan woman
It’s you who draw the deepest water
From the deepest well
O night who gently rocks all creatures
Into a restoring sleep.
O night who bathes all wounds
In the only fresh water and in the only deep water
At Rebecca’s well, drawn from the deepest well.
Friend of children, friend and sister to the young Hope
O night who dresses all wounds
At the well of the Samaritan woman, you who draw, from the deepest well,
The deepest prayer.
O night, o my daughter Night, you who know how to keep silent, o my daughter of the beautiful mantle.
You who confer rest and forgetfulness. You who issue a healing balm, and silence and shadow
O my starry night, I created you first.

O my beautiful night, I created you first.
And practically before first
O silent one, draped with veils
You who descend on earth as a foretaste
You who scatter by hand, who pour out over the earth
An initial peace
Forerunner of eternal peace.
An initial rest
Forerunner of eternal rest.
An initial soothing balm, an initial beatitude
Forerunner of eternal beatitude.

You who lay the child in his mother’s arms
The child, brightened with a shadow of sleep
Laughing inwardly, laughing secretly because of his confidence in his mother.
And in me,
Laughing secretly out of the corner of his serious mouth
You who lay the child, inwardly bursting, overflowing with innocence
And with confidence
In the arms of his mother
You who used to lay the child Jesus every night
In the arms of the Most Holy and Immaculate one.
You who are the turn-sister of hope.
O my daughter, first among all. You who even succeed,
You who occasionally succeed,
You who lay man in the arms of my Providence
My maternal Providence
O my daughter, glittering and dark, I salute you
You who restore, you who nourish, you who give rest
O silence of darkness.

But above all, Night, you remind me of that night.
And I will remember it eternally.
The ninth hour had sounded. It was in the country of my people of Israel.
It was over. That enormous adventure.
From the sixth hour to the ninth hour there had been a darkness covering the entire countryside.
Everything was finished. Let’s not talk about it anymore. It hurts me to talk about it.
My son’s incredible descent among men.
Into their midst.
When you think of what they made of him.
Those thirty years that he was a carpenter among men.
Those three years that he was a sort of preacher among men.
A priest.
Those three days when he fell victim to men.
Among men.
Those three nights when he was dead in the midst of men.
Dead among the dead.
Through the centuries of centuries that he’s been a host among men.
This incredible adventure was finished.
The adventure that has tied my hands, God, for all eternity.
The adventure by which my Son has tied my hands.
Tying the hands of my justice for eternally, untying the hands of my mercy for eternally.
And against my justice, inventing a new justice.
A justice of love. A justice of Hope. Everything was finished.
Everything that was necessary. As it had to be. As my prophets had foretold it. The veil of the sanctuary had been torn in two, from top to bottom.
The earth had shook; rocks had been split.
Tombs had been opened, and many of the bodies of saints that had died rose again.
And around the ninth hour my Son uttered
The cry that will never fade. Everything was finished. The soldiers had returned to their barracks.
Laughing and joking because another task was finished.
One more guard duty they’d no longer have to make.
One centurion alone remained, and a few men.
Just a simple little post to guard the insignificant tree.
The gallows where my Son was hanging.
Only a few women had remained.
His Mother was there.
And perhaps a few disciples as well, beyond that we can’t be sure.
Now every many has the right to bury his own son.
Every man on earth, if the great misfortune befalls him
Not to have died before his son. And I alone, God,
My hands tied by this adventure,
I alone, father at that moment like so many fathers,
I alone was unable to bury my son.
It was then, o night, that you arrived.
O my daughter, my most precious among them all, and it is still before my eyes and it will remain before my eyes for all eternity
It was then, o Night, that you came and, in a great shroud, you buried
The Centurion and his Romans,
The Virgin and the holy women,
And that mountain, and that valley, upon which the evening was descending,
And my people of Israel and sinners and, with them, he who was dying, he who had died for them.

And the men sent by Joseph of Arimathea who were already approaching
Bearing the white shroud.

Translated by David Louis Schindler, Jr.
William B. Eerdman’s Publishing
(c) 1986 (orig. 1929)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s