Tolle Lege (For Augustine of Hippo)

I was saying these things and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when suddenly I heard the voice of a boy or a girl – I know not which – coming from a neighbouring house, chanting over and over again, “Pick it up, read it; pick it up, read it.” Immediately I ceased weeping…
(Augustine, Confessions, Book VIII)

Under the fig-tree, Augustine cried,
alone to let the tears flow more,
and cried and cried, How long, O Lord?
How long will You be angry with me?

Crying out these things he heard
the strangest chant, the oddest rhyme
that he had heard young children sing:
Pick up and read, the children sang;

Pick up and read; and so he paused,
his tears stopped up for that moment,
the tales of saints and the voices
that had called them in his mind.

Finding then the book that he
had put down, he took up again
the words that in their briefness caught him:
they called him, gave him clothes

of righteousness, and doubt fled out
of his clear mind and certainty
took hold of him; he set his feet
upon the rule of Christ.

The fig-tree may have bloomed that day;
it may have stayed quite bare and dry.
But Monica sang and stood tall
with her weeping, renewed son.

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