This sonnet is based on the Great O Antiphon prayer, O Root of Jesse which reads:
“O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples; before you kings will shut their mouths, to you the nations will make their prayer: Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.”
Isaiah 11:1 in in part the source of the prayer, and it reads, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.”
There could be nothing so hopeless as a tree’s
Stump from which top and green has been
Cut and which no longer has leaves
And for its diminution is no longer seen.
O Root of Jesse, the stump from which
Springs hope and joy and peace
Which makes those cut off rich
Who had no reputation but least
Yet even now from the lifeless wood,
Hangs our hope in wondrous love,
And deep in earth when hope should
Be lost, the olive branch is born in the dove.
Come now Root of Jesse, and bring
The peace and joy of which we long and sing.
artwork: The Jesse Tree in the Lambeth Psalter, unknown English miniaturist, c.1140s