This poignant wartime poem, from Candlemas 100 years ago, is by Evelyn Underhill; it's from her Theophanies, published in 1916. (The explanatory note at the beginning is in the book.)
In Roman Catholic churches on February 2, candles are blessed and distributed to the congregation, and the Nunc Dimittis is sung.
In the past years,
We joyed to play the mystery of old;
Strange poem, and sweet
Conclusion of Incarnate Love that told
How a new light was to the Gentiles brought,
A clean and holy light, to pierce the glooms of thought.
We lit our candles to enray the dim,
Gave each to each the flame that figured him:
Yet, in that distant day, the darkness held no fears.
But now all's changed: we, tempest-driven,
To the great night are given.
Beneath our feet
The puzzled world is reeling to despair,
And on its black horizon there's a glare
That mocks our little light.
Dare we, in such a day,
Through all the drifting cohorts of our dead,
And across fields wherefrom the lovely life has fled,
Carry the torch of faith upon its way,
Fulfil the ancient rite?
As sudden lightning mars
The kindly radiance of eternal stars,
So does the splendour of his fury shame
That small, dear flame.
Yet, when the storm is done,
And ere the promised rising of the sun
Makes all thing new,
There comes a black and stilly hour, when all
The quiet stars shine out perpetual
And every homely lamp that seemed to cease
Burns with young beauty in the empty place,
Because the lights are few.
Then, perchance, one
Raising his anguished face,
His poor grey face, from those swept fields of pain,
And peering in the dark before the day,
Most glad shall greet
Our humble light again.
"Mine eyes have seen, and I depart in peace."