Infinite maternal, eternity born in you as heaven's king. Your heart a vestal vessel, receiving the angel when he announced himself. With your name elevated in Etruria, your body a bright Tiberian torch, you happily approach with healing hands all Italian visitors, all flocks of the foreign who seek your sacred rites. Maiden of the people, your temple is made greater than the three-pronged seat of the Delphic oracle, your altar more celebrated than the horned god's Libyan fountain, more famous than the deciduous oaks in Dodona. Your altar is richer than Epidaurus's; you altar is grander than Jupiter's.
When feverish flames lick sickened foreheads, you heal them, casting out heat as if arthritic joints were volcanic as Etna. You bore disease from the breastbones of the weakened. When knuckles draw together in a gnarled congregation beneath skin, you align them and make light the steps of the lame. You banish cloud cover from blinded eyes. You open deaf ears so they hear honeyed sounds, golden and flowing. Dumb tongues once lead-heavy carve marble with their words. A sailor cries wretched pleas as he weathers the froth and foam of flooding swells, fearful of a shipwreck. You hear him.
You hear the prayers of men with heads unhelmeted, with wounds exposed and incurable by Chiron, Melampus or Machaon, men for whom the last hour is visible. Men who have seen death kneel and send glimmering prayers swimming into night's current and you hear them, goddess. You work these wonders of which the lyre cannot sing with strings and sound. The earth fertile, the sea winged with sails, the celestial sky: all these are swollen with your services. Cleanse and strengthen me and all in the star-bearing house; may our voices resound in a way pleasing to men, in a way pleasing to God.
To Mary, the Goddess Announced in Florence
translated from the Latin by Emily Wilson