James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

March 21


By William Wordsworth (1770–1850)

  • Thomas Cranmer was Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VIII, whose favor he gained by pronouncing his marriage with Catherine of Aragon invalid. He was head of the commission which compiled the first English Prayer Book under Edward VI, and during Queen Mary’s reign he was tried for heresy. He was condemned to be burnt at the stake on March 21, 1556, and contemporary historians declare that his heart was found intact after his sentence had been carried out.

  • OUTSTRETCHING flameward his upbraided hand

    (O God of mercy, may no earthly Seat

    Of judgment such presumptuous doom repeat!)

    Amid the shuddering throng doth Cranmer stand;

    Firm as the stake to which with iron band

    His frame is tied; firm from the naked feet

    To the bare head. The victory is complete;

    The shrouded Body to the Soul’s command

    Answers with more than Indian fortitude,

    Through all her nerves with finer sense endured,

    Till breath departs in blissful aspiration:

    Then, ’mid the ghastly ruins of the fire,

    Behold the unalterable heart entire,

    Emblem of faith untouched, miraculous attestation!