Poetry at the Post-Ohio Redux: Meeting the Mutter Gottess

“My Madonna” by Robert W. Service (1874-1958)

I haled me a woman from the street,
Shameless, but, oh, so fair!
I bade her sit in the model’s seat
And I painted her sitting there.

MotherOfGod CC BY 3.0 Photo by Greg Hume
CC BY 3.0
Photo by Greg Hume

Whenever I visit a certain college friend in Cincinnati, he introduces me to something new, something really cool.

A couple of years ago, he took me to the Cincinnati Observatory , which houses the world’s oldest telescope. Yes, this is true.

Last weekend, he led me to the Mutter Gottess, which is actually in Northern Kentucky but within walking distance of Ohio.

Mother of God Church (Covington, Kentucky),  CC BY-SA 3.0 Photo courtesy of Nheyob
Mother of God Church (Covington, Kentucky),
CC BY-SA 3.0
Photo courtesy of Nheyob

Then came, with a knowing nod,
A connoisseur, and I heard him say;
“’Tis Mary, the Mother of God.”

Mutter Gottes, or Mother of God, is a vibrant Catholic Parish in the Mutter Gottes Historic District in Covington, KY. The original church was built in 1842 but soon the parish outgrew its size and its second building was dedicated on September 10, 1871.

It turned out to be a Mary-Mother-of-God sort of weekend as I had spent the night before at my 8th grade reunion at Our Lady of the Rosary School.

As a result of twelve years of Catholic education, I’ve had a full serving of Mariology and Mary portraits so it was fun to find Service’s poem, “My Madonna.”


Robert Service was a British-Canadian known as the “Bard of the Yukon.” During his lifetime he was a well-known and commercially successful poet yet Service never called his work poetry. ““Verse, not poetry, is what I was after.”

So I painted a halo round her hair,
And I sold her and took my fee,

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