Thursday, December 29, 2005

Cantico espiritual

by St. John of the Cross

¿Adónde te escondiste,
amado, y me dejaste con gemido?
Como el ciervo huiste,
habiéndome herido;
salí tras ti, clamando, y eras ido.

Where have you hidden yourself,
beloved, and left me with groaning?
You have fled like the deer,
having wounded me;
I went out after you, crying out, and you had gone.

Pastores, los que fuerdes
allá, por las majadas, al otero,
si por ventura vierdes
aquél que yo más quiero,
decidle que adolezco, peno y muero.

Shepherds, you who go
up there, through the sheepfolds, to the hill,
if you perhaps see
him whom I love most,
tell him that I grow sick, suffer and die.

Buscando mis amores,
iré por esos montes y riberas;
ni cogeré las flores,
ni temeré las fieras,
y pasaré los fuertes y fronteras.

Seeking my loves,
I will go through these mountains and riverbanks;
I will not collect the flowers,
I will not fear the wild animals,
and I will pass the strong (men) and the frontiers.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

¿Por qué, pues has llagado
aqueste corazón, no le sanaste?
Y pues me le has robado,
¿por qué así le dejaste,
y no tomas el robo que robaste?

Why, since you have wounded
this heart, have you not healed it?
And since you have robbed me of it,
why do you leave me so,
and not take the robbery that you have robbed?

Apaga mis enojos,
pues que ninguno basta a deshacellos,
y véante mis ojos,
pues eres lumbre dellos,
y sólo para ti quiero tenellos.

Quench my angers,
for no one else can extinguish them,
and may my eyes see you,
for you are the light of them,
and I want to keep them only for you.

¡Oh cristalina fuente,
si en esos tus semblantes plateados,
formases de repente
los ojos deseados,
que tengo en mis entrañas dibujados!

O crystal fountain,
if in your silvered surfaces,
you would form suddenly
the desired eyes,
that I have drawn on my heart!

* * *

The translation is my own, with a little help. There were about a half dozen words that don't show up in my little pocket dictionary. Most of it, however, is quite literally translated.

I am very fond of this poem. Of course, the Song of Songs has always been a favorite of mine, but I think St. John brings something of his own to the story. He enhances the search of the bride for her lover with his own experience of searching for Christ.

The poem begins with the bride's search. She looks everywhere, asks everyone for some word of her lover. In the same way, when seeking Christ, it is natural and good for us to look everywhere and ask everyone: Have you seen Him whom my heart loves?

The second part I translated is part of the bride's prayer to her lover. She begins to be impatient for some sign of the lover. Where is he? She begs him to come to her. This is the other part of our search for Christ: asking Him directly.

"Oh cristalina fuente" is an address to someone else again. I have heard the phrase "crystal fountain of faith" as a title for Mary. Perhaps the symbol here is of the soul asking Mary to form Christ again, not in her womb this time, but in the soul. The soul possesses His image, but is still searching for His reality.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A Christmas Carol

by G.K. Chesterton

(The Chief Constable has issued a statement declaring that carol singing in the streets by children is illegal, and morally and physically injurious. He appeals to the public to discourage the practice.--Daily Paper.)

God rest you merry gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay;
The Herald Angels cannot sing,
The cops arrest them on the wing,
And warn them of the docketing
Of anything they say.

God rest you merry gentlemen
May nothing you dismay:
On your reposeful cities lie
Deep silence, broken only by
The motor horn's melodious cry,
The hooter's happy bray.

So, when the song of children ceased
And Herod was obeyed,
In his high hall Corinthian
With purple and with peacock fan,
Rested that merry gentleman;
And nothing him dismayed.

* * *

Does this sound familiar to anyone? (I'll give you a hint: "Happy Holidays.")

I thought it appropriate, given the feast of Holy Innocents today.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A Christmas carol

by Hilaire Belloc

Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel!
A catholic tale I have to tell:
And a Christian song I have to sing
While all the bells in Arundel ring.

I pray good beef and I pray good beer
This holy night of all the year,
But I pray detestable drink to them
That give no honour to Bethlehem.

May all good fellows that here agree
Drink Audit Ale in heaven with me,
And may all my enemies go to hell!
Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel!
May all my enemies go to hell!
Noel! Noel!

* * *

A Bellocose approach to the Christmas season. I promised Meredith I'd get this online: it isn't available elsewhere, that I know of.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Acquainted with the Night

by Robert Frost

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain -- and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

* * *

Blogged after several hours of philosophy notes. It's not exactly an all-nighter yet, but I'm not usually out this late. I don't like finals week.

But I do like terza rima. And this poem. I am one acquainted with the night also. So many of the events in the poem are quite familiar to me.

For some reason you go out walking at night. Maybe you don't even know why. The rain drifts down, a lazy drizzle. A cop passes by and suddenly you feel under suspicion. Guiltily you drop your eyes, afraid he'll stop you and ask why you're out and what you're doing. And how can you answer when you don't know?

All you can hear is your own footsteps. You stand still and that falls silent too; silent enough for you to hear a shout from far away. You don't know what it means, yet somehow it hurts you that they are not speaking to you. You are entirely alone.

And the time, being neither wrong or right . . . at that hour, nothing seems wrong or right. It just is. Nothing cares to present itself to you, or is interested in what you make of it. It states itself, matter-of-factly, and you realise it makes no difference what you think about it. So you think nothing.

--Excuse the late-night rambles. I have been one acquainted with the night.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


by George Herbert

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew near to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lack'd anything.

A guest, I answer'd, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?

Truth, Lord, but I have marr'd them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.

* * *

I'm a trend-follower now. John of Fiddleback gave me the idea of blogging poetry from literature class.

An important thing to note is that whenever the words "my dear" are used, that means the speaker is speaking. Love is the other speaker, obviously.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Sonnets from the Portuguese: XXI

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Say over again, and yet once over again,
That thou dost love me. Though the word repeated
Should seem a "cuckoo-song," as dost treat it,
Remember, never to the hill or plain,
Valley and wood, without her cuckoo-strain
Comes the fresh Spring in all her green completed.
Beloved, I, amid the darkness greeted
By a doubtful spirit-voice, in that doubt's pain
Cry, "Speak once more--thou lovest!" Who can fear
Too many stars, though each in heaven shall roll,
Too many flowers, though each shall crown the year?
Say thou dost love me, love me, love me--toll
The silver iterance!--only minding, Dear,
To love me also in silence with thy soul.

* * *

I have always been one of those people who has to have things repeated. Sometimes it is because I am silly and forgetful, and sometimes because I have so little faith. If my mother did not tell me, every time I speak with her, that she loves me, would I be able to believe that she still did?

Fortunately, either she understands that little foolishness of my heart, or she has suffered from it herself, because never do I call her without hearing those three little words -- I love you -- at least once. When I am at home, I hear them every day. The words, repeated and repeated, weave a blanket around me of peace and security: she does love me. Not only did she love me once, but she loves me now. In this exact moment, she loves me.

. . . And yet, I am not so foolish not to know she still loves me when she does not say it. It just makes it so much easier when she says it out loud.