Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Flight in the Desert

by Brother Antoninus

The last settlement scraggled out with a barbed wire fence
And fell from sight. They crossed coyote country:
Mesquite, sage, the bunchgrass knotted in patches;
And there the prairie dog yapped in the valley;
And on the high plateau the short-armed badger
Delved his clay. But beyond that the desert,
Raw, unslakable, its perjured dominion wholly contained
In the sun's remorseless mandate, where the dim trail
Died ahead in the watery horizon: God knows where.

And there the failures: skull of the ox,
Where the animal terror trembled on in the hollowed eyes;
The catastrophic wheel, split, sandbedded;
And the sad jawbone of a horse. These the denials
Of the retributive tribes, fiercer than pestilence,
Whose scrupulous realm this was.

Only the burro took no notice: the forefoot
Placed with the nice particularity of one
To who the evil of the day is wholly sufficient.
Even the jocular ears marked time,
But they, the man and the anxious woman,
Who stared pinch-eyed into the settling sun,
They went forward into its denseness
All apprehensive, and would many a time have turned
But for what they carried. That brought them on,
In the gritty blanket they bore the world's great risk,
And knew it; and kept it covered, near to the blind heart,
That hugs in a bad hour its sweetest need,
Possessed against the drawn night
That comes now, over the dead arroyos,
Cold and acrid and black.

This was the first of his goings forth into the wilderness of the world.
There was much to follow: much of portent, much of dread.
But what was so meek then and so mere, so slight and strengthless,
(Too tender, almost, to be touched)--what they nervously guarded
Guarded them. As we, each day, from the lifted chalice,
That strengthless Bread the mildest tongue subsumes,
To be taken out in the blantant kingdom,
Where Herod sweats, and his deft henchmen
Riffle the tabloids--that keeps us.

Over the campfire the desert moon
Slivers the west, too chaste and cleanly
To mean hard luck. The man rattles the skillet
To take the raw edge of the silence;
The woman lifts up her heart; the Infant
Knuckles the generous breast, and feeds.

* * *

This is kind of a long poem to do a very complete commentary of. I found it in my mother's prayer book, and despite its modern style it appeals to me. (I don't know who Brother Antoninus is, I'm afraid.)

Setting the Flight into the Desert in a desert which seems straight out of the American Southwest seems incongruous, but it makes the biblical event seem much easier to understand. This is what desert means to us; it's not a vague idea of wilderness but a dry, abandoned, rather frightening place.

The phrase "God knows where" at the end of the first stanza is striking. God knows where the road ends if no one else does.

And of course the paradox of the Child whom they guarded guarding them . . . not a new idea, but it's never old. It's a nice parallel between that and the Eucharist, how we carry Christ forth into the dangerous world, "the blatant kingdom."

The last bit is homey and familiar, as Joseph cooks over the fire and tries to make noise because it's too quiet, and Mary nurses baby Jesus.

The entire poem tries to make the biblical story real and practical to the modern mind without compromising any of the eternal meaning -- and, in my opinion, succeeds very well.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Fire in the Earth

by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

It is done.
Once again the Fire has penetrated the earth
Not with the sudden crash of thunderbolt,
riving the mountain tops:
does the Master break down doors to enter his own home?
Without earthquak.e, or thunderclap:
the flame has lit up the whole world from within.
All things individually and collectively
are penetrated and flooded by it,
from the inmost core of the tiniest atom
to the mighty sweep of the most universal laws of being:
so naturally has it flooded every element, every energy,
every connecting link in the unity of our cosmos,
that one might suppose the cosmos to have burst spontaneously into flame.

* * *

I have heard of Teilhard de Chardin, but I never read anything of his before this poem. I like it: it seems to convey the paradox between the extreme subtlety of Christ's coming -- silently in a manger where He might have come in the loudest thunder -- and the vast extent that the universe has been silently changed.

To all my fellow bloggers: "a very merry Christmas, and many may you see!"

(Internet cookie to whoever names that quote.)

A Defence of Blogging

I never did a fisk before, but this letter to the editor I read in the last National Catholic Register seemed to demand a response. This woman replied to an article about gossipping in the blogosphere with a long rant about blogging in general. She actually does give reasons for what she thinks -- but I still think she's wrong.

My first objection to blogging has to do with the cult of the individual. Just what is it that makes every blogger, Catholics included, feel that their views are worthy of public display? Why the need to broadcast to "whomever" the way I feel about something? Or addictively check to see how others have responded to my comments, or the comments of others? Why this need to elicit, from strangers, a response to my feelings?

My second objection is the weirdness of the virtual relationships among bloggers. Bloggers act as though they are buddies who really know each other, who have actual involvement in one another's lives. I think this "virtual community" is an illusion at best, dangerous at worst.

The blogosphere isn't a real community. It invites the dangerous high of abandoning our real families, those in our real lives who are waiting for us to get the heck off the computer and find time for them. The people in our real lives are waiting for us to come to dinner, read us a story, give us a kiss, hear about our day, empty the trash.

How different is the fleeting, stimulating, anonymous interaction -- focused on our refined areas of interest and stripped of real-life pressures and stresses -- from using por.nography? Not much.

Jennifer Heath
Greenfield, Massachusetts

Okay, first off, let me try and see if this might apply to things other than blogging. Let's try seminar-style classes. We have a lot of those at college, after all. But let's imagine this is a large public college, where the people don't live together and don't know each other all that well. Here we go.

My first objection to seminars has to do with the cult of the individual. Just what is it that makes every student, Catholics included, feel that their views are worthy of public display? Why the need to broadcast to the whole class the way I feel about something? Or listen to see how others respond to my comments? Why this need to elicit, from people who I don't know well, a response to my feelings?

My second objection is the weirdness of relationships among among students. They act as though they are buddies who really know each other, but really, they're in an artificial environment. They haven't even visited each other at home.

College isn't a real community. It invites the dangerous high of abandoning our real families, those who are waiting for us to come home from staying late after class and find time for them.

How different is the fleeting, stimulating interaction -- focused on our refined areas of interest and stripped of real-life pressures and stresses -- from having an affair? Not much.

It works, I think. If you start from the premise that having conversations with people who are not close friends and family about our "refined areas of interest" is wrong, then college seminars are wrong too. So are conversations about work with work buddies. These people have never seen you wake up in the morning, have never sat beside you at Mass, have never made you take out the trash, so how can you really be friends? And if you're not "real" friends, how can you presume to talk to these people?

Answer to Objection 1. I really don't think it's a "cult of the individual" when individuals want to express their individual ideas. It's the same as when one old gentleman in a pub puts his feet on the table and says, "You know what I think of that politician?" Once he's finished, he wants to hear what the other men have to say about his idea. If they think he's a moron, he wants to hear it so he can refine his ideas. This is what people do. We do it all the time, and it's not a new, modern idea either. It's the same, I would put forth, as a woman writing to a newspaper to put in her two cents about what the newspaper said. Why does she think her views are worthy of public display? Probably because she realizes the public is no different from herself: ordinary people who read the paper and are looking for what people think on these issues. And I simply do not see any moral or logical difference between a newspaper that is in print and a blog that is on a computer: if either is an arena to share your thoughts, it doesn't really matter what the medium is.

Answer to Objection 2. The "it's just weird" argument. I don't find this one carries much weight. Bloggers do know they don't have much actual involvement in people's lives. We just accept that it's a different kind of relationship than the kind we have with our family and close friends. It's an intellectual relationship, the kind you have with an author when you read a book of theirs and feel you know them. You write to the author saying whether you agree or disagree with what they said, and if they write you back, you have a relationship. It's a long-distance relationship, and of course they don't know you like your mother does, but that doesn't mean it's completely not worth your while to write to this person. You and this author are exchanging ideas, which helps both of you think.

Answer to Objection 3. "The blogosphere isn't a real community." Depends on what you mean by "real," doesn't it? I hold that ideas are real, and sharing real ideas makes a real community. It's a different kind than the community of people you talk with in person, of course, but no one's denying that. I still think a community of ideas is worthwhile. It's not a new idea to have communities of "men of letters" who read each other's work and write letters to each other. The fact that the internet now makes it available to more of us than before doesn't change much.

Answer to Objection 4. "It is a fleeting, stimulating, anonymous interaction, focused on our refined areas of interest and stripped of real-life pressures and stresses, so it's just like por.nography." I could see that's how a housewife might feel, stuck with the baby and the cooking while her husband is discussing lofty subjects with his friends off somewhere. To her, he might as well be having an affair. But isn't it because she's a little jealous, and she'd rather he were discussing things with her? I certainly think no one should neglect the home folks just because they'd rather have intellectual conversations with people who don't ask them to take out the trash. But I do think both the intellectual conversations and the trash have their proper place. Studying philosophy or poetry may seem like pretty useless things in the "real world." But it's only when you dedicate the time to them to unpack the kernel of deep truth within the subject that you can bring that kernel and make it bear fruit in your daily life.

Sometimes you can focus on your refined areas of interest, and sometimes you have to focus on real-life pressures and stresses. But to demand that all of every person's time must be spent "eating dinner, reading a story, emptying the trash" is a bit much. One's primary duty is to his family, of course. But can't he take a half hour every day to think about "higher things" which he can bring to his family later, enriching everyone? That's the point, you know.

If anyone is blogging just for a sense of self-satisfaction that someone else is reading what they wrote and thinking, "Wow, what a smart person that is," they're wasting their time. But if they're trying to refine their ideas through submitting them to the eyes of others, they're forming themselves. And if they're refusing to hide the light that is their thoughts and their ideas under a bushel basket, but instead sharing them with other people to enrich their lives too, they're doing an act of charity as well.

N.B. Blogging can be addictive. I think every blogger knows this, because you can hop from one blog to another, trying to keep up with everything people have to say. The sheer volume is just too much, and so you're just going to have to stop before you've read it all. A reasonable and self-controlled person will stop with plenty of time to take care of what needs to be. If those around us are complaining that we're always sunk into the computer, we have to listen and consider: are we spending more time on blogging and less on the most important things than we should? It is a danger of which we must all be aware.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

For the Time Being

by W. H. Auden

Alone, alone, about a dreadful wood
Of conscious evil runs a lost mankind,
Dreading to find its Father lest it find
The Goodness it has dreaded is not good:
Alone, alone, about our dreadful wood.

Where is that Law for which we broke our own,
Where now that Justice for which Flesh resigned
Her hereditary right to passion, Mind
His will to absolute power? Gone. Gone.
Where is that Law for which we broke our own?

The Pilgrim Way has led to the Abyss.
Was it to meet such grinning evidence
We left our richly odoured ignorance?
Was the triumphant answer to be this?
The Pilgrim Way has led to the Abyss.

We who must die demand a miracle.
How could the Eternal do a temporal act,
The Infinite become a finite fact?
Nothing can save us that is possible:
We who must die demand a miracle.

* * *

I came across this poem in the back of my mother's prayer book, and was rather struck with it. It's awfully paradoxical, but I think that's why I like it.

The first stanza is fairly simple. Man is lost in the knowledge of evil, and is so surrounded by it he begins to wonder if God might be evil too. He is too afraid to seek the Father, and is stuck alone.

The second stanza is brimfull of paradox. It's looking back to the time when we had faith: we broke the law of man for the Law of God; we denied our flesh's passion and our mind's freedom for Justice. But faith, the Law and the Justice of God, are gone. We are separated from them.

The third stanza shows despair. This is when I think it becomes clearer that the poem deals with man before the coming of Christ. We tried, the poem says, but it didn't work. We tried following God and here we are stuck in the forest, so conscious of our own sin we are afraid of Him. The old Law was so demanding that it was impossible to follow, so it only led to despair when man found he could not live up to it.

The fourth stanza shows the answer: only a miracle will save us. But we know, looking back from after the birth of Christ, that this miracle will happen. Of course it's impossible for the Infinite to become finite -- but nothing possible can save us. We need a miracle.

And we received a miracle: God became man, and no amount of familiarity with the old Christmas story can really blunt the shock of the miracle. God came through and gave us an impossible thing to save us.

Monday, December 18, 2006

from Epigrams and Epitaphs

by C. S. Lewis

Have you not seen that in our days
Of any whose story, song, or art
Delights us, our sincerest praise
Means, when all's said, 'You break my heart'?

* * *

One of my favorite little short poems. Why is it that the most beautiful things always break our hearts? Is it because only what we love can break our heart -- or because we love what already breaks our heart?

It reminds me of Edna St. Vincent Millay's "My soul is all but out of me" -- things can be too beautiful to bear, so beautiful they hurt, and yet we don't want to stop looking at them. I suppose it's just because our hearts hurt from being overfilled, and yet we want to fill our hearts with beautiful things all the same.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Dante's Tomb

As promised, here are some pictures of Dante's tomb in Ravenna. I finally managed to upload these now that I'm on a different computer. (We evacuated to my grandparents' house after a huge storm hit our area and left us without power or heat. news story )

The tomb.

Me with Dante.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Pinecone

Yes, Meredith, it's true.

This is me with a pinecone in Ravenna. It was just sitting outside the church, on this pillar, with palmettos all around it.

Where did the idea of Catholics worshiping pinecones come from anyway?

Monday, December 11, 2006

from The Imitation of Christ

by Thomas a Kempis

On the Advantage of Not Having Everything Our Own Way

It is good that everything is not always to our liking; for adversity makes people look into their hearts in order to realize that they are exiles and must not put their hopes in any wordly thing.

It is good for us to run into opposition and have others think badly of us, even when our intentions are good. For these things help us to be humble and rid us of pride. Then we seek God more earnestly, Who alone knows our inmost self, when outwardly we are ignored and discredited by others.

2. Therefore, people should rely so entirely on God that they have no need to look for human consolations when adversity comes. When people of good disposition are afflicted or tempted or distracted by evil thoughts, then they understand the need they have of God and that without Him they can do nothing.

Then too they grieve, while they sigh and pray because of the miseries they endure. They grow weary of this life and long for death in order to be with Christ, their Lord. It will also be clear to them that there is neither perfect peace nor security in this world.

* * *

Advent is a good time for a little spiritual reading, and I have been enjoying The Imitation of Christ, which I got in Rome. Thomas a Kempis is a hard teacher, though. He might be better for someone in religious life. He says you should be detached from everything, speak no unnecessary words, avoid spending time with young or foolish people, and so forth, while I think that since my vocation is to be in the world, some of that advice might be a bad idea if I were to follow it. If I did half of what he suggests, I'd be much holier. If I did all of it, I might be Jansenist. Still, I would advise the book because it reminds me of my many shortcomings.

He's certainly spot-on in this chapter. I've often found that the only time I lose something I valued is when it is more important to me than God. It happens again and again: God gives me something, an object, a situation, a task, and I accept it because He gave it to me. Then I love it because it is God's will. Then I love it for itself. Then I start to focus on it and forget the One Who gave it to me. The next thing I know, it's gone because earthly things do go, and God is looking at me and asking, "Why are you so distressed? You didn't lose Me, the one thing you said was most important to you."

And that's when I have to learn that nothing is of any value apart from Him. I guess only adversity can teach me that.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

On first looking into Chapman's Homer

by John Keats

Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

* * *

This Petrarchan sonnet shows how important the task of the translator can be. There are so many "realms of gold" quite untravellable to the English speaker without a translation. Furthermore, the translation has to be a good one, like Chapman's seems to have been: "loud and bold." The good translator transmits the tone of the original and not just the facts, so that the reader does not simply know the story, but actually travels in the realm of the story.

The pictures is of a "realm of gold" I travelled: Ravenna. I had expected a few more echoes of its Byzantine past than I found. Unfortunately, you have to pay to get to see any of the mosaics -- nearly all the churches with Byzantine art cost to get in, and I was too cheap to try it. But there was plenty of gold in the gingko trees, which God never asked payment for.

I also saw Dante's tomb. (Blogger refuses to upload the pictures. I will just have to post them later. Sorry.)

Dante died in Ravenna, exiled from Florence. Once he was dead the Florentines wanted his body, but Ravenna refused, on the reasonable grounds that they hadn't wanted him living, so they certainly weren't going to get the glory from him dead. The fight over his body lasted centuries. Finally the Florentines got the Pope on their side. He ordered Ravenna to surrender the body. Reluctantly, the Ravennese opened the sarcophagus, only to find that Dante wasn't inside! A Ravenna patriot had stolen and hidden the poet's remains. They were finally returned in the 19th century, and have stayed in Ravenna ever since.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


I've finally had time to browse a bit through the blogsphere. A while ago Meredith wrote a post on triolets which everyone who enjoyed the triolet contest should read. Apparently many people wrote triolets besides Chesterton, I just never came across them myself.

Also, she linked to a fascinating site written in the persona of Chaucer, which, although sometimes quite inappropriate (as Chaucer was in life), is quite funny-bone tickling with its use of Middle English. The review of the recent movie Serpentes on a Shippe made me laugh enough for my mother to hear upstairs.

I'm working on some more posts, but I have to sort through an awful lot of pictures. It seemed at the time that I'd taken a lot, but now I see that a lot of them would only be interesting to me. But don't worry, I'll get some up, and maybe some poems soon too.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Prayers needed

I need to ask all my friends on the blogsphere to pray for a quick intention. Tomorrow we are all supposed to be coming back from Rome. Today my friend had her wallet stolen on a crowded bus, and her passport was in it. The embassy can replace it, but not today, which means she'll have to get her flight changed. That might be difficult to do, because one can't always get an international flight in a hurry. So far things have been difficult. So pray that she gets home safe, sometime soon!

Thank you all, and wish us all a safe trip. Once I'm home I'll get to some serious picture posting.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Pope and I

For all who wanted pictures of what I'm doing . . . here's what I'm doing. Chris's hand is in the way, but that's me anyway! I love B16.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Pictures of me

In response to popular request:

Me by Rocca Maggiore in Assisi.

La Bocca della Verità, the Mouth of Truth. You stick your hand in, and if you have an insincere heart the mouth bites it off. I still have two hands!

Me at the Benedictine monastery in Subiaco. Matt is in the background.

Me with Coriel and Charlemagne in Subiaco. John was there too, but he was holding the camera.

There: happy? That's all I have, for the present.

So long then: I'm going to Ireland this weekend!

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Best Artist

My trip through Assisi, Siena, and Florence convinced me of one thing, if nothing else: while man's art is good, no one can outdo God. So, a lot of nature pictures for you.

Sunset over the Arno, in Florence.

View from Assisi.

Views from La Rocca, the fortress above Assisi.

Church ceilings

Every time I enter a cathedral, I find myself just wandering around with my head tipped up, staring at the ceiling. These pictures, I think, excuse me.

Ceiling of St. Peter's

Ceiling of the Duomo (S. Maria di Fiori) in Florence

Ceiling of St. Mary Major

Ceiling of S. Prassede

Ceiling of S. Pudenziana

Talk about uplifting the soul to God.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Ciao amici

I meant to bring a whole lot of pictures here to the internet cafe, but left my flash drive back in the hotel. So I'm afraid you'll just have to wait longer yet. I know I've been dilatory lately. Mea culpa, and I firmly intend to blog against soon.

What I've been thinking about most lately is the paradox of this city. Simply put, it is hell: the Metro is a crowded jam of human life without honor or dignity, where gypsy children wander up and down, looking at you pitifully in the hope of a few euros. On the streets, beggars and street vendors vie for your attention, while pickpockets hope to avoid it as they relieve you of your valuables. People push past you without seeing your, or glare at you balefully. A beggar with maimed feet sits propped against the Vatican wall with a picture of the Sacred Heart. Someone speculated that he may have been maimed by his parents in order to help their begging when he was a child. Such things are done here.

Rising up in the midst of the dust, the dirt, the cigarette butts, the urine, the advertising, the loose papers on the street no one reads, is a white stone church. It's barely visible among the buildings around it. But the pillars and statues show years, decades of careful construction. Inside, it's an explosion of colour: white, black, red, blue, gold. Everything is marble, or polished wood. Under the altar is a famous saint you've read about in storybooks, with a Latin inscription above. All is quiet; the holiness is in the air. It is heaven.

Rome is its own Divine Comedy, showing you the best and the worst man can achieve in one. You pass from the streets to the churches and back again. You pass a communist riot to reach St. John Lateran. You read the fascist graffiti all the way to St. Peter's Square. The Romans do the same, passing through the dirty city to whisper their Padre Nostro before the altar of their favorite saint. You wonder if it affects them as it does you. You wonder how they can live in such a contradictory vale of tears.

Probably the same as you have always lived in yours. Rome is just like the rest of the world, after all -- only more so.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


All right, I have barely any time, but I thought I'd give my faithful readers a few pictures from bella Roma.

The SPQR manhole covers . . . I love 'em. It stands for Senatus Populusque Romanus, the old motto of the Roman empire. (The Roman Senate and People.)

A blurry St. Peter's, on the way back from our classroom.

Mama mia, I'd better go before this internet cafe charges me for another hour. I promise more pictures soon!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Nainie nilden

by me

Atanen amárien Endoressë,
ar sí avánies,
lá nanyë nútina sinomë.

A nildenyë! Cuilelya ná sinta
úmel polë márë as inye.
Sí vanwa nalyë inyello,
Umin ista yanna oantiel.

Alantiel ve lassë aldallo,
úmel mahta fairelya.
Lá sinten fairë ve sintelyes,
lá cennenyes ve cennelyes.

Túlel cuilenyanna
ve vinya elen menelenna,
ve Anar mornë taurenna.
Sí mornië enutúlië ar Endor ná sindë.

Lá hilyuvanyel, melda vendë,
lá hiruvanyel.
Rato ve alqua ramyuvan,
ciruvan linta ciryassë i háya falassenna.

Nai cenuvanyel
Andúnë pella, Arda pella,
aurë entassë yassë Eldar ar Atani
liruvar as i Ainur alcassë Ilúvataro.

"Lament for a Friend"

For a mortal I abode in Middle-earth,
and now she has gone,
I am not bound here.

O my friend! Your life is short,
You could not abide with me.
Now you are lost to me,
I do not know where you have gone.

You departed like a leaf from a tree,
you did not fight your death
I did not know death as you knew it,
I did not see it as you saw it.

You came into my life
like a new star into the sky,
like the Sun into a dark forest.
Now darkness has returned and Middle-earth is grey.

I will not follow you, dear maiden,
I will not find you.
Soon I will fly like a swan,
I will sail in a swift ship to the far shore.

May I see you
Beyond the West, beyond the world,
on that day in which Elves and Men
sing with the Ainur in the splendour of Ilúvatar.

* * *

Here's my other Quenya poem. (This and "Linde Noldova" are my only really decent ones.) This was inspired by the idea of Elves making friends with mortals, as they did sometimes. Legolas and Gimli are the probably most famous example, but I was more inspired by the story of Finrod and Andreth from Morgoth's Ring (a collection of previously unpublished work of Tolkien's). Finrod could not understand the idea of death. Andreth gives a very good explanation of it, and mentions some prophecies Men have had for the mending of their fate by Iluvatar Himself. There is a hope that at the end of time, Elves and Men will be reunited and both will dwell together with Iluvatar. (For non-Tolkienians, Iluvatar, "All-Father," is a name for God.)

I would encourage even those who don't understand Quenya (which is probably everyone) at least to try reading the original out loud. Tolkien put a lot of music into his creation of that language. In the movies, Sindarin is spoken pretty much exclusively, but Quenya is the more beautiful in my opinion. It is supposed to be "high" Elvish, kind of like Elven Latin. Is it any wonder it appeals to me?

I chose to post this today because soon I will take flight like a swan. That is to say, I'm taking a plane, and then another plane, and then another plane, and then another plane, and will be in Rome Thursday morning.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Linde Noldova

by me

Cenin i laurië lantala lassi
ar istan lassalantë tuluva
apa ya úvin cenë coirë.
Úvan marë oialë sinomë.

Enyalin Valimar ar i cálala Aldu
ar Varda yo henduva eleni nar nalta.
Mal Lórien yando ná vanima,
ar alassi Endorwa nar úvië.

Nanyë linyenwa, lá yéni ataníva;
i malinorni nar sindë hendunyassë
yétala oialë Númenna.
Yulmanya yeníva ná lusta.

Umin cenë i metta.
Tienya palya oialë.
Mana lúmessë ciryanya ciruva?
A mannë Atani! An firuvalyë.

Song of the Noldo

I see the golden falling leaves
and I know an autumn will come
after which I will not see the spring.
I shall not remain here forever.

I remember Valimar and the shining Trees
and Varda, of whose eyes the stars are a glittering reflection.
But Lórien also is fair,
and the joys of Middle-earth are abundant.

I am old, beyond years of Men;
the mallorn trees are grey in my eyes,
looking always Westward.
My cup of years is empty.

I do not see the end.
My path stretches forever.
When will my ship set sail?
O blessed Men! For you shall die.

* * *

All right, there it is: my first original poem to be posted on this blog. It was easier somehow to start with my Quenya poetry, with the idea that maybe you'll think it's only stilted because it's not my native language. Of course the framework as well as the language is taken from Tolkien.

It's not very original; it's basically what Galadriel's thoughts might have been around the time of The Lord of the Rings, or another Noldo in Middle-earth at the same time. I wanted to convey the ambivalence that might be felt by someone both eager to go and a little bit sorry to leave. Tolkien somehow manages to give you that sense so well every time we see Elves. They sometimes thought of death as a gift men had been given, instead of as a curse.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

i carry your heart with me

by E.E. Cummings

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

* * *

More Cummings. Sorry Chestertonian. And Meredith may copy-edit this too if she pleases. I got this anthology as a gift yesterday, and I'm finding lots of things I like by poets I don't often read or have never heard of. It's a good change to read something besides Hopkins and Tennyson and Chesterton every once in awhile, even if those are my favorites.

Whatever else might be said of Cummings, he did know how to write a good love poem. I especially like the endearments scattered around: "my dear," "my darling," "my sweet," "my true."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

if if have made,my lady,intricate

by E. E. Cummings

if i have made,my lady,intricate
imperfect various things chiefly which wrong
your eyes(frailer than most deep dreams are frail)
songs less firm than your body's whitest song
upon my mind -- if i have failed to snare
the glance too shy--if through my singing slips
the very skillful strangeness of your smile
the keen primeval silence of your hair

-- let the world say "his most wise music stole
nothing from death" --
                                               you only will create
(who are so perfectly alive)my shame:
lady through whose profound and fragile lips
the sweet small clumsy feet of April came

into the ragged meadow of my soul.

* * *

I came across this poem in an anthology the other day, and I've decided I don't detest everything Cummings ever wrote. (I capitalize him out of pure defiance. I deny that writing "E. E. Cummings" can be considered incorrect.)

Dr. Thursday might point out that this, like all good love poems, can be spoken to God. In honor of the day, I apply it to Mary -- "the lady through whose profound and fragile lips / the sweet small clumsy feet of April came / into the ragged meadow of my soul." She said "Fiat" and a new spring came to the earth.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Announcing the Winners . . .

Here goes: the winners of the 1st annual (biannual? centennial? millenial?) Triolet Contest!

*drum roll*

First Place: Furor with his trio of triolets

Second Place: Kevin O'Brien with "Have Mercy on Me, Lord, a Sinner"

Third Place: Dr. Thursday with "I Left My Verse Out in the Sun"

The Prizes:

Dr. Thursday gets 2 rosaries.

Kevin O'Brien gets 1 Mass.

Furor gets 2 Masses, prayers for his intentions at St. Peter's Basilica when I go there in less than a month, and a link on my sidebar. It's the blue ribbon.

Congratulations! And thanks to all who participated. Keep writing triolets -- because Chesterton wasn't the only one who can write them. Maybe some of you could try submitting your poems to Gilbert! I don't know if they'd print them, but they might, especially if they hold their own triolet contest. I really think they should.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Lend a dinen

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, translated by me into Sindarin

Lend a dínen, lend a dínen,
Sûl aearon Dûn;
Dínen, dínen, thuio na-dhîn,
Sûl aearon Dûn;
Bado or aearon hiriol
Tolo uin Ithil firiel,
Den thuio ad na nin
Ir tithen nîn, bain nîn, losta.

Losto mae, losto mae,
Adar telitha na le;
Vi rainc Naneth losto mae,
Adar telitha na le;
Adar telitha na laes hîn,
Cîr gelebrin pain e Dûn,
Di-Ithil gelebren:
Losto, tithen nîn, losto, bain nîn, losto.

Sweet and quiet, sweet and quiet,
Wind of (the) Sea of (the) West;
Quiet, quiet, breathe with silence,
Wind of (the) Sea of (the) West
Go over the flowing Sea
Come from the dying Moon,
Him blow again to me
When my little (one), my pretty (one), sleeps.

Sleep well, sleep well,
Father will come to thee;
In Mother's arms sleep well,
Father will come to thee;
Father will come to his child,
Silver ships all out of (the) West,
Under (the) silver Moon:
Sleep, my little (one), sleep, my fair (one), sleep.

* * *

All right, there's my translation. It was done with a little help by people on Council of Elrond, and it's still not as good as it might be. My translation wasn't exact, both because I was limited by my knowledge and because I wanted it to sound nice. The grammar's iffy, because there's only so much we know about Sindarin grammar. Tolkien never gave us a grammar text, just examples, so many things are a little bit speculative.

That said, it was a lot of fun to do. I like translations.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Sweet and Low

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Sweet and low, sweet and low,
Wind of the western sea,
Low, low, breathe and blow,
Wind of the western sea!
Over the rolling waters go,
Come from the dying moon, and blow,
Blow him again to me;
While my little one, while my pretty one, sleeps.

Sleep and rest, sleep and rest,
Father will come to thee soon;
Rest, rest, on mother’s breast,
Father will come to thee soon;
Father will come to his babe in the nest,
Silver sails all out of the west
Under the silver moon:
Sleep, my little one, sleep, my pretty one, sleep.

* * *

I sang this lulluby to my little sister, and managed to get her down for a nap. When "All the Pretty Little Horses" fails, it's time to go back to the old masters. I sing it to a tune which is half "Eidelweiss" and half my own ad-libbing, but the baby likes it.

I've always liked this poem, though. The images of the wind blowing from the dying moon, the rolling waters, and the silver sails all out of the west (very Tolkienesque) give a dreamlike tone. It makes me miss people who aren't with me.

(I translated this poem into Sindarin once. It fits, wouldn't you say?)

If anyone has any more votes for the triolets, submit them now, because I'll be announcing the winners in a day or two.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Other Triolets

In response to popular demand, here are the triolets that were not posted as finalists. You can see what a hard choice I had to narrow things down at all -- they're all so good.

* * *

"Swing Triolet"

Was Constantinople
Went all uncool:
From Byzantine jewel
To Mohammedan opal.
Was Constantinople.

(by Meredith)

"She Ponders An Unexpected Love"

I love you and not less because
You're not the one I thought I'd love
(What eyes see not, blind Cupid does.)
I love you and not less because
You were in love before I was,
You saw it coming like a dove.
I love you and not less because
You're not the one I thought I'd love.

(by Leah)

Oh, come, oh come, oh enneagram
And save us from His precious love
We pimp ourselves for Fraud and Sham
Oh, come, oh, come, oh enneagram
We sell our birthright for flim-flam
Who needs the Father, Son, and Dove?
Oh, come, oh come, oh enneagram
And save us from His precious love.

Let's chase from every single parish
Hell and sin and Holy Fear
Let's make our architecture barish.
Let's chase from every single parish
God almighty. Then let's cherish
Moods and feelings, vague, unclear -
Let's chase from every single parish
Hell and sin and Holy Fear.

If music be the food of love
Then this will make for indigestion
A pinch of pop, some dreck a dash of.
If music be the food of love,
Throw out the manna from above,
Get “Glory and Praise”, for without question,
If music be the food of love
Then this will make for indigestion.

(all by Kevin O.)

The poor and lonely Kraken
Lives more friendless than the moon.
No friends come by for snackin'...
The poor and lonely Kraken
(They'd keep him from attackin'
If they'd come to visit soon.)
The poor and lonely Kraken
Lives more friendless than the moon.

I'll try a triolet on cheese
(Brie or Cheddar, Stilton, Swiss)
Such flavors may repel or please
I'll try a triolet on cheese
Though crumbs are falling on the keys -
Another glass of wine, please, miss?
I'll try a triolet on cheese:
Brie or Cheddar, Stilton, Swiss...

The Latin on the keyboard coded
Still proclaims our debt to Rome.
The Q of quaestio eroded?
(The Latin on the keyboard coded)
And to Io is io devoted!
In ampersand e.t. phones home...
The Latin on the keyboard coded
Still proclaims our debt to Rome.

A shower long I long to take
As now I have begun to itch
Beneath the sun I had to bake
A shower long I long to take
The yard is whacked, I did not rake
(I'd pay some kids if I were rich)
A shower long I long to take
As now I have begun to itch.

(all by Dr. Thursday)

"The Buzzard"

The buzzard is a two-faced schnook
Who cannot either hunt or fight.
He hovers 'round his rocky nook;
The buzzard is a two-faced schnook.
He likes to eat, but not to cook,
And rushes in to take a bite.
The buzzard is a two-faced schnook
Who cannot either hunt or fight.

(by Charlemagne)

* * *

There were also a few submissions that were actually not triolets at all. I'm not sure what confusion gave rise to those -- I guess my instructions must have been unclear. I probably should have written the poets and said something, but I never managed to do that. Mea culpa. Anyway, I didn't include them here.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Triolet Contest Finalists

*drum roll please*

I had originally intended to post all the entries and let people vote. But I got 23 different poems, and it would be prohibitive to post them all, so I picked out finalists and everyone can vote on those. (Special congratulations to Dr. Thursday for seven triolets, and to Kevin O. [don't know if I may print your last name, so I won't] for five. All in one sitting, I suppose.) Anyway, I wanted to warn everyone that not every good poem could be posted. The competition was stiff, because so many people turned out and wrote some really good poems.

All right, here goes: the finalists!

* * *

I am a girl quite simple,
A wife at home with children young.
My daughter has a dimple.
I am a girl quite simple.
I do not wear a wimple,
God said instead, "Here, have three sons."
I am a girl quite simple,
A wife at home with children young.

(by Candlestring)

I asked for heaven for my dog,
I thought it not unreas'nable-
Although I would were he a frog.
I asked for heaven for my dog,
Who never fell in sinful bog,
With sort-of-soul all loveable.
I asked for heaven for my dog,
I thought it not unreas'nable.

(by Leah)

As I was looking for a Church
That was not made of sinful men
Where false believers did not perch -
As I was looking for a Church
I realized, amidst my search,
That there I'd find myself again,
As I was looking for a Church
That was not made of sinful men.

Have mercy on me, Lord, a sinner,
My Lenten vows I'm not observing.
I say this grace tonight at dinner,
“Have mercy on me, Lord, a sinner!"
I break my fast and grow no thinner
For I have had a second serving.
Have mercy on me, Lord, a sinner,
My Lenten vows I'm not observing.

(both by Kevin O.)

I will not write a triolet;
As poems go, they leave me dry.
Not for the Pope, or on a bet,
I will not write a triolet.
And so with some profound regret,
I must your fervent hopes deny:
I will not write a triolet;
As poems go, they leave me dry.

"You'd better write a triolet,
Or else, at least, consent to try.
You find it dry? Then make it wet!
You'd better write a triolet
To satisfy the girl you met
Else she descend in tears and cry.
You'd better write a triolet,
Or else, at least, consent to try."

Alright, I'll write a triolet;
I'll do the thing, don't ask me why;
For the girl on the Internet,
Alright, I'll write a triolet.
In fact, I'll write a tree-part set
To show I'm a determined guy;
Alright, I'll write a triolet;
I'll do the thing, don't ask me why.

(I'm counting these three as one since it's a set, by Furor)

It's called Subsidiarity,
It was invented by a Pope.
It is the only way to be,
It's called Subsidiarity,
With it our spots played on TV:
It will do something more, I hope...
It's called Subsidiarity,
It was invented by a Pope.

I left my verse out in the sun
This triolet is all that's left.
In fading rhymes my lines did run
I left my verse out in the sun
Like cheese too near to Chesterton
My treasure (ah) reduced by theft...
I left my verse out in the sun
This triolet is all that's left.

At ChesterCon I met some friends:
A foretaste of eternity.
A wedding which the wine portends
At ChesterCon I met some friends,
There in the Inn that never ends,
God grant that there we all may be!
At ChesterCon I met some friends:
A foretaste of eternity.

(all three by Dr. Thursday)

* * *

Here's how we'll vote. One vote each seemed a little rough with so many contestants. So, each person may vote for one person for first place, one for second, and one for third. Your vote will go like this in my comment box:

First place - "Have mercy on me, Lord, a sinner"
Second place - Furor's triolet threesome
Third place - "At ChesterCon I met some friends"

Or whatever your taste may be. (My votes are just an example: I don't mean I'd actually vote that way.) But please do call the poems by a title I will be able to understand. First lines are good. Also, everyone vote once for each place (first, second, and third). I'm allowing anonymous comments, in case you don't want people to know you're voting for yourself, but it's on the honor system -- you may still only vote once.

Oh, and by the way, sorry it took so long. I had two very long work days Thursday and Friday.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Little Boy Blue

by Eugene Field

The little toy dog is covered with dust,
      But sturdy and stanch he stands;
And the little toy soldier is red with rust,
      And his musket moulds in his hands.
Time was when the little toy dog was new,
      And the soldier was passing fair;
And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue
      Kissed them and put them there.

"Now, don't you go till I come," he said,
      "And don't you make any noise!"
So, toddling off to his trundle-bed,
      He dreamt of the pretty toys;
And, as he was dreaming, an angel song
      Awakened our Little Boy Blue---
Oh! the years are many, the years are long,
      But the little toy friends are true!

Ay, faithful to Little Boy Blue they stand,
      Each in the same old place---
Awaiting the touch of a little hand,
      The smile of a little face;
And they wonder, as waiting the long years through
      In the dust of that little chair,
What has become of our Little Boy Blue,
      Since he kissed them and put them there.

* * *

This is the first poem I ever learned by heart, at four years old. I still have a tape of me reciting it in a little lisping voice.

But the reason I post it today is in honor of Joshua, the 4-year-old son of a family I know. He died recently in a car accident. Please pray for his family.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

On second thought...

I'm sure it's bad form to do this after the deadline has already passed . . . but I think I'm going to extend the contest by another week. A couple people I was really hoping would write, and who I knew wanted to participate, still haven't done so (ahem, ahem, Dr. Thursday, Nancy Brown). And at least one person needs a second chance to write the triolet they really meant to. So I'm putting the deadline off to next Wednesday, which should be the nineteenth. I hope that doesn't disappoint anyone who's been waiting eagerly for the results.

Friday, July 07, 2006


Two things:

1. Sorry about the scanty posting lately. It's going to get worse before it gets better. I'm currently between jobs -- that is, my time is being divided between two jobs. I had to start the new one before I was quite finished with the old one, so that when I'm done working 12-hour days for one lady, I go work 7-hour days (or so -- tomorrow will probably be more) for another lady. And I'm having few ideas, because the one thing I really want to write about right now needs a lot more development, which means time I don't have. All shall be well in a couple of weeks.

2. It occurs to me that some of you will never write a triolet unless you're given a deadline. I've gotten a good number of submissions, but I want to give everyone a chance to try, even procrastinators. So: July 12th. It is quite arbitrary. But my dad always says he has to be in the right mood before he can write anything -- last minute panic! So, maybe that will help.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Kraken

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Below the thunders of the upper deep,
Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides; above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous and secret cell
Unnumbered and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant fins the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages, and will lie
Battening upon huge sea-worms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.

* * *

Furor likes this one, so maybe he could explain it better than I. It seems like a sonnet, but its rhyme scheme is unusual, as though Tennyson couldn't quite decide whether to make it Shakespearean or Petrarchan. It has a very deep (no pun intended) tone, like Ulmo's trumpets, if you've read The Silmarillion. The deep secret places of the sea are, scientists and poets tell us alike, more of a mystery than the surface of the moon.

It also reminds me of Lepanto:

They rise in green robes roaring from the green hells of the sea
Where fallen skies and evil hues and eyeless creatures be,
On them the sea-valves cluster and the grey sea-forests curl,
Splashed with a splendid sickness, the sickness of the pearl.

And the reference to the end of the world, when all these things shall be laid bare, puts a perfect closure on the poem, too.

Monday, June 26, 2006


by G. K. Chesterton

"A Comforting Reflection"

You might not be in love with me
If I were better than I am.
I might have ten arms like a tree
(You might not be in love with me)
And have all colours like the sea.
Have wings, or horns just like a ram
You might not be in love with me
If I were better than I am.

"My Experiment in Greek Philosophy Recounted"

When I tried to know myself
I discovered I was gone.
Loves and toils and books on shelf
When I tried to know myself
Hats and sticks and wood and delf
Were no longer I and one.
When I tried to know myself
I discovered I was gone.

"Thoughts on the Offer of Being a Fish"

If I were a fish I should
Miss occasional luxury
Such as climbing in the wood
(If I were a fish I should)
Church-going is also good
Mostly I should miss the sea
If I were a fish I should
Miss occasional luxury.

* * *

From these samples we discover some basic facts about the triolet. A triolet rhymes abaaabab, with 8 short lines. The ones I read are in iambic tetrameter. The first line is repeated in the 4th and 7th lines, and the second line is repeated as the last line. It's better if these repetitions fit well into the poem, but often they're parenthetical. A triolet really should be funny, in my opinion, and it's a bonus if it's deep too.

I don't know where the triolet originally comes from, and the rules I just made up for it are based solely on Chesterton, the only writer of triolets I've heard of. I think that's a real shame, and therefore I came up with the idea of having a triolet contest. It's inspired by my participation in the clerihew contest at the Chesterton conference a week and a half ago.

[The clerihew is a form of poetry invented by a friend of Chesterton's (Edmund Clerihew Bentley) with a strict format. An example is this:

When the judges asked Bacon
How many bribes he had taken
He at least had the grace
To get very red in the face.

My clerihews didn't win anything, so far as I know. I had to go home before the awards were given, and I haven't heard anything about them.]

Anyway, here's the plan: each person can write as many triolets as he wants, following the rules above to the best of his ability. You can email them to me at the address on my sidebar, or leave them in my comment box. Please leave some name attached to the poem, for me to attach your laurels to, if you win any. I will judge the poems on their faithfulness to the form and humor. Depth, where applicable, is a bonus.

I'll post my favourites. I may have a vote to decide who wins the all-around Best Triolet award. There may even be a prize, if I can think of one that I can give you without getting up from the computer. At the very least, a small spiritual bouquet will be in order.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

In the Valley of Cauteretz

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

All along the valley, stream that flashest white,
Deepening thy voice with the deepening of the night,
All along the valley, where thy waters flow,
I walked with one I loved two and thirty years ago.
All along the valley while I walked to-day,
The two and thirty years were a mist that rolls away;
For all along the valley, down thy rocky bed,
Thy living voice to me was as the voice of the dead,
And all along the valley, by rock and cave and tree,
The voice of the dead was a living voice to me.

* * *

This is a rather random poem, having nothing to do with anything I've said recently, nor with the new series I'm going to start once I've thought a little more about it. (I'll give you a hint: it's religious and rather obscure. No more politics for me, not for a good long while!)

But this poem was going through my head because I was thinking how time can seem "a mist that rolls away" when we find ourselves in familiar circumstances. Every time I come home from college, it seems I've never left. And every time I return, it seems I was only gone a very short time. I hardly ever feel that I've changed, or that any time has passed. Talking to the same old people makes everything feel as it used to -- a comforting feeling.

I wouldn't think that feeling would remain even after a friend had died. But apparently it did, at least for Tennyson.

Speaking of dying, pray for a Christendom friend of mine whose father died two days ago. Requiescat in pace.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Invisible

by G. K. Chesterton

God knows I would not blame you, dear,
    I do not know what thing am I
How hard a burden on your back,
    How stale an eyesore to your eye.

I never knew myself at all,
    I trod the mystic woods, but ne'er
Came to the mystic well or saw
    What monster might be mirrored there.

I saw all faces save my own--
    How should I see it now, who rise,
Stand between Heaven and Earth and Hell
    And only see the brave blue eyes.

* * *

I just can't seem to stop posting Chesterton. I guess it's partly because I'm excited for the conference starting Thursday. Also, Chesterton is addictive.

This poem is dated in the mid 1890's, before his marriage with Frances, I assume.

"I would not blame you" I think means, "I would not blame you if you did not love me." Chesterton demonstrates an incredible humility in this poem. This humility is far beyond that of the man who says, "I am a wretch, I am the worst creature that ever lived." Instead, he admits that he does not even know if he is a wretch or not. Why? Simply because he has never looked at himself. He is looking at her instead.

This kind of humility was a habit with Chesterton. In his autobiography, he spends a great deal of time describing all the people he has known in his life. He talks about his father, about Belloc, about famous people he has met, so that he seems almost to forget that he is supposed to be writing about himself.

And that, I have always thought, is the real humility -- to forget oneself. As long as a man looks at himself, even if he criticises himself, he leaves himself open to pride. A little self-examination is healthy, of course, but a focus on oneself can easily destroy humility and love for others. Better far Chesterton's ignorance, to see all faces but his own.

Friday, June 09, 2006

There Is a Heart

by G. K. Chesterton

There is a heart within a distant town
Who loves me more than treasure or renown
Think you it strange and wear it as a crown.

Is not the marvel here; that since the kiss
And dizzy glories of that blinding bliss
One grief has ever touched me after this.

* * *

I meant to blog this on Wednesday. I was going to make it up to Chesterton for not celebrating his birthday by celebrating him on my own birthday. But my birthday was too busy, and yesterday Blogger didn't feel like cooperating. So here is a nice little love poem of his. He wrote this for Frances before he met her.

I think, looking back at his life, Chesterton would have considered winning Frances's heart the greatest achievement of his life. He was a success at so many things, but that was the one thing he seemed to care about the most.

Happy belated birthday, G.K.C!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Who Goes Home?

by G.K. Chesterton

In the city set upon slime and loam
They cry in their parliament 'Who goes home?'
And there comes no answer in arch or dome,
For none in the city of graves goes home.
Yet these shall perish and undersand,
For God has pity on this great land.

Men that are men again; who goes home?
Tocsin and trumpter! Who goes home?
For there's blood on the field and blood on the foam
And blood on the body when Man goes home.
And a voice valedictory. . . . Who is for Victory?
Who is for Liberty? Who goes home?

* * *

I didn't really understand this poem when I first saw it in The Flying Inn. I don't understand all of it yet. But I thought it would make a good end to this series of political poems I've been posting. Tomorrow, I think I'll post a romance lyric or something.

All of Chesterton's theories and ideas led back to the home. His theories on economics, on politics, and women, all aimed toward protecting the home and the family.

The family happens to be my center too, even at this point in my life where I don't have a family of my own. I'm naturally domestic, and when I'm political, I'm political to defend the family. There is no point in the state, so far as I see it, apart from the family.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Nursery Rhymes No. 1: Property

by G.K. Chesterton

Little Bo-Peep has lost her Sheep
But hopes that mutton will soon be cheap
When so many cooks are nothing loth
For the task of spoiling the mutton-broth.
And the lords of the Meat Trust, she has been told,
Have cornered mutton and "got it cold"
Through experts, each guaranteed as fit
For the duty of making a hash of it,
In mutton cutlets and mutton pies
She endeavours in vain to recognise
The face of a single personal pet . . .
. . . But Woolen Goods Will Be Cheaper Yet
In shirts and shapes of every size
For pulling the wool over mortal eyes;
And Bradford mills are a lovely sight
Rows and rows of them, brisk and bright . . .
. . . But somehow or other they never recall
The days she walked on the mountain wall
Where the Shepherd Kings of an elder sky
Hoary as hills on the hills trailed by
And something went with her march along
Of David's valour and Virgil's song
When her voice was a clarion calling a clan
And her crook was a sceptre, the sceptre of man,
To gather her flock where the eagles fly
Or lay down her life when the wolf went by.

Little Bo-Peep is paid in full
Stuffed with mutton and choked in wool
But little Bo-Peep has lost her Sheep
And cannot do anything else but weep.

* * *

This poem brings us down to the root of the conflict between distributism and the capitalist/socialist theories. (John wrote about this on This Red Rock, and I'm assuming that you've already read that.) The distributists will not deal in numbers -- a fact that frustrates economists raised on mathematics -- simply because they think there are things more important that cannot be measured in numbers.

Certainly capitalism produces more than other economic systems. There is plenty of wool and mutton to go around without the small shepherd. But something is lost when the small shepherd is exchanged for a conglomerate. "Merely poetry and sentiment," perhaps the capitalists will scoff, and go back to their numbers. "One of the perfections of human nature," would say a distributist philosopher.

Man is not made to be a cog or a number. He is a man, and he is made to be free. The Church has always taught that private property is a good for man. Capitalism allows private property, but does not make it easy to get or maintain. There must be a system in which it may be encouraged, so that it is easier for a single man to own a single farm or business than it is for a group of millionaires to own vast tracts of land, enormous factories, or chains of stores.

It is not important to me whether the system that will allow this is exactly what was planned by the distributists of the early twentieth century, or whether in our circumstances other means must be found. But it is important that man is given the opportunity to possess property of his own, hindered neither by an over-powerful government, nor by over-powerful businessmen.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Sociological Triolets

by G.K. Chesterton

(Written on first looking into Mr. Bellamy's "Looking Backwards"; or "Much have I travelled in these Realms of Gold")


The Collectivist State
Is a prig and a bandit.
I despise and I hate
The Collectivist State;
It may be My Fate,
But I'm damned if I'll stand it!
The Collectivist State
Is a prig and a bandit.


The Capitalist State
Is a garden of roses;
It's been proved in debate
--The Capitalist State--
But, strange to relate,
We are holding our noses,
The Capitalist State
Is a Garden of Roses.


The Communist State
Is all mixed up together.
Where we participate
--The Communist State--
There can be no hate--
(But we all hate the weather)
The Communist State
Is all mixed up together.


The Syndical State
Raises awful emotion
In the Wise and the Great,
"The Syndical State".
What the words indicate
They haven't a notion.
The Syndical State
Raises awful emotion.


The Anarchis.t State
Is a flat contradiction.
So let Tolstoy narrate
The Anarchis.t State--
His powers, which were great,
Were more suited to fiction;
The Anarchis.t State
Is a flat contradiction.


The Servile (ow!) State
Is like this, only worse,
Degradation's its fate--
The Servile (oo!) State
It's debased, desecrate
--And it don't care a curse--
The Servile (ugh!) State
Is like this, only worse.


The Distributive State
You'd like if you'd met it
But you buy at a hard rate
The Distributive State.
It means Early and Late
--And don't you forget it--
The Distributive State
You'd like if you'd met it.

* * *

If anyone didn't know what a triolet is, here are seven good examples. My personal favourite, though (also by Chesterton) is,

I wish I were a jelly fish
That cannot fall downstairs:
Of all the things I wish to wish
I wish I were a jelly fish
That hasn't any cares,
And doesn't even have to wish
"I wish I were a jelly fish
That cannot fall downstairs."

I happened to mention in the last post that I happen to like the idea of "The Distributive State." I didn't expect such an outcry. I almost changed my mind about posting these triolets, because I didn't invent my blog as a place for political debate (politics just isn't my forte, and economics is only a new interest), but as I had already planned to post them, I went ahead and did. Besides, I am not afraid to answer anyone who has an objection to anything I say here.

Two provisos, however. One, I am a newcomer to distributism. All the distributist literature I have read is An Essay on the Restoration of Property and a mention or two in Chesterton. So if you want someone who knows all there is on the subject, you should probably go debate with someone else. Dr. Thursday might know.

Two, if you want to say something, be nice. And speak to the subject at hand. There is no need to belittle anyone or bring up irrelevant details. If your ideas really work, they should speak for themselves.

Thanks everyone, and happy poetry reading!

P.S. I just realised I missed Uncle Gilbert's birthday two days ago! Something belated shall be posted soon in honour of the (past) event.

P.P.S. Excuse the periods in the middle of the word "anar.chist". I just discovered that my computer was taking it out. My computer is insane: "damned" and "hell" are perfectly all right, but "gi.rl," "," "godd.ess," and now "anar.chist" are verboten. Since it is not actually my own computer, I can't fix it, so I must work around it. Your pardon, gentles all.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Mr. Ford

by G.K. Chesterton

Though Mr. Ford can quite afford
To sell his motors cheap
I can't afford a Mr. Ford
He costs too much to keep,
He will not play with wooden toys
They must be made of steel,
I never knew him bowl a hoop
Unless it was a wheel.

Suppose the masses profit by
The Mass-production plan
I do not want to be a mass
I thought I was a man.
I can't afford a millionaire
However pure and new
I keep a wife, and I keep a house
I keep a temper too.

Though Mr. Ford can quite afford
To pay his workmen well
I can't afford a Mr. Ford
The price would be a sell,
I'd have to pawn the village pub
And scrap the village forcge
And let the Peace Ship standardise
The standard of St. George.

I can't afford a Mr. Ford
My plot of peas and beans
Won't grow sufficient greenbacks
But just sufficient greens;
Nor would I lose it all to toil
In servitude and strain
Till I had made a plutocrat
To pay me back again.

* * *

This poem, in case you missed it, is about distributism. This is Chesterton's economic system of choice (although he did not invent it). I don't know as much about it as I would like, so I've been reading Belloc's pamphlet "An Essay on the Restoration of Property." So far I like it.

When Chesterton says he cannot "afford" Mr. Ford, he means that the cost of mass production, monopoly, and unbridled capitalism includes some of the things he is not willing to go without: the village pub, the village forge, his house and garden. He is afraid he will no longer be thought of as an individual: "I do not want to be a mass / I thought I was a man."

I don't want to be a mass either. So far distributism sounds pretty good to me. But hopefully I'll find out more at the Chesterton Convention in three weeks.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Kingdom of God

by Francis Thompson

O World invisible, we view thee,
O world intangible, we touch thee,
O world unknowable, we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!

Does the fish soar to find the ocean,
The eagle plunge to find the air—
That we ask of the stars in motion
If they have rumour of thee there?

Not where the wheeling systems darken,
And our benumbed conceiving soars!—
The drift of pinions, would we hearken,
Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors.

The angels keep their ancient places;—
Turn but a stone, and start a wing!
'Tis ye, 'tis your estrangèd faces,
That miss the many-splendoured thing.

But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry;—and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob’s ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.

Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,
Cry,—clinging Heaven by the hems;
And lo, Christ walking on the water
Not of Gennesareth, but Thames!

* * *

Francis Thompson was a religious poet with a very tumultuous life. He spent time as a drug addict as well as a mystic.

I posted this poem in honour of the Feast of the Ascension. Christ ascended, but He did not depart. (By this I do not support the odd idea I heard once that Christ's glorified body is still on earth! In case anyone was wondering.) He "will be with us always, until the close of the age." Most people expect to find God in extraordinary things. How often He is found in the ordinary instead! St. Thérèse found Him there.

There is not much chance of my seeing anything extraordinary this summer. But there will be plenty of opportunities for me to find ordinary holiness through my work at home.

Speaking of which, I should go exercise some ordinary holiness and go help my mom.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


by G.K. Chesterton

God made thee mightily, my love,
He stretched His hands out of His rest
And lit the star of east and west,
Brooding o'er darkness like a dove
God made thee mightily, my love.

God made thee patiently, my sweet,
Out of all stars He chose a star,
He made it red with sunset bar
And green with greeting for thy feet.
God made thee mightily, my sweet.

* * *

Another of Chesterton's love poems for Frances. It's a beautiful thought, that all of creation was leading up to Frances, that the green of the world was only made to greet her feet.

*sentimental sigh*

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Afternoon on a Hill

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I will be the gladdest thing
    Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
    And not pick one.

I will look at cliffs and clouds
    With quiet eyes,
Watch the wind bow down the grass,
    And the grass rise.

And when lights begin to show
    Up from the town,
I will mark which must be mine,
    And then start down!

* * *

I found this in my little brother's poetry book. It pretty much describes how I'd spend a free afternoon, if I ever had one.

(Yes, that is my Blogger Excuse, though veiled: I don't blog because I have no free time. Although I guess my better reason is that I don't have enough internet time. At home the computer ties up the phone line.)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Youth and Love, I

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Once only by the garden gate
Our lips we joined and parted.
I must fulfil an empty fate
And travel the uncharted.

Hail and farewell! I must arise,
Leave here the fatted cattle,
And paint on foreign lands and skies
My Odyssey of battle.

The untented Kosmos my abode,
I pass, a wilful stranger:
My mistress still the open road
And the bright eyes of danger.

Come ill or well, the cross, the crown,
The rainbow or the thunder,
I fling my soul and body down
For God to plough them under.

* * *

The semester is over now. For good or ill, I have finished my last exam and will be flying out of here on Sunday. I expect the summer to be an adventure, hence the poem. It's nice and classical, too.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

May Magnificat

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

May is Mary’s month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why:
        Her feasts follow reason,
        Dated due to season—

Candlemas, Lady Day;
But the Lady Month, May,
        Why fasten that upon her,
        With a feasting in her honour?

Is it only its being brighter
Than the most are must delight her?
        Is it opportunest
        And flowers finds soonest?

Ask of her, the mighty mother:
Her reply puts this other
        Question: What is Spring?—
        Growth in every thing—

Flesh and fleece, fur and feather,
Grass and greenworld all together;
        Star-eyed strawberry-breasted
        Throstle above her nested

Cluster of bugle blue eggs thin
Forms and warms the life within;
        And bird and blossom swell
        In sod or sheath or shell.

All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathising
        With that world of good,
        Nature’s motherhood.

Their magnifying of each its kind
With delight calls to mind
        How she did in her stored
        Magnify the Lord.

Well but there was more than this:
Spring’s universal bliss
        Much, had much to say
        To offering Mary May.

When drop-of-blood-and-foam-dapple
Bloom lights the orchard-apple
        And thicket and thorp are merry
        With silver-surfèd cherry

And azuring-over greybell makes
Wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes
        And magic cuckoocall
        Caps, clears, and clinches all—

This ecstasy all through mothering earth
Tells Mary her mirth till Christ’s birth
        To remember and exultation
        In God who was her salvation.

* * *

For the first Saturday of May, here is a bit of Hopkins. I had to memorize this poem for Mother's Day at school in tenth grade. I never performed it. But in the one afternoon I had to learn it, I discovered that if you say it really fast, especially with a certain rhythm, you sound like a rapper.

Anyway, it's typical Hopkins: exhiliarated love of nature, down to the little details like tiny birds' eggs and the colour of apple blossoms, coupled with the religious ideas that he knew were not separate from the beauty of nature.

The thesis is quite simple: Mary has the month of May as her own month because it is a time of growth and birth, symbolising her motherhood, and because it is joyful, as with the joy with which Mary rejoiced in God her Saviour.

I'm beginning to get back into Hopkins after a bit of a break from him. This morning I went back to practising "The Wreck of the Deutschland." I have been trying to learn that poem, off and on, since I first read it in the tenth grade, and I nearly have it now. It's just the order of a few stanzas that I get mixed up. Once I get all 280 lines of it pat, then my quest will begin for one single person who will want to hear it. It is probably my favourite poem of all time, alongside "The Seafarer" and few others, but it's difficult enough that hardly anyone wants to hear it. I think I will post on it, in another multipart series, someday, because after you've read it a few times and have heard the ringing beauty of the lines and understand a tiny bit of the mystical meaning, you can't help but love it. Hopkins is like that.

A little random note: I have heard the tradition that the first Saturday of May is the perfect time to ask any favour you like of Mary. She will go to any effort to obtain it for you. I have tried this before, and have never gone unanswered. In fact, I credit Mary's intercession on the first Saturday of May five years ago for the birth of my first younger sibling. I suggest you try asking her something today.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Chesterblogg

GKC's Favourite

All right, in the interests of doing something new and different . . .

Just kidding. I wouldn't do something for that reason alone. I'm posting this link to this very good Chestertonian blog for a few good reasons:

1. He posts Chesterton poetry (and other good Chestertonian stuff).

2. He reads some of the same blogs I do, which shows he has good taste.

3. He has put me down on his side bar as a niece of "Aunt Frances." This makes me feel very special. But I actually do have a great-great-Auntie Francie (still living), and have for some time, and so I suppose I ought to have always felt special.

4. He is the only person I have found on the blogosphere who has actually made use of the clever pun available on Frances Chesterton's maiden name (which was Blogg).

All of these are reasons why you should go there and check it out.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Easter 1916

by William Butler Yeats

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman's days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our winged horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road.
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute by minute they live:
The stone's in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven's part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse -
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

* * *

I admit that I don't really understand this. I'm posting it by Eamonn's request. I think it has something to do with the Easter Uprising, but I know so little of the history that this poem is a bit beyond me. Perhaps he could explain it to me? Hm? [Ed. He has done it (and did a really good job, too), and it can be found here.]

The one thing I have to say is that "All is changed, changed utterly: / A terrible beauty is born" is a lovely line. Not sure what it means, but it's lovely.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Hear the Voice of the Bard

by William Blake

Hear the voice of the Bard!
Who present, past, and future sees;
Whose ears have heard
The Holy Word,
That walked among the ancient trees,

Calling the lapsed soul,
And weeping in the evening dew;
That might control
The starry pole,
And fallen, fallen, light renew!

"O Earth, O Earth, return!
Arise from out the dewy grass;
Night is worn,
And the morn
Rises from the slumberous mass.

"Turn away no more;
Why wilt thou turn away?
The starry floor,
The watery shore,
Is given thee till the break of day."

* * *

Ah, an easy-to-understand non-modern poem! This is the introduction to Songs of Experience, Blake's second set of poems.

It promotes the idea of the poet as a kind of prophet, listening to the Word (there it is again!) and announcing it to the world, calling the world to conversion.

This could also, in a sense, be my theme song, since the online name I often use is "the bard." (And some other things. Mustn't give everything away.)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Ash-Wednesday VI

by T.S. Eliot

Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn

Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings

And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover
And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth

This is the time of tension between dying and birth
The place of solitude where three dreams cross
Between blue rocks
But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away
Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.

* * *

Finally, in Easter week, I finally finish this series. I'm afraid it has been a little beyond me. I haven't understood all that much of the poem. But hopefully it was enough to get some of you to read it and think about it.

The last section begins like the first, with a notable difference: it is no longer "Because I do not wish" but "Although I do not wish." No longer is he following his desire not to turn again; he moves against it now.

He is still wavering. He knows what he ought to do but he is stuck, with dreams calling him on each side. There are good dreams and bad dreams, and even beautiful distracting dreams drawing him from beautiful holy dreams. He asks pardon; although he has the wrong wishes, he does not wish to wish them. This seems paradoxical, but I at least have experienced this feeling. "Unbroken wings" provides a note of hope: he realizes he may fly, that it is possible.

He awakes, he comes to life; although he is weak he is alive enough to fight. The images of birds are lovely, although I am not certain what they signify: perhaps the speaker's hopes to fly. After the emptying he has experienced through asceticism, his senses become attuned to the sight and smell of spiritual things. (I guess -- this is wild conjecture on my part.)

This is the moment of decision, the moment where he has to decide whether to die or to be reborn. I'm not sure what the three dreams are. I talked about the yew tree earlier, with the idea that these are the prayers of the nun who has won some kind of immortality. She is "speaking the Word." The speaker hopes that he will be able to reply, to speak the Word also.

The sister we have seen already. I believe the "mother" is Mary and the "spirit" is God, particularly the Holy Ghost. The speaker realizes his chasing after other things has been a mockery, and asks to be saved from it. As before, he asks "to care and not to care . . . to sit still," that is, to care about what should be cared about and not what shouldn't, to be able to find peace in caring about the appropriate things.

"Even among these rocks" -- I admit I still don't know what the rocks are. I'm quite sure they're important. They may symbolize suffering. "Our peace in His will" -- the poem is definitely one of a person of faith now; the speaker has clearly chosen the side to come down on, even though he has trouble with it. The prayers ending this section are both quite simple, a plea to be able to remain in the faith he has found, and to find help. "Thee" is specifically singular ("you" might have meant sister, mother, and spirit, but "Thee" cannot) and capitalized; it has to refer to God.

Ash Wednesday I

Monday, April 17, 2006

Easter Wings

by George Herbert

Lord, Who createdst man in wealth and store,
        Though foolishly he lost the same,
                Decaying more and more,
                      Till he became
                          Most poor:
                          With Thee
                        O let me rise,
                As larks, harmoniously,
        And sing this day Thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.

My tender age in sorrow did begin;
        And still with sicknesses and shame
                Thou didst so punish sin,
                      That I became
                          Most thin.
                          With Thee
                      Let me combine,
                And feel this day Thy victory;
        For, if I imp my wing on Thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.

* * *

This struck me as a good poem to put up for Easter -- especially as I did "The Foggy Dew" last year. (Today, Easter Monday, happens to be the 90th anniversary of the Easter Uprising.) I modernized the spelling to put it up.

George Herbert was one of the Metaphysical poets, of which John Donne is probably the most famous.

This poem is about falling and rising: appropriate, then, the wing shape, which suggests birds swooping down and then up again. Affliction advances flight, as in Hopkins' "The Windhover." It's one of those mysteries of life that seems like a paradox until you experience it. Once you have, you realize that suffering teaches you, and allows you to reach heights an easy life would never have allowed you to find.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Ash-Wednesday V

by T.S. Eliot

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

        O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice

Will the veiled sister pray for
Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee,
Those who are torn on the horn between season and season, time and time, between
Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait
In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray
For children at the gate
Who will not go away and cannot pray:
Pray for those who chose and oppose

        O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Will the veiled sister between the slender
Yew trees pray for those who offend her
And are terrified and cannot surrender
And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks
In the last desert before the last blue rocks
The desert in the garden the garden in the desert
Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.

        O my people.

* * *

Here, near the end of the poem, it starts to come to a climax. We're not so much talking about the speaker now as about the whole world. (Perhaps that's what we've been talking about all along.) It's a perfect time to post it, too, as Lent comes to a climax. The lines from the Reproaches echo what we hear on Good Friday.

Here's the important part about the "word" I warned you about. It begins by mentioning that if no one speaks the word, the world will still remain. The rest is reminiscent of the beginning of the Gospel of John. The world is "unstilled," but whirl as it might, it still whirls with the Word as the centre. "The silent Word" is an immense paradox, but perfect.

The Word asks a just question: why, when He is the centre of all, do they reject Him? What has He done?

There is no room for the Word, not here. The world is not silent enough to hear it, even though it is the most crucial thing there is. "Those who walk in darkness" -- those in the state the speaker was at the beginning -- need to hear the Word, but they deny it.

The sister prays for these. The descriptions of those walking in darkness show the contradiction they are in. They feel the attraction of the garden, but they can't bring themselves to pray. Instead of what you would expect from frightened souls, who affirm among those of faith and deny before the world, those who walk in darkness are quite willing to attach themselves to the Faith before the eyes of others, but when it comes to the "rocks," which I think are some sort of suffering associated with the Faith, that is when they flee and deny it.

"The desert in the garden the garden in the desert" is rather deep. I think of the parallelism between Adam and Eve's temptation in the garden and Christ's temptation in the desert. Adam and Eve made a desert of a garden, and Christ made a garden of a desert. Thus the reference to the withered apple-seed, the dry dead effects of original sin.

Ash-Wednesday I

Ash-Wednesday VI