Sunday, February 26, 2006

As Kingfishers Catch Fire . . .

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.

Í say móre: the just man justices;
Kéeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

* * *

This sonnet of Hopkins is rather metaphysical. First he deals with creation: what is creation's goal, its end? Each creature is what it does (agitur sequitur esse): it fulfills its purpose and is nothing more.

Man, on the other hand, is more. He is the same as the creatures in that he also fulfills his purpose -- but when he fulfills his purpose, he is so much more than just a man. Since Christ became man, when man is what he ought to be, he is like Christ. This is pleasing to the Father far above anything a kingfisher or a dragonfly could ever do.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Carmen 5

by Gaius Valerius Catullus

Vivamus mea Lesbia, atque amemus,
rumoresque senum severiorum
omnes unius aestimemus assis!
soles occidere et redire possunt:
nobis cum semel occidit brevis lux,
nox est perpetua una dormienda.
da mi basia mille, deinde centum,
dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,
deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum.
dein, cum milia multa fecerimus,
conturbabimus illa, ne sciamus,
aut ne quis malus inuidere possit,
cum tantum sciat esse basiorum.

Let us live, my Lesbia, and love,
and the words of strict old men --
let us value them all at a penny.
Suns can set and return,
when once our brief light sets,
we must sleep an everlasting night.
Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred,
then another thousand, then a second hundred,
then, without stopping, another thousand, then a hundred.
Then, when we have made many thousands,
we shall mix them up, so that we don't know,
or so that no one wicked may envy,
when he finds out how many kisses there are!

* * *

In honour of St. Valentine's Day (which is, of course, best known as the feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius), I thought I'd post something silly and mushy. Why not?

The translation is my own. Meredith helped me a little.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A Ballad of Trees and the Master

by Sidney Lanier

Into the woods my Master went,
Clean forspent, forspent.
Into the woods my Master came,
Forspent with love and shame.
But the olives they were not blind to Him,
The little gray leaves were kind to Him:
The thorn-tree had a mind to Him
When into the woods He came.

Out of the woods my Master went,
And He was well content.
Out of the woods my Master came,
Content with death and shame.
When Death and Shame would woo Him last,
From under the trees they drew Him last:
'Twas on a tree they slew Him -- last
When out of the woods He came.

* * *

For those who couldn't get through "The Marshes of Glynn," here's a slightly easier introduction to Lanier. Once you've read this, maybe then you can go back and read Glynn. It's worth it, really.

This is a poem about the Agony in the Garden. Perhaps a little imaginative, but it is an interesting thought that Christ, in His humanity, may have been comforted by being among the trees the way we are.

This reminds me of a picture book from my childhood about the tree that became the Cross. The tree's name was Rex and he was very proud, but he learned to be humble through being made into a cross. I can't remember what the book was called.