Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gloria in Profundis

by G.K. Chesterton

There has fallen on earth for a token
A god too great for the sky.
He has burst out of all things and broken
The bounds of eternity:
Into time and the terminal land
He has strayed like a thief or a lover,
For the wine of the world brims over,
Its splendour is spilt on the sand.

Who is proud when the heavens are humble,
Who mounts if the mountains fall,
If the fixed stars topple and tumble
And a deluge of love drowns all-
Who rears up his head for a crown,
Who holds up his will for a warrant,
Who strives with the starry torrent,
When all that is good goes down?

For in dread of such falling and failing
The fallen angels fell
Inverted in insolence, scaling
The hanging mountain of hell:
But unmeasured of plummet and rod
Too deep for their sight to scan,
Outrushing the fall of man
Is the height of the fall of God.

Glory to God in the Lowest
The spout of the stars in spate-
Where thunderbolt thinks to be slowest
And the lightning fears to be late:
As men dive for sunken gem
Pursuing, we hunt and hound it,
The fallen star has found it
In the cavern of Bethlehem.

* * *

I was going to blog on this poem, and then I found that the Blog of the American Chesterton Society had done it already. So I'll just say a few words about it, and then let you go over there and see what they have to say.

I think the key to this topsy-turvey poem is the second stanza. The problem is, the second stanza is mostly composed of questions, and we tend to read poetry wanting answers. I think the answer to these rhetorical questions is something along the lines of "Nobody good!" If God, who is highest, now makes Himself lowest, who would exalt themselves? Well, the third stanza answers, "The bad angels." And not just them, either--bad people, too. If God has shown us what it is to be highest--falling down lowest--than all of our attempts to climb to the heights are resulting in the worst kind of fall: a fall where we imagine ourselves to be on a lofty mountain, which turns out to be Hell. Reminds me of Paradise Lost.

I think my favorite line is, "He has strayed like a thief or a lover." Both thieves and lovers might sneak around, but for different purposes. God has gone where He does not "belong," but out of love.

Okay, now you can go over and read the ACS blog. There are some good comments; I wrote one. But I forgot one, which is my thought as to what first gave Chesterton the idea of wine spilt on sand: simply that the colors look good together. Remember the last patriot in The Napoleon of Notting Hill, who took an advertisement for mustard and put some blood on it, because red and yellow were the colors of his country? Chesterton always loved the heraldry inherent in that kind of combination. Just a thought -- though I could be wrong, and I must say I do usually frown on the mind-reading of poets by their critics.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Nuptial Blessing

Let us pray. -- O God, who by Thy mighty power hast made all things out of nothing: and who, having established the first beginnings of the world, didst in the woman provide for the man, made after the likeness of God, a helpmate to be so inseparably bound to him, that Thou didst give to her body its beginning from his body--thus teaching us, that it should never be lawful to sever that which it had pleased Thee to form out of one substance: O God, who by so excellent a mystery consecrated the union between man and wife, as in this nuptial bond to prefigure the sacred union of Christ with His Church; O God, by whom woman is joined to man, and this primal partnership is enriched with a blessing, such as alone of blessings was not withdrawn either in the punishment of sin, or in the sentence of the Deluge: do Thou graciously look down upon this Thy handmaid, who, about to be joined in wedlock, seeketh the guarantee of Thy protection.

May this be to her a yoke of love and peace! May she, faithful and chaste, be wedded in Christ, and ever be an imitator of the holy women! May she please her husband, as did Rachel; be prudent, as was Rebecca; long-lived and faithful, like Sara! Let not the author of evil usurp the least share in any of her actions! May she live on, knit closely to the Faith and to the Commandments! Bound to one husband, may she fly all illicit connections! May she protect her weakness by the vigor of discipline! May she be sedate in her behavior, respected for her modesty, versed in heavenly doctrine! May she be fruitful in offspring: be approved and innocent: and to attain to the heavenly realms and to the rest of the Blessed! And may both she and her husband see their children's children, even to the third and fourth generations, and attain a happy old age! Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

* * *

Is there anything to add to this? This is the blessing that will be said at our wedding. I could not ask for a blessing that begs God for more of what I already ask of Him.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Rorate Coeli

Rorate coeli desuper,
et nubes pluant justum.

Ne irascaris Domine,
ne ultra memineris iniquitatis.
Ecce civitas sancti facta est deserta,
Sion deserta facta est,
Jerusalem desolata est,
domus santificationis tuae
et gloriae tuae,
ubi laudaverunt te patres nostri.

et facti sumus tamquam immundus nos,
et cecidimus quasi folium universi:
et iniquitates nostrae quasi ventus abstulerunt nos:
abscondisti faciem tuam a nobis,
et allisisti nos in manu iniquitatis nostrae.

Vide Domine afflictionem populi tui,
et mitte quem missurus es:
emitte Agnum dominatorem terrae,
de Petra deserti ad montem filiae Sion:
ut auferat ipse iugum captivitatis nostrae.

Consolamini, consolamini,
popule meus,
cito veniet salus tua.
Quare maerore consumeris,
quia innovavit te dolor?
Salvabo te, noli timere,
ego enim sum Dominus Deus tuus,
sanctus Israel, redemptor tuus.

* * *

Drop down dew of heaven from above,
let the clouds rain down the just one.

Do not be angry, Lord,
nor remember further our iniquity.
Behold the holy city has become deserted,
Zion has become deserted,
Jerusalem is desolate,
the home of your sanctification
and your glory,
where our fathers praised you.

We have sinned,
and we have become as if unclean,
and we have fallen like all the leaves,
and our iniquities, like the wind, have borne us away;
you have hidden your face from us,
and have crushed us in the hand of our iniquity.

See, Lord, the affliction of your people,
and send the one who is to be sent:
send forth the Lamb, master of the earth,
from the deserted Rock to the mount of the daughters of Zion:
that he himself may remove the yoke of our captivity.

Be comforted, be comforted,
my people,
swiftly comes your salvation.
Why are you consumed by grief,
because sorrow has altered you?
I will save you, do not fear,
for I am the Lord your God,
holy Israel, your redeemer.

* * *

This is the chant we used to sing when I was in boarding school during the novena before Christmas. A recording of it can be found on YouTube here. I have to say that I think we sounded much better when we sang it. You have to understand how chant works to do it right.

The translation is my own, though I don't care who borrows it. To me, the important thing is that these things are done properly, as they almost never are. I even found a mistranslation in the Adoremus Hymnal the other day!

I have never found anything that puts into words the longing of Advent better than this chant. During this time, we do not just wait for Christmas for ourselves. No, we unite ourselves with the longing of the generations. From the promise Adam and Eve received, that the serpent would be crushed by the seed of the woman, until Christ was finally born, all creation labored in darkness, bound in their sin. There was no solution to their guilt, for no one could take their sins from them. The Law, when it came, was too weighty for them to fulfill, yet there was no other way by which they could keep from wrongdoing. Imagine what your life would be with no confession. That one sin you did years ago, or that little pesky one you can't kick the habit of, would be on your conscience for the rest of your life.

The people crying out in this prophecy understand this. They feel the weight of their sin keenly on their shoulders. They know there is only one who can save them, and this is the very one who, by rights, should be unforgivably angry with them. Yet, though afraid, they are not too afraid to run to him for help. It is like the line in Prince Caspian (which I was reading today):


"And now, where is this little Dwarf, this famous swordsman and archer, who doesn't believe in lions? Come here, Son of Earth, come HERE!" and the last word was no longer the hint of a roar but almost the real thing.

"Wraiths and wreckage," gasped Trumpkin the ghost of a voice. The children, who knew Aslan well enough to see that he liked the Dwarf very much, were not disturbed; but it was quite another thing for Trumpkin who had never seen a lion before, let alone this Lion. He did the only sensible thing he could have done; that is, instead of bolting, he tottered towards Aslan.


No matter how afraid they were, not knowing that God liked them very much, knew enough to totter toward Him. Knowing what we do, we must never fail to do the same, especially now during Advent. Perhaps we have been living, at least in some little way, as the pagans who do not know God. But now that it is Advent, we must act as the Israelites did: wait for the Lord with courage; be stoutheared and wait for the Lord. He comes with power to save us, power that no sin can stand up against. That is what Christmas is for -- for us to "buy into" His original coming, every year, because we fall away a little every year, and must bring ourselves back.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Shine, Perishing Republic

by Robinson Jeffers

While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heavily thickening to empire,
And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops and sighs out, and the mass hardens,

I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit, the fruit rots to make earth.
Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances, ripeness and decadence; and home to the mother.

You making haste, haste on decay: not blameworthy; life is good, be it stubbornly long or suddenly
A mortal splendor: meteors are not needed less than mountains:
shine, perishing republic.

But for my children, I would have them keep their distance from the thickening center; corruption
Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie at the monster's feet there are left the mountains.

And boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man, a clever servant, insufferable master.
There is the trap that catches noblest spirits, that caught -- they say -- God, when he walked on earth.

* * *

A few years ago, I would have considered this poem much too pessimistic. But now? I definitely am not placing my hope in America. It will succeed or it will fail, but our kingdom is not of this world.

No matter what happens in this world, "corruption is never compulsory." Even when they try to force us, there is always somewhere we can run. If they deny us that, there is always martyrdom. No one can force you to sin.

Hopefully it won't get that bad. But if it does, there is a kind of hope in this poem -- no matter how bad it gets, no one can make us join in the corruption.

Robinson Jeffers died in 1962. So he missed a lot of what we realize as the "perishing" of our nation. I guess he could see the beginnings of it, even from where he was.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Finally, Cento Winners

This contest has been the hardest to judge so far, of all the contests I've done. Who knew it would be this difficult? But such a fierce beauty can be drawn from a careful selection and condensation of the words of others. More than one of these poems made me catch my breath -- feeling, in Emily Dickenson's phrase, as though the top of my head had been taken off. Well done, everyone.

First Place

In Evening Air
by Dylan, from Roethke

Under a southern wind,
Hidden in my own heart,
My lady laughs, delighting in what is.

A suddenness of trees
Turned by revolving air:
You will find no comfort here.
All waters waver, and all fires fail.

The dark heart of some ancient thing
And the sheen of ravens:
Flutter of wings and seeds quaking --
Such stretchings of the spirit make no sound
(I'm martyr to a motion not my own).

Once I transcended time
And came to a dark ravine --
Our small souls hid from their small agonies.

I receive! I have been received!
What speech abides?
How high is have?
The dew draws near
And loves the living ground.

What do they tell us, sound and silence?
The bushes and the stones danced on and on;
I walk as if my face would kiss the wind.

* * *

First place is just lovely. It suggests so much. That's the neat thing about centos -- they force you to suggest rather than say. I only wish I knew more of the source poems. I'll have to seek them out. That last line, especially -- it's pure gold.

This describes, by the way, pretty exactly what I felt the day I was engaged. I walked as if my face would kiss the wind.

* * *

Second Place

by Enbrethiliel, from Chesterton

A child sits in a sunny place
Pure as white lilies in a watery space
Laughing everlastingly
The joy without a cause
Holding his head up for a flag of all the free
Between us and the sea

Though earth be filled with waters dark
Hark! Laughter like a lion wakes!
For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen
Surely, friends, I might have guessed
God made the sun to crown his head
The Christ-child stood at Mary's knee
Aflame with faith, and free

* * *

Ah, she knew I was a sucker for Chesterton. But she picked the lines so carefully, it's like a long, sweet laugh that Chesterton might laugh on Christmas morning. You have to breathe Chesterton to condense him so well.

* * *

Third Place

The Return
by Meredith, from Hopkins

I will appear, looking such charity,
It will flame out like shining from shook foil.
Yes I can tell such a key, I do know such a place,
Where springs not fail.
Or ancient mounds that cover bones
Spring, that but now were shut
To the stars, lovely-asunder.

I did say yes
With the sea-romp over the wreck,
And find the uncreated light.
And I have asked to be
Lower than death and the dark,
An ark for the listener, for the lingerer,
For him who ever thought with love of me.

* * *

Again, another poet I can't resist. Is it Christ that speaks now? I do believe it is ... and how clever, to turn the words around from a human speaker to Christ! Who, of course, asked to be lower, so that he might come down to those who love him. This is what a cento ought to be -- a rearranging of the original words to mean something quite new.

* * *

Honorable Mentions

The Penguin Book of the Sonnet
by Dylan

Our spirits grew as we went side by side
Listening to Schubert, grievous and sublime.
Her voice was like the sound of blended flutes
And signified the sureness of the soul.

I had forgot wide fields and clear brown streams;
Breathless, we flung us on the windy hill
To give us comfort through the lonely dark
Calm night, the everlasting and the same.

Fair as the moon and joyful as the light,
Your hands lay open in the long fresh grass.
I marked with flowers the minutes of my day:

One little noise of life remained -- I heard
The very shadow of an insect's wing
Enshaded in forgetfulness divine.

* * *

Mmm ... Dylan seems to be a master of this form. I really, really like his centos. The subject here reminds me of Donne's "The Ecstasy," while being less over-the-top and more real, grounded in the visible (which, of course, is always a hint to the invisible).

* * *

by David S.

Be adored among men,
O loving Pelican, O Jesus Lord!
Wring thy rebel, dogged in den;
Unclean I am, but cleanse me in Thy Blood!

But oh, I've a wish in my soul, dear love,
Beyond saying sweet, past telling of tongue,
That I might wash free of my sins, dear love;
Father and fondler of heart, thou hast wrung.

By the pool that I see in my dreams, dear love,
There, motionless and happy in my pain,
(And the pool, it is silvery bright, dear love,
Of which a single drop, for sinners spilt,
Can purge the whole world from all its guilt)
There will I sing my sad, perpetual strain.

There will I sing my absent Lord and Love -
O wisest love! That flesh and blood! -
That sooner I may rise, and go above -
Numquam draco sit mihi dux
Crux semper sit mihi lux -
O loving wisdom of our God!

* * *

More Hopkins, hooray! But also some great saints. Saints should never be left out, when it comes to making poetry. They know what they're doing. I think my favorite touch in this poem is how the pool turns out to be a pool of Christ's blood. A little surprise, and a thrilling one.

Friday, October 17, 2008

From "Maud"

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Go not, happy day,
From the shining fields,
Go not, happy day,
Till the maiden yields.
Rosy is the West,
Rosy is the South,
Roses are her cheeks,
And a rose her mouth.
When the happy Yes
Falters from her lips,
Pass and blush the news
Over glowing ships;
Over blowing seas,
Over seas at rest,
Pass the happy news,
Blush it thro' the West;
Till the red man dance
By his red cedar-tree,
And the red man's babe
Leap, beyond the sea.
Blush from West to East,
Blush from East to West,
Till the West is East,
Blush it thro' the West.
Rosy is the West,
Rosy is the South,
Roses are her cheeks,
And a rose her mouth.

. . .

I have led her home, my love, my only friend.
There is none like her, none.
And never yet so warmly ran my blood
And sweetly, on and on
Calming itself to the long-wish'd-for end,
Full to the banks, close on the promised good.

* * *

Well, I know it's been a long time since I've posted, but maybe this will serve as my excuse: I just got engaged.

John, who's been blogging from a number of locations since before I began (Fiddleback Fever, This Red Rock, Poor Man's Bible), has been my good friend for a long time, and more than a friend for a good while too. But now it's official, and we're going to be getting married. Who would have known, when I was putting up mopey love poetry at the beginning of this blog, certain John was never going to like me back, that we would reach this day? But we have. It's been a wonderful journey up to this point, and I fully expect it to get even better.

Pray for both of us, Gentle Reader, and keep reading poetry. It keeps your soul healthy, and helps you listen to it, so that when it tells you what it wants, you hear.

My soul has been saying, "Marry John." So I'm listening!

P.S. I have not forgotten the cento contest! I'm working on it!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cento Contest

All right, this is it: the next contest. I hope more people submit to this one. It's a little difficult, but be brave: once you manage to write one at all, it's likely to sound really good. I know mine did.

A cento is a poem made entirely of lines from other poems. The name comes from the Latin word meaning a cloak made out of patches. The cento differs from found poetry in that every line is taken from another poem, instead of just any borrowed material.

Virgilian centos were popular in the Middle Ages, when poets would use lines from Virgil to write about religious themes. You can follow this tradition, if you like, by limiting yourself to a single poet (e.g. a Shakespearean cento) or maybe some other group of poems--only Romantic poems, or only poems posted on this blog (and that's a lot!). Or just do any poem, which will of course give you more freedom.

In the modern age, there is a hearkening-back to this poetic form in the allusion-rich poetry of Eliot and Pound. The Waste Land is filled with lines of other poems, sometimes slightly changed and sometimes borrowed wholesale. I find it gives a serious, eternal tone to the poetry. That's what got me trying to write centos, with some success.

The rules are as follows:

1. Don't use chunks bigger than two lines long. This ought to be your own poem. The original rules for a Virgilian cento allowed for no more than one line at a time, so I'm being a little generous.

2. Regular meter is not necessary, and neither is rhyme, but you might try for these and see what happens. A rhyme now and then can be pretty neat, and if you borrow lines that are all iambic pentameter, for example, you'll automatically have meter.

3. You can change the tense of verbs, or the person of pronouns, but don't make any large changes to the lines of poetry you borrow.

4. It can be any length. Preferably not an epic, though--I do have to read all these!

Try not to be too intimidated by the new form, but let yourself play with it. Pick a subject, find lines of poetry that suggest that subject, and arrange them different ways until it sounds right. And don't be afraid to submit something that isn't perfect. No poem is, and it's better to put yourself out there and try.

I'll leave my own cento in the comment box, when I've polished it a little. Leave your own submissions there. You can also email them to enchiridion1 at yahoo dot com.

Monday, August 11, 2008

And the winner is ...

A Confidence
by Meredith

Because of you my eyes are always wet -
I never loved so vehemently before.
You perfect chevalier with hair of jet,
Just thinking of you fells me to the floor!
I know you're sweet and smart and witty for
I read you daily on the Internet.
And so I pine upon this Hither Shore:
How can I love you when we've never met?

A date, they say, could all my dreams upset -
You might find talking to me quite a chore.
Or you could light a sordid cigarette,
Or accidentally walk into a door.
I might turn fickle like Queen Eleanor,
Offered a corner-office or a coronet.
But saving humiliations so galore -
How can I love you when we've never met?

I'll have to reinvent the alphabet
To write the world how madly I adore,
Or cry it from a heathen minaret,
Or cast a spell on Glastonbury Tor.
Between us there's a thousand miles and more,
And colloquies too filmy to forget.
Yet here's my heart. It's beautiful and poor.
How can I love you when we've never met?

Prince of the heart's desire (in Grecian lore)
Whom Psyche loved unseen without regret,
Grant me some day to see him, I implore;
How can I love him when we've never met?

* * *

I received a number of submissions, but this one really did carry it away in terms of clever turns of phrase as well as earnestness. The idea--loving someone from afar--is an old one, with the Internet adding a new twist. There are a few plays on this blend of old and new: "a corner-office or a coronet," for example. And, as Meredith loves to do, there's plenty of allusion, which I tend to like.

Yes, it's a good poem. But all the poems I received were so good I feel this contest a job well done. Good poems were written--that was my goal. In fact, it's such a success I think I'll try another contest very soon . . . but it'll be something a little different. Even the veteran poets might have a hard time with it, but amateurs might get a leg up with it. I certainly found this form a big help in getting me to write. But it'll be a surprise--I'll announce it next time!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

La Figlia Che Piange

by T. S. Eliot

Stand on the highest pavement of the stair—
Lean on a garden urn—
Weave, weave the sunlight in your hair—
Clasp your flowers to you with a pained surprise—
Fling them to the ground and turn
With a fugitive resentment in your eyes:
But weave, weave the sunlight in your hair.

So I would have had him leave,
So I would have had her stand and grieve,
So he would have left
As the soul leaves the body torn and bruised,
As the mind deserts the body is has used.
I should find
Some way incomparably light and deft,
Some way we should both understand,
Simple and faithless as a smile and shake of the hand.

She turned away, but with the autumn weather
Compelled my imagination many days,
Many days and many hours:
Her hair over her arms and her arms full of flowers.
And I wonder how they should have been together!
I should have lost a gesture and a pose.
Sometimes these cogitations still amaze
The troubled midnight and the noon’s repose.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sonnets from the Portuguese--XXXV

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

If I leave all for thee, wilt thou exchange
And be all to me? Shall I never miss
Home-talk and blessing and the common kiss
That comes to each in turn, nor count it strange,
When I look up, to drop on a new range
Of walls and floors, another home than this?
Nay, wilt thou fill that place by me which is
Filled by dead eyes too tender to know change
That's hardest. If to conquer love, has tried,
To conquer grief, tries more, as all things prove,
For grief indeed is love and grief beside.
Alas, I have grieved so I am hard to love.
Yet love me--wilt thou? Open thy heart wide,
And fold within, the wet wings of thy dove.

* * *

I just finished the letters of the Brownings today. Elizabeth Barrett wrote to her future husband, Robert Browning, every day, and sometimes twice. Her life was a sad one before her marriage: her father refused to allow his daughters to marry, and her own ill health kept her in her room almost constantly. When Robert was, after much pleading, allowed to meet her, he wrote her a letter declaring his love. She destroyed the letter and urged him never to speak to her of love again. But after a long correspondence, she finally did accept his love.

In this poem, she speaks of her fear of leaving her home and family to marry Robert. This was a very real fear--when she ran away from home to Italy with Robert, her father cast her off completely, returning her letters unopened.

Here Elizabeth expresses her hope that Robert will fill the empty place in her heart from her family. Since her mother, to whom she was close, had died some years before, she feels much of what she would have possessed in home-life is already gone. She hopes grief will be easier to conquer than love has been--since, try as she might, she has not been able to drive away love. Grief, however, may well be passing.

I am tempted to go on strike until I get more ballades--but I won't. I'll just warn you that time is running out on that contest!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Ballade Contest

All right, here it is: the long-awaited ballade contest. Now is the time to let your entries come pouring in--or to scratch your head and hope for inspiration.

I'm posting some examples of the ballade form, written by Chesterton and Belloc, in another post. That should give you an idea of what ballades are all about. But here are the basic characteristics.

1. The rhyme form is ababbcbC ababbcbC ababbcbC bcbC. That is, three stanzas of eight lines, and one of four. The final capital C stands for the refrain. Rhyme is continuous throughout the poem--all a's rhyme throughout, and all b's--fourteen b rhymes altogether! So pick an easy-to-rhyme word to end your second line. "Orange" simply will not do.

2. The refrain: this is a catchy little bit to end each stanza. It has to sound the same in each line--but you may change the punctuation, swap in a homonym here or there--just so long as they sound the same.

3. The Envoi. This is the final four line stanza. Chesterton, Belloc, and company would address this to the prince. As we have none, do as you will, but please address it to somebody. You can just say "Prince" and let us guess who you mean, throw in the President, or address it to your mother. But the Envoi is meant to be a sending-forth or farewell stanza--as Byron's introduction to Don Juan:

"Go, little book, from this my solitude;
I cast thee on the water: go thy ways!
And if, as I believe, thy vein be good,
The world will find thee after many days."
When Southey's read, and Wordsworth understood,
I can't help putting in my claim to praise--
The first four rhymes are Southey's, every line:
For God's sake, reader! take them not for mine.

So, send your poem out to somebody. It could be me. I don't care.

4. On some study, it looks like iambic pentameter is the thing for ballades. If another foot suits you, that's fine with me, but pick a solid medium-length line. For examples of what I mean by iambic pentameter, see the sample ballades. Or just say, "ba-DUM ba-DUM ba-DUM ba-DUM ba-DUM." Or read some Shakespeare aloud. You'll be able to hear it.

5. Any subject will do.

Just leave it in the comment box or email it to enchiridion1 at yahoo dot com. I'm looking forward to the submissions--if I get any. Be brave and try one! They're easier than they look.

Two ballades

"A Ballade Of Suicide"

by G.K. Chesterton

The gallows in my garden, people say,
Is new and neat and adequately tall.
I tie the noose on in a knowing way
As one that knots his necktie for a ball;
But just as all the neighbours - on the wall -
Are drawing a long breath to shout "Hurray!"
The strangest whim has seized me.... After all
I think I will not hang myself to-day.

To-morrow is the time I get my pay -
My uncle's sword is hanging in the hall -
I see a little cloud all pink and grey -
Perhaps the Rector's mother will not call -
I fancy that I heard from Mr. Gall
That mushrooms could be cooked another way -
I never read the works of Juvenal -
I think I will not hang myself to-day.

The world will have another washing day;
The decadents decay; the pedants pall;
And H. G. Wells has found that children play,
And Bernard Shaw discovered that they squall;
Rationalists are growing rational -
And through thick woods one finds a stream astray,
So secret that the very sky seems small -
I think I will not hang myself to-day.

Prince, I can hear the trumpet of Germinal,
The tumbrils toiling up the terrible way;
Even to-day your royal head may fall -
I think I will not hang myself to-day.

Untitled ballade

by Hilaire Belloc

I like to read myself to sleep in Bed,
A thing that every honest man has done
At one time or another, it is said,
But not as something in the usual run;
Now from ten years old to forty one
Have never missed a night: and what I need
To buck me up is Gilbert Chesterton,
(The only man I regularly read).

The Illustrated London News is wed
To letter press as stodgy as a bun,
The Daily News might just as well be dead,
The 'Idler' has a tawdry kind of fun,
The 'Speaker' is a sort of Sally Lunn,
The World' is like a small unpleasant weed;
I take them all because of Chesterton,
(The only man I regularly read).

The memories of the Duke of Beachy Head,
The memoirs of Lord Hildebrand (his son)
Are things I could have written on my head,
So are the memories of the Comte de Mun,
And as for novels written by the ton,
I'd burn the bloody lot! I know the Breed!
And get me back to be with Chesterton
(The only man I regularly read).

Prince, have you read a book called "Thoughts upon
The Ethos of the Athanasian Creed"?
No matter - it is not by Chesterton
(The only man I regularly read).

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sea Fever

by John Masefield

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

* * *

Many apologies for the long hiatus in blogging. I'm undergoing a big transition between college life, which ended this spring, and the life of a teacher, which starts in the fall. And I'm spending the transition time trying to write a novel ... so you can see how a few things got put on hold for awhile ... Anyway, I'm sorry and here's something to start us up again.

I love this poem and have been meaning to post it for a long time. It sounds a little Tolkienesque, though it probably came before Tolkien. (I don't actually know a thing about John Masefield; does anyone else?) I suppose Masefield had the same Anglo-Saxon inspirations as Tolkien did. I can really see the roots of this poem in the Old English poem "The Seafarer"--how the sea calls you out on it (although this poem leaves out the miserable, cold, exiled imagery of the older poem). I also notice the Anglo-Saxon rhythms and kennings like "gull's way" and "whale's way." The stressed syllables at the end of many lines ("white sail's shaking") make for a very pleasant and stirring rhythm.

I'm planning another poem-writing contest soon, one more difficult than before. If any of you are up to writing a longer poem in a strict form, break out your quill pens and check back within the next week.

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Marriage Song

by G.K. Chesterton

Why should we reck of hours that rend
While we two ride together?
The heavens rent from end to end
Would be but windy weather,
The strong stars shaken down in spate
Would be a shower of spring,
And we should list the trump of fate
And hear a linnet sing.

We break the line with stroke and luck,
The arrows run like rain,
If you be struck, or I be struck,
There's one to strike again.
If you befriend, or I befriend,
The strength is in us twain,
And good things end and bad things end,
And you and I remain.

Why should we reck of ill or well
While we two ride together?
The fires that over Sodom fell
Would be but sultry weather.
Beyond all ends to all men given
Our race is far and fell,
We shall but wash our feet in heaven.
And warm our hands in hell.

Battles unborn and vast shall view
Our faltered standards stream,
New friends shall come and frenzies new,
New troubles toil and teem;
New friends shall pass and still renew
One truth that does not seem,
That I am I, and you are you,
And Death a morning dream.

Why should we reck of scorn or praise
While we two ride together?
The icy air of godless days
Shall be but wintry weather.
If hell were highest, if the heaven
Were blue with devils blue,
I should have guessed that all was even.
If I had dreamed of you.

Little I reck of empty prides,
Of creeds more cold than clay;
To nobler ends and longer rides,
My lady rides to-day.
To swing our swords and take our sides
In that all-ending fray
When stars fall down and darkness hides.
When God shall turn to bay.

Why should we reck of grin and groan
While we two ride together?
The triple thunders of the throne
Would be but stormy weather.
For us the last great fight shall roar,
Upon the ultimate plains,
And we shall turn and tell once more
Our love in English lanes.

* * *

This may well be my favorite Chesterton poem, and that's saying a lot. It's almost a warlike love poem. Or a loving brave poem. I guess the theme is what I would call "teamwork." Gilbert and Frances were a team: "the strength is in us twain." And so they were able to back one another up in tight places.

Too often we think of love as an idle, romantic thing; something that's nice but completely optional. Really, it's essential, and I don't mean just essential to the species. Of course some people have to have children, but if you don't have any you won't die. Without love, though, a part of the soul begins to wither. We are not creatures created for a vacuum. It is not good for man to be alone.

Chesterton said in The Man Who Was Thursday that two is not twice one, it is a thousand times more than one. (Or something like that.) Mr. Syme, in that book, was alone and terrified at his loneliness. Once he had a single companion, he stopped being terrified and started being able to think, to plan the next step. That's the idea Chesterton is conveying in his poem here. Marriage is not something people do out of a romantic interest. Instead, it is the highest kind of spear-friendship--like the comitatus of the Anglo-Saxons. The kind of friendship where you put your back against your friend and hold your sword out to the enemy. Alone, you had no chance. With one single other person you can count on completely, you are invulnerable. It doesn't matter what anyone else does, so long as you have your one friend who is still completely loyal.

To Chesterton, the babblings of modern creeds and the fires of the end of the world alike have no terror for him, "while we two ride together." He and his lady will face out the worst the world has to offer, and at the end they will be unchanged, still able to turn again and tell their love in English lanes.

I think all married people should think of their love this way. Marriage is a curious thing, a "four-footed creature," where there is one common goal and a pair of inseparable people who will fight together for that goal. Two people, in a house like an embattled castle, braving out the terrors of the world, seeking out allies, changing what they can, all the while depending on one another absolutely. This is not just "romantic" in the same sense that knighthood, at its best, was not just romantic. A good knight was a grim-faced individual who had something which needed to be done, and did it. The armor, the titles, the pennants, were all just trappings. It's a tragedy when the trappings come to be confused with the reality. The real romance of knights, as of the romance of married people, comes from the real virtues: courage, loyalty, dedication even when unnoticed and unthanked.

Someday I'd better write a much longer post about romance and knights. Until then, reread this poem a few times and think about every line. It really is worth it.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Lucasta Replies to Lovelace

by G. K. Chesterton

Tell me not, friend, you are unkind,
If ink and books laid by,
You turn up in a uniform
Looking all smart and spry.

I thought your books one horrid smudge,
Your books one pile of trash,
And with less fear of smear embrace
A sword, a belt, a sash.

Yet this inconstancy forgive,
Though gold lace I adore,
I could not love the lace so much
Loved I not Lovelace more.

* * *

There's Chesterton for you. But there's a nice touch at the end: Lucasta doesn't love Lovelace because of his uniform; she loves the uniform because Lovelace is inside it.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Song: To Lucasta, Going to the Wars

by Richard Lovelace

Tell me not, sweet, I am unkind,
That from the nunnery
Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind,
To war and arms I fly.

True; a new mistress now I chase,
The first foe in the field;
And with a stronger faith embrace
A sword, a horse, a shield.

Yet this inconstancy is such
As you too shall adore;
I could not love thee, dear, so much,
Loved I not honour more.

* * *

I've heard some objections to this poem. Some people say the last two lines are totally wrong--how could anyone love honor more than a real person? I say it depends on your definition of honor. If Lovelace just means he wants to be honored by others, than he is wrong to think that way. But if he means doing the honorable thing, he's absolutely right. Because how could he presume to offer himself to Lucasta if he wasn't willing to do his duty first? He wouldn't be worthy of her unless he was.

Chesterton's reply to this poem next ...

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Fragment of a Greek Tragedy

by A. E. Housman

CHORUS: O suitably-attired-in-leather-boots
Head of a traveller, wherefore seeking whom
Whence by what way how purposed art thou come
To this well-nightingaled vicinity?
My object in inquiring is to know.
But if you happen to be deaf and dumb
And do not understand a word I say,
Then wave your hand, to signify as much.

ALCMAEON: I journeyed hither a Boetian road.
CHORUS: Sailing on horseback, or with feet for oars?
ALCMAEON: Plying with speed my partnership of legs.
CHORUS: Beneath a shining or a rainy Zeus?
ALCMAEON: Mud's sister, not himself, adorns my shoes.
CHORUS: To learn your name would not displease me much.
ALCMAEON: Not all that men desire do they obtain.
CHORUS: Might I then hear at what thy presence shoots.
ALCMAEON: A shepherd's questioned mouth informed me that--
CHORUS: What? for I know not yet what you will say.
ALCMAEON: Nor will you ever, if you interrupt.
CHORUS: Proceed, and I will hold my speechless tongue.
ALCMAEON: This house was Eriphyle's, no one else's.
CHORUS: Nor did he shame his throat with shameful lies.
ALCMAEON: May I then enter, passing through the door?
CHORUS: Go chase into the house a lucky foot.
And, O my son, be, on the one hand, good,
And do not, on the other hand, be bad;
For that is much the safest plan.
ALCMAEON: I go into the house with heels and speed.


In speculation
I would not willingly acquire a name
For ill-digested thought;
But after pondering much
To this conclusion I at last have come: LIFE IS UNCERTAIN.
This truth I have written deep
In my reflective midriff
On tablets not of wax,
Nor with a pen did I inscribe it there,
For many reasons: LIFE, I say, IS NOT
Not from the flight of omen-yelling fowls
This fact did I discover,
Nor did the Delphine tripod bark it out,
Nor yet Dodona.
Its native ingunuity sufficed
My self-taught diaphragm.

Why should I mention
The Inachean daughter, loved of Zeus?
Her whom of old the gods,
More provident than kind,
Provided with four hoofs, two horns, one tail,
A gift not asked for,
And sent her forth to learn
The unfamiliar science
Of how to chew the cud.
She therefore, all about the Argive fields,
Went cropping pale green grass and nettle-tops,
Nor did they disagree with her.
But yet, howe'er nutritious, such repasts I do not hanker after:
Never may Cypris for her seat select
My dappled liver!
Why should I mention Io? Why indeed?
I have no notion why.

But now does my boding heart,
Unhired, unaccompanied, sing
A strain not meet for the dance.
Yes even the palace appears
To my yoke of circular eyes
(The right, nor omit I the left)
Like a slaughterhouse, so to speak,
Garnished with woolly deaths
And many sphipwrecks of cows.
I therefore in a Cissian strain lament:
And to the rapid
Loud, linen-tattering thumps upon my chest
Resounds in concert
The battering of my unlucky head.

ERIPHYLE (within): O, I am smitten with a hatchet's jaw;
And that in deed and not in word alone.
CHORUS: I thought I heard a sound within the house
Unlike the voice of one that jumps for joy.
ERIPHYLE: He splits my skull, not in a friendly way,
Once more: he purposes to kill me dead.
CHORUS: I would not be reputed rash, but yet I doubt if all be gay within the house.
ERIPHYLE: O! O! another stroke! that makes the third.
He stabs me to the heart against my wish.
CHORUS: If that be so, thy state of health is poor;
But thine arithmetic is quite correct.

* * *

Maybe it's because I've been translating too much Eurpides and Sophocles lately, but this parody really tickles me. The long periphrastic ways of speaking (such as "Plying with speed my partnership of legs"), the random reflections on truths of life and unrelated myth, the unrealism of people shouting out that they're being killed, and the litotes of lines like "He splits my skull, not in a friendly way," are all common in Greek tragedy. Sometimes the effort of pulling the story out of Greek and into English dulls one's sense of humor, but sometimes a line just cracks me up. Here, all the funniest parts are mushed together in one brief snippet. I just love it.


by Robert Frost

I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth-
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right.
Like the ingredients of a witches' broth
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?
If design govern in a thing so small.

* * *

Sorry it's been so long since I've posted. Chances are people aren't even bothering to check anymore ... it's just that my thesis, and even more, student teaching, have kept me tremendously busy.

This poem is a counterexample to the idea that Frost's poetry is too optimistic and facile. In fact, many of his poems are deeply pessimistic. His happy nature poems have been the most popular, but they were far from all he wrote.

Here, Frost ponders the "co-incidence" of these three white things, a flower, a moth, and a spider. Can it really be coincidence? If it is design, that suggests a darker side to the one who designs it--for there is nothing uplifting about a spider feeding on its prey. Or does design really govern little things like this?

My answer is simply that design does govern even tiny things--like that line in the Silmarillion about those who consider only the vastness of the works of the Valar and not their fineness: to be truly great, an intelligence has to reach not only the vast, whirling stars but also each tiny speck of dust. But it is not the task of "design" (we can start saying God, here, I guess--we all know that's what it means, right?) to make sure things are always "uplifting." The mystery of sin in the world is a part of all this, of course. God's task in so much of creation is simply keeping us from completely destroying ourselves. It is our sin (I think--in a mysterious way) that taught the spider to eat the moth. But knowing that the spider needed this food, God really did guide the moth to its web. And in a larger design, God guided Frost to the same flower to ponder His design, that Frost's poem might inspire me to write this blog post today and maybe start someone thinking about the nature of evil and the goodness of God.

Makes you feel kind of small, doesn't it? But at the same time, very greatly cared for.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Check this out ...

Please read this article: it was covered by some friends at Christendom and is a very important battle for life ....

Fr. Gallagher

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Indifferent

by John Donne

I can love both fair and brown;
Her whom abundance melts, and her whom want betrays;
Her who loves loneness best, and her who masks and plays;
Her whom the country form'd, and whom the town;
Her who believes, and her who tries;
Her who still weeps with spongy eyes,
And her who is dry cork, and never cries.
I can love her, and her, and you, and you;
I can love any, so she be not true.

Will no other vice content you?
Will it not serve your turn to do as did your mothers?
Or have you all old vices spent, and now would find out others?
Or doth a fear that men are true torment you?
O we are not, be not you so;
Let me—and do you—twenty know;
Rob me, but bind me not, and let me go.
Must I, who came to travel thorough you,
Grow your fix'd subject, because you are true?

Venus heard me sigh this song;
And by love's sweetest part, variety, she swore,
She heard not this till now; and that it should be so no more.
She went, examined, and return'd ere long,
And said, "Alas ! some two or three
Poor heretics in love there be,
Which think to stablish dangerous constancy.
But I have told them, 'Since you will be true,
You shall be true to them who're false to you.' "

* * *

Quite a different take on fidelity, isn't it? "Don't be faithful to me, because I sure won't be faithful to you." I wrote my Donne paper on this poem, because it just tickled me. I wonder if Donne didn't mean exactly that? They say he wrote his love poems mainly for his friends at law school, not for real women. I could see them chuckling over this one.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Holy Sonnet IV

by John Donne

O, my black soul, now thou art summoned
By sickness, Death's herald and champion;
Thou'rt like a pilgrim, which abroad hath done
Treason, and durst not turn to whence he's fled;
Or like a thief, which till death's doom be read,
Wisheth himself deliver'd from prison,
But damn'd and haled to execution,
Wisheth that still he might be imprisoned.
Yet grace, if thou repent, thou canst not lack;
But who shall give thee that grace to begin?
O, make thyself with holy mourning black,
And red with blushing, as thou art with sin;
Or wash thee in Christ's blood, which hath this might,
That being red, it dyes red souls to white.

* * *

Quick translation from Metaphysical-speak: I'm sick; it's time for me to die now. Just as a convicted prisoner, led to execution, wishes himself back in prison, so I wish I did not have to die and face my judgment. I'd better repent now, because I know Christ will forgive me.

Sorry about the hurried posting ... between thesis, and student teaching, and everything else, I hardly know where I am anymore. I'll try to do a more thorough post another day.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

It might be a good day...

To reread Ash-Wednesday.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Winner--

if you hadn't noticed, is Maureen. Here's her poem one more time.

And in that hour
The trees of Eden all burst into flower.

And on that night,
The angel's flaming sword glowed candle-bright.

They miss us there,
Await the homecoming of Adam's heir.

Their blooms won't fade
Till earth and heaven are at last remade.

And on that day,
Through Paradise's walls will come a Way.

* * *

I happen to really love this poem. It's short, it's sweet, but it's so beautiful. Starting at "the hour" of the incarnation, but looking forward to "that day" when Christ comes again.

Thanks and congratulations, Maureen.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Chess Master at Christmas

...a pattern can stretch for ever and still be a small pattern. They see a chess-board white on black, and if the universe is paved with it, it is still white on black.-- G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy CW1:225

Sometimes the philosopher paints the disc all black and calls himself a pessimist; sometimes he paints it all white and calls himself an optimist; sometimes he divides it exactly into halves of black and white and calls himself a dualist ... None of them could understand a thing that began to draw the proportions just as if they were real proportions, disposed in the living fashion which the mathematical draughtsman would call disproportionate. Like the first artist in the cave, it revealed to incredulous eyes the suggestion of a new purpose in what looked like a wildly crooked pattern; he seemed only to be distorting his diagram, when he began for the first time in all the ages to trace the lines of a form and of a Face.-- G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man CW2:268, emphasis added

The Board
In four axes bound, with four corners square
Four pillars fixed, the boardmen unaware
Of bounds which Board-Source once did hack
The freedom gift of white and black.

The Pawns
Slaved into lines, arranged for war
Pawns against power: hate, death, gore
The ordered bounds of black and white
Turned to disorder in futile fight.

The Queen
From Board-Beyond a message came
(All games, all boards, shall tell her fame)
Pawn to the pawnless, in devotion
Humility has found promotion.

The Queen (again)
She travels far, in haste
Crossing pieceless waste
Finds another, older queen
With a leaping piece unseen.

The Knight
The knight beside the queen in doubt
Considers: should she be put out?
Beyond the Board begotten his spouse
Takes her rightly into his house.

The Knight (again)
A dark piece counting on taxation
To starting square directs the nation
The knight in stern obedience
A free cave finds 'midst piece-filled tents.

The King
The Queen stands, arrayed in gold,
In midnight peace, in winter cold:
The Knight stands too, on guard devoted:
The King, so pawnlike, so demoted.

The King (again)
Immobile piece in peace enwrapped
Between the Knight and Queen entrapped
Who played with stars beyond the Board
Takes lowest place, despised, abhorred.

The Pawns
Above the Board a great light stormed
The watchful pawns were then informed
The King in pawnlike garb they see:
The Highest made like you and me!

The Rooks
That very light the Board illumed
The pieces sleep, alas, emtombed
Yet rooks alert to that new light
Awoke and traversed through the night.

The Dark Powers
The dark side, whining-screaming/cursing
Heard the rook-quest, far traversing;
Sent forth dark troops to snuff the Dawn
To slay this deadly babe-king Pawn.

The Knight
The bold Knight woke then from a dream:
"That dark king's planning up a scheme
-Take thou thy Queen and baby King,
Guard them, them to safety bring."

The King
The rescued king in safety grew
For decades three. But His court knew.
Then out among the pieces went...
Clear, then His path, make straight the bent!

The Pawns
En passant He, among the pawns
Consorted for a thousand dawns
Told of life beyond the Board...
This servant-King was not ignored.

The Dark Powers
Aligned, not allied, the dark powers
Cringing in their palace towers:
"Pawn-power makes the whole Board quake!"
Sought this regal pawn to take.

The Bishop
The bishop by the king-pawn's side
Longed to satisfy his pride
With darkness, lo! a plan he laid:
The bishop hath his King betrayed!

The Gambit
In garden while his teammates slept
The pawn king prayed and sighed and wept...
The Mover's Will be not forsaken:
Must the king himself be taken?

The Sacrifice
The board's four corners wildly quake
The Dark Side moves, the King to take
His blood poured out, his whole life gone
Sacrificed for worst and smallest pawn.


The King Returns
The Dark Side captured this king/pawn
The Board broke open at the dawn...
The King, no piece but Owner of the Board
The Dark-defeater, ever hence be He adored.
Amen. Alleluia.
Note:"hack" (first verse) - the Hebrew "bara" is the verb used to indicateGod's power of creation; it has the human sense of "hack, "throw off,chop off". (See Jaki's Genesis One and other texts)

* * *

Dr. Thursday submitted this for my poem contest. It was too long for the limits I'd placed, so I asked his permission to post it as a regular poem. I like it because it deals with the old story in a new way--new enough, hopefully, for us to see the Incarnation for what it is. Why is it so hard for us to do this?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Finalists for Christmas poem contest

All right, I've finally managed to narrow it down. Not an easy job. Choosing the winner would be even harder, so I'm leaving that to you, my Gentle Readers. We have an earnest, modern verse (though ordered, as you can see, by anaphora--that's the matching beginnings), a satirical poem in a strict meter, a brief "nonce form" poem (that's one that's in a form only used for this specific poem, as opposed to a "received" form like a sonnet or ballade) with a minimalist touch that suggests more, and a triolet--always a favorite with me. All have some original thought, a nice turn of phrase or two, some neat images, and/or a touching moment. So there's no bad choice: just pick your favorite in the poll I've set up on my sidebar. If it doesn't work for you, you can go ahead and post your vote in the comment box. Please vote only once for your top favorite; I think picking your first three choices would be too complicated for Blogger and me to keep up with.

"Upon Hearing the Gloria, December 25th, 12:15 am"
by Ibid

Just needed to clear my head,
Just walked out side for a second,
Just walked down the street,
Just walked for a while, sniffing the air.
I wanted to find a reason for all this,
I wanted to see what it was all about.
I wanted to open my eyes and see all
I wanted from the night.It was a silent night alright,
It was quieter than I've ever seen before.
It was an even quieter church. Strangely,
It was open later than normal.
I wanted to go back and get in bed.
I wanted to know why I was out so late.
I wanted to turn and go home, but
I wanted to go inside.
Just stepped through the door,
Just noticed the stillness of the Church
Just heard the intonation, and then
Just fell in love.

by John

Where is the meaning in bustle and shopping,
Where is the blessing in material greed,
The shoving, the running, the mindless store-hopping,
For all that we want in disdain of our need?

The radio stations play 'seasonal' rock,
With Frosty and Rudolph on loop;
"The big man is coming, so hang up your sock,"
And those awful chipmunks want their hoola-hoop.

Students come home for three weeks of break
Just to slowly watch parents go mad.
The cards and the wrapping, wreath and fruitcake,
And the lights must be "in" with the fad.

The kids sit in the corner with video games,
Glad to be far from their book,
While parents obsessed with tagging and names
Will grace them with nary a look.

The tree must have lights and not lean to the right,
Garland and ribbons will fly!
"I love this whole season, it's merry and bright
(one week more and I think I would die)."

It's the holiday season, and here's your receipt!
Twelve more items to fill your collection.
If there's holly on the door and snow in the street
Then our day will have reached its perfection.

Oh, little do they know of love!
They run so hard while life goes by,
For weeks they crowd and push and shove
While He is born who came to die.

by Maureen

And in that hour
The trees of Eden all burst into flower.

And on that night,
The angel's flaming sword glowed candle-bright.

They miss us there,
Await the homecoming of Adam's heir.

Their blooms won't fade
Till earth and heaven are at last remade.

And on that day,
Through Paradise's walls will come a Way.

by Dr. Thursday

Christmas for us in Christendom has become one thing, and in one sense even a simple thing. But like all the truths of that tradition, it is in another sense a very complex thing. Its unique note is the simultaneous striking of many notes; of humility, of gaiety, of gratitude, of mystical fear, but also of vigilance and of drama. It is not only an occasion for the peacemakers any more than for the merry-makers; it is not only a Hindu peace conference any more than it is only a Scandinavian winter feast. There is something defiant in it also; something that makes the abrupt bells at midnight sound like the great guns of a battle that has just been won.
(GKC The Everlasting Man CW2:312)

The bells ring out at midnight,
Like a battle that's been won!
The Word leaped down to join the fight...
The bells ring out at midnight
The Darkness cannot grasp the Light
And God-the-Word is Mary's son...
The bells ring out at midnight,
Like a battle that's been won!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

In the Orient

by St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus

In the Orient a star appeared
And we follow its mysterious course.
Blessed star, its brightness discloses to us
That the King of Heaven is born on earth.

Heaven protects us,
And our procession
Follows the brilliant star,
Braving rain and snow!...

Let each one get ready...
The star is coming to rest!...
Let the celebrating begin,
Let us adore the Child!...

* * *

Christmas isn't over yet--we still have at least till the Baptism of the Lord! Right now I'm thinking about Epiphany, about those magi who left their homes and traveled a long journey with no knowledge that there was only a humble dwelling and a poor child at the other end. Yet in the divine scheme of things, gold, frankincense, and myrrh don't seem out of place in the poor home of the Holy Family. The Child made everything right.