Category : Poetry & Literature

George Herbert: The Thanksgiving

Oh King of grief! (a title strange, yet true,
To thee of all kings only due)
Oh King of wounds! how shall I grieve for thee,
Who in all grief preventest me?
Shall I weep blood? why thou has wept such store
That all thy body was one door.
Shall I be scourged, flouted, boxed, sold?
‘Tis but to tell the tale is told.
‘My God, my God, why dost thou part from me? ‘
Was such a grief as cannot be.
Shall I then sing, skipping, thy doleful story,
And side with thy triumphant glory?
Shall thy strokes be my stroking? thorns, my flower?
Thy rod, my posy? cross, my bower?
But how then shall I imitate thee, and
Copy thy fair, though bloody hand?
Surely I will revenge me on thy love,
And try who shall victorious prove.
If thou dost give me wealth, I will restore
All back unto thee by the poor.
If thou dost give me honour, men shall see,
The honour doth belong to thee.
I will not marry; or, if she be mine,
She and her children shall be thine.
My bosom friend, if he blaspheme thy name,
I will tear thence his love and fame.
One half of me being gone, the rest I give
Unto some Chapel, die or live.
As for thy passion – But of that anon,
When with the other I have done.
For thy predestination I’ll contrive,
That three years hence, if I survive,
I’ll build a spittle, or mend common ways,
But mend mine own without delays.
Then I will use the works of thy creation,
As if I us’d them but for fashion.
The world and I will quarrel; and the year
Shall not perceive, that I am here.
My music shall find thee, and ev’ry string
Shall have his attribute to sing;
That all together may accord in thee,
And prove one God, one harmony.
If thou shalt give me wit, it shall appear;
If thou hast giv’n it me, ’tis here.
Nay, I will read thy book, and never move
Till I have found therein thy love;
Thy art of love, which I’ll turn back on thee,
O my dear Saviour, Victory!
Then for thy passion – I will do for that –
Alas, my God, I know not what.

–George Herbert (1593-1633)

Posted in Poetry & Literature

In Flanders Fields for Veteran’s Day 2018

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

–Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)

In thanksgiving for all those who gave their lives for this country in years past, and for those who continue to serve–KSH.

P.S. The circumstances which led to this remarkable poem are well worth remembering:

It is a lasting legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915 and to the war in general. McCrea had spent seventeen days treating injured men — Canadians, British, French, and Germans in the Ypres salient. McCrae later wrote: “I wish I could embody on paper some of the varied sensations of that seventeen days… Seventeen days of Hades! At the end of the first day if anyone had told us we had to spend seventeen days there, we would have folded our hands and said it could not have been done.” The next day McCrae witnessed the burial of a good friend, Lieut. Alexis Helmer. Later that day, sitting on the back of an ambulance parked near the field dressing station, McCrea composed the poem. A young NCO, delivering mail, watched him write it. When McCrae finished writing, he took his mail from the soldier and, without saying a word, handed his pad to the Sergeant-major. Cyril Allinson was moved by what he read: “The poem was exactly an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene.” Colonel McCrae was dissatisfied with the poem, and tossed it away. A fellow officer retrieved it and sent it to newspapers in England. The Spectator, in London, rejected it, but Punch published it on 8 December 1915. For his contributions as a surgeon, the main street in Wimereaux is named “Rue McCrae”.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Military / Armed Forces, Poetry & Literature

([London] Times) Wilfred Owen obituary

The influence of his mother is never far away in Owen’s work. Likewise, his interest in religion is often just below the surface. Anthem for Doomed Youth describes a funeral held on the battlefield rather than in a church, opening with the line: “What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?/ — Only the monstrous anger of the guns.” Another poem, At a Calvary near the Ancre, a tributary of the Somme, links the sacrifice on the battlefield with the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and other New Testament references:

The scribes on all the people shove
And bawl allegiance to the state,
But they who love the greater love
Lay down their life; they do not hate.

Wilfred was brought up in Birkenhead and Shrewsbury, the family moving around with Thomas’s dispiriting work as a clerk and later a station master with a railway company. He was educated at Birkenhead Institute and Shrewsbury Technical School. As a boy he enjoyed swimming in mountain pools, reading Oscar Wilde and wearing a favourite green suit. Before joining the army he had floppy hair.

Already he was writing poetry, taking inspiration from the work of John Keats, whose house at Teignmouth he visited in 1911 while on holiday with an aunt and uncle in nearby Torquay. He marked the occasion with a sonnet. According to Stallworthy, “Owen warmed to the sensuality and musicality of the older poet, and Keats’s physicality (heightened by his study of anatomy and experience of illness) accorded with his apprentice’s own precocious awareness of the human body.”

Read it all (subscription required).

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, History, Military / Armed Forces, Poetry & Literature, Religion & Culture

(DM) Priceless trove of poems by English writer Gerard Manley Hopkins is discovered after the tortured genius saved his handwritten gems from the world

Regarded as one of the greatest and most innovative poets in the English language, Gerard Manley Hopkins’s revolutionary work had an influence on T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas and W.H. Auden — despite being completely unknown to the wider public in his lifetime.

Now a priceless archive of his work and hand-written notes and letters has been saved for the nation.

Kept by his friend, the then much more celebrated poet Robert Bridges, one document in the trove suggests he did not rate Hopkins’s work as first class at the time.

The collection also includes Hopkins’s so-called ‘A’ manuscript of 74 of his poems, many of them written in Hopkins’s own hand.

Tragically, he died young — of typhoid, in Dublin, aged just 44 in 1889 — whereas his friend Bridges lived on well into the 20th century, becoming Poet Laureate.

The literary gold mine has been acquired by the nation through the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme (AIL), which allows people to hand over artworks to cover inheritance tax.

Read it all.

Posted in History, Poetry & Literature

(CT) Poet Christian Wiman helps us tune our ears to silence, so God’s voice won’t be lost in the noise

[Christian] Wiman is worth listening to because he is himself an accomplished poet and, thanks in part to a decade at the helm of Poetry magazine, he is intimately acquainted with the lives and the works of so many of the best poets of the last century. With Wiman as our guide, we witness his highly personal, sometimes surprising encounters with poets—among them Heaney and Oliver—and what those encounters reveal about the relationship between the life (and faith) of the artist and the art itself. We are also shown how Wiman reads poems, thus becoming more perceptive readers ourselves without any heavy-handed lessons in “how to read a poem.”

But Wiman is also worth listening to because he is a dying poet and a dying man. He is dying in the sense that we are, each of us, dying, but his dying has more urgency and more pain: In 2005, on his 39th birthday, Wiman was diagnosed with an incurable form of blood cancer. Since then, as he has recounted in his earlier memoir, My Bright Abyss, he has undergone hospitalizations, chemotherapies, and even a bone marrow transplant. While neither of his unconventional memoirs offers much medical detail, they offer enough to understand that a poet who can feel his own cells wreaking havoc is a poet for whom the reality of death is more real than it is for most of us.

Why does this matter? It matters because, as Wiman writes, “Resurrection is a fiction and a distraction to anyone who refuses to face the reality of death.” I claimed this book could tune our ears to silence, but I might have said it could tune our ears to what Wiman calls the “final silence” of death. I’m sure you understand why I buried this analogy beneath five full paragraphs. Who among us is eager to confront the prospect of our own demise? The answer to this question goes far in explaining our collective addiction to the “pandemonium of blab.”

But for the faithful seeker willing to press into the silence, or for the one who has had silence pressed upon his or her self by diagnosis or despair, Wiman is a relatable artist-guide.

Read it all.

Posted in Poetry & Literature, Theology

A poem written by Archpriest Grigory Petrov (Gregory Petrov) shortly before his death in a Siberian prison camp

From there:

What is my praise before Thee?

I have not heard the cherubim singing,
that is the lot of souls sublime,
but I know how nature praises thee.

In winter I have thought about the whole earth praying quietly to Thee in the
silence of the moon,
wrapped around in a mantle of white,
sparkling with diamonds of snow.

I have seen how the rising sun rejoiced in Thee,
and choirs of birds sang forth glory.

I have heard how secretly the forest noises Thee abroad,
how the winds sing,
the waters gurgle,
how the choirs of stars preach of Thee
in serried motion through unending space.

Posted in Liturgy, Music, Worship, Poetry & Literature, Prison/Prison Ministry, Russia

Summertime Perspective from Walt Whitman

Posted in Poetry & Literature

“Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet”

Posted in Poetry & Literature

(NYT) Adam Kirsch–A French Novelist Imagined Sexual Dystopia. Now It’s Arrived.

…until Minassian committed his crime, the grievances of incels had received little public attention. In May, Jordan Peterson, the Canadian psychologist who has been celebrated and reviled for his views on society and gender, created a furor when he told The New York Times that “enforced monogamy” might be the only way to pacify their rage. Along with some other social conservatives, Peterson sympathizes with the notion that the sexual revolution, like the free-market revolution, has created classes of winners and losers, and that the losers have a legitimate grievance. “No one cares about the men who fail,” Peterson observed.

To any reader of the French writer Michel Houellebecq, this lament will sound eerily familiar. For the last 25 years, in novel after novel, Houellebecq has advanced a similar critique of contemporary sexual mores. And while Houellebecq has always been a polarizing figure — admired for his provocations, disdained for his crudeness — he has turned out to be a writer of unusual prescience. At a time when literature is increasingly marginalized in public life, he offers a striking reminder that novelists can provide insights about society that pundits and experts miss. Houellebecq, whose work is saturated with brutality, resentment and sentimentality, understood what it meant to be an incel long before the term became common….

The sexual revolution of the 1960s, widely seen as a liberation movement, is better understood as the intrusion of capitalist values into the previously sacrosanct realm of intimate life.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Poetry & Literature, Sexuality

Walt Whitman Reads “America”: The Only Surviving Recording of the Beloved Poet’s Voice

Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
Chair’d in the adamant of Time.

Read and listen to it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Poetry & Literature

The Ballad of God-Makers for G.K. Chesterton’s Feast Day

A bird flew out at the break of day
From the nest where it had curled,
And ere the eve the bird had set
Fear on the kings of the world.

The first tree it lit upon
Was green with leaves unshed;
The second tree it lit upon
Was red with apples red;

The third tree it lit upon
Was barren and was brown,
Save for a dead man nailed thereon
On a hill above a town.
That night the kings of the earth were gay
And filled the cup and can;
Last night the kings of the earth were chill
For dread of a naked man.

”˜If he speak two more words,’ they said,
”˜The slave is more than the free;
If he speak three more words,’ they said,
”˜The stars are under the sea.’

Said the King of the East to the King of the West,
I wot his frown was set,
”˜Lo, let us slay him and make him as dung,
It is well that the world forget.’

Said the King of the West to the King of the East,
I wot his smile was dread,
”˜Nay, let us slay him and make him a god,
It is well that our god be dead.’

They set the young man on a hill,
They nailed him to a rod;
And there in darkness and in blood
They made themselves a god.

And the mightiest word was left unsaid,
And the world had never a mark,
And the strongest man of the sons of men
Went dumb into the dark.

Then hymns and harps of praise they brought,
Incense and gold and myrrh,
And they thronged above the seraphim,
The poor dead carpenter.

”˜Thou art the prince of all,’ they sang,
”˜Ocean and earth and air.’
Then the bird flew on to the cruel cross,
And hid in the dead man’s hair.

”˜Thou art the son of the world.’ they cried, `
”˜Speak if our prayers be heard.’
And the brown bird stirred in the dead man’s hair
And it seemed that the dead man stirred.

Then a shriek went up like the world’s last cry
From all nations under heaven,
And a master fell before a slave
And begged to be forgiven.

They cowered, for dread in his wakened eyes
The ancient wrath to see;
And a bird flew out of the dead Christ’s hair,
And lit on a lemon tree.

–G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

Posted in Church History, Poetry & Literature

More Poetry for Memorial Day–Laurence Binyon’s For the Fallen

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Poetry & Literature

Poetry for Memorial Day–Theodore O’Hara’s “Bivouac of the Dead”

The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat
The soldier’s last tattoo;
No more on life’s parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
On Fame’s eternal camping-ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards, with solemn round,
The bivouac of the dead.

No rumor of the foe’s advance
Now swells upon the wind;
Nor troubled thought at midnight haunts
Of loved ones left behind;
No vision of the morrow’s strife
The warrior’s dream alarms;
No braying horn nor screaming fife
At dawn shall call to arms.

Their shriveled swords are red with rust,
Their plumed heads are bowed,
Their haughty banner, trailed in dust,
Is now their martial shroud.
And plenteous funeral tears have washed
The red stains from each brow,
And the proud forms, by battle gashed
Are free from anguish now.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Poetry & Literature

In Flanders Fields for Memorial Day 2018

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

–Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)

In thanksgiving for all those who gave their lives for this country in years past, and for those who continue to serveKSH.

P.S. The circumstances which led to this remarkable poem are well worth remembering:

It is a lasting legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915 and to the war in general. McCrea had spent seventeen days treating injured men — Canadians, British, French, and Germans in the Ypres salient. McCrae later wrote: “I wish I could embody on paper some of the varied sensations of that seventeen days… Seventeen days of Hades! At the end of the first day if anyone had told us we had to spend seventeen days there, we would have folded our hands and said it could not have been done.” The next day McCrae witnessed the burial of a good friend, Lieut. Alexis Helmer. Later that day, sitting on the back of an ambulance parked near the field dressing station, McCrea composed the poem. A young NCO, delivering mail, watched him write it. When McCrae finished writing, he took his mail from the soldier and, without saying a word, handed his pad to the Sergeant-major. Cyril Allinson was moved by what he read: “The poem was exactly an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene.” Colonel McCrae was dissatisfied with the poem, and tossed it away. A fellow officer retrieved it and sent it to newspapers in England. The Spectator, in London, rejected it, but Punch published it on 8 December 1915. For his contributions as a surgeon, the main street in Wimereaux is named “Rue McCrae”.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Poetry & Literature

Helena Bonham Carter reads Christina Rossetti’s Song poem for the poet’s Feast Day

Listen to it all there.

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.

Christina Rossetti (1830–1894)

Posted in Church History, Poetry & Literature