Poetry and Poets: May 2004 Archives

My beloved is mine, and I am his; He feedeth among the lilies
Francis Quarles (1592–1644)

EV’N like two little bank-dividing brooks,
That wash the pebbles with their wanton streams,
And having rang’d and search’d a thousand nooks,
Meet both at length in silver-breasted Thames,
Where in a greater current they conjoin:
So I my best-beloved’s am; so he is mine.

Ev’n so we met; and after long pursuit,
Ev’n so we joyn’d; we both became entire;
No need for either to renew a suit,
For I was flax and he was flames of fire:
Our firm-united souls did more than twine;
So I my best-beloved’s am; so he is mine.

If all those glitt’ring Monarchs that command
The servile quarters of this earthly ball,
Should tender, in exchange, their shares of land,
I would not change my fortunes for them all:
Their wealth is but a counter to my coin:
The world’s but theirs; but my beloved’s mine.

Nay, more; If the fair Thespian Ladies all
Should heap together their diviner treasure:
That treasure should be deem’d a price too small
To buy a minute’s lease of half my pleasure;
’Tis not the sacred wealth of all the nine
Can buy my heart from him, or his, from being mine.

Nor Time, nor Place, nor Chance, nor Death can bow
My least desires unto the least remove;
He’s firmly mine by oath; I his by vow;
He’s mine by faith; and I am his by love;
He’s mine by water; I am his by wine,
Thus I my best-beloved’s am; thus he is mine.

He is my Altar; I, his Holy Place;
I am his guest; and he, my living food;
I’m his by penitence; he mine by grace;
I’m his by purchase; he is mine, by blood;
He’s my supporting elm; and I his vine;
Thus I my best beloved’s am; thus he is mine.

He gives me wealth; I give him all my vows:
I give him songs; he gives me length of dayes;
With wreaths of grace he crowns my conqu’ring brows,
And I his temples with a crown of Praise,
Which he accepts as an everlasting signe,
That I my best-beloved’s am; that he is mine.

It is not by accident that nearly every great mystic has at one time or another made a commentary on the Song of Songs which is the Song of Solomon. It is not only an earthy and "slightly torrid" love poem, but it is the passionate Song of God for His People Israel and for all of those called to love Him in the special intimacy of Union. The sexual congress of marriage is an insufficient metaphor for the intimacy of those who come to know God in Union, but it is close enough and familiar enough to many for it to provide some understanding of what Union is about. As in the liturgy of Marriage, "The two become one."

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Poetry of St. Robert Southwell


I dye alive
Robert Southwell  (?1561–1595)

O LIFE! what letts thee from a quicke decease?
  O death! what drawes thee from a present praye?
My feast is done, my soule would be at ease,
  My grace is saide; O death! come take awaye.
I live, but such a life as ever dyes;       
  I dye, but such a death as never endes;
My death to end my dying life denyes,
  And life my living death no whitt amends.
Thus still I dye, yet still I do revive;
  My living death by dying life is fedd;       
Grace more then nature kepes my hart alive,
  Whose idle hopes and vayne desires are deade.
Not where I breath, but where I love, I live;
  Not where I love, but where I am, I die;
The life I wish, must future glory give,        
  The deaths I feele in present daungers lye.

I do well to remind myself that I live in a privileged era and a privileged place. No matter that the media are unrelentingly hostile toward my belief, no matter that prejudice still is rampant in some places. I nevertheless can live a life of relative comfort and freedom compared to those who came before. The poetry of this great martyr for the faith ever puts me in mind of how very good I have it despite facing some difficulties. I am thankful before God for what He has granted, and despite all that is less than it should be, I rejoice in my relative freedom to work for Him. As He said with His own lips, "To whom much is given, much is expected in return."

Lord Jesus Christ, grant that I may return even a small part of the many blessings and graces that have come to me from God the Father through the hands of your Blessed Mother. Let the Holy Spirit guide me in all that I do, and awaken my deadened senses to better heed His promptings. Let me work for the good of your church, for the salvation of your people, and for my own good ever heedful of your divine mercy and love.


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[Sonnet (I)] 
George Herbert

My God, where is that ancient heat towards thee,
    Wherewith whole showls of Martyrs once did burn,
    Besides their other flames? Doth Poetry
Wear Venus livery? only serve her turn?
Why are not Sonnets made of thee? and layes
    Upon thine Altar burnt? Cannot thy love
    Heighten a spirit to sound out thy praise
As well as any she? Cannot thy Dove
Out-strip their Cupid easily in flight?
    Or, since thy wayes are deep, and still the fame,
    Will not a verse run smooth that bears thy name!
Why doth that fire, which by thy power and might
    Each breast does feel, no braver fuel choose
    Than that, which one day, Worms, may chance refuse?

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Poetry Moment


Too long neglected, poetry has been here, and so a moment more and I return to what I love most in the way of words.

Psalm I Done into Verse, 1653
John MIlton

BLess'd is the man who hath not walk'd astray
In counsel of the wicked, and ith' way
Of sinners hath not stood, and in the seat
Of scorners hath not sat. But in the great
Jehovahs Law is ever his delight,
And in his Law he studies day and night.
He shall be as a tree which planted grows
By watry streams, and in his season knows
To yield his fruit, and his leaf shall not fall,
And what he takes in hand shall prosper all.
Not so the wicked, but as chaff which fann'd
The wind drives, so the wicked shall not stand
In judgment, or abide their tryal then,
Nor sinners in th' assembly of just men.
For the Lord knows th' upright way of the just,
And the way of bad men to ruine must.

I chose this psalm because I think that many are already quite familiar with it and because I think this a lovely paraphrase combining the great strengths of Milton, rhythm and syntax.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Poetry and Poets category from May 2004.

Poetry and Poets: April 2004 is the previous archive.

Poetry and Poets: June 2004 is the next archive.

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