Another Poetic Treasure
Here's another poem stumbled upon in my ramblings, and I shall be posting more from this particular poet. First off--she's Eighteenth Century--yes, not so grand as the seventeenth, yet nevertheless illustrious in its own way. Secondly, she has much to say to us today, as this poem amply exhibits. I'd like to dedicate this poem to all of those who work so hard in the cause of the pro-life movement and to parents who have followed God's will in having and caring for the children He gave them.
TO A LITTLE INVISIBLE BEING WHO IS EXPECTED SOON TO BECOME VISIBLE ANNA LÆTITIA BARBAULD (1743-1825)
Germ of new life, whose powers expanding slow
For many a moon their full perfection wait,--
Haste, precious pledge of happy love, to go
Auspicious borne through life's mysterious gate.
What powers lie folded in thy curious frame,--
Senses from objects locked, and mind from thought!
How little canst thou guess thy lofty claim
To grasp at all the worlds the Almighty wrought!
And see, the genial season's warmth to share,
Fresh younglings shoot, and opening roses glow!
Swarms of new life exulting fill the air,--
Haste, infant bud of being, haste to blow!
For thee the nurse prepares her lulling songs,
The eager matrons count the lingering day;
But far the most thy anxious parent longs
On thy soft cheek a mother's kiss to lay.
She only asks to lay her burden down,
That her glad arms that burden may resume;
And nature's sharpest pangs her wishes crown,
That free thee living from thy living tomb.
She longs to fold to her maternal breast
Part of herself, yet to herself unknown;
To see and to salute the stranger guest,
Fed with her life through many a tedious moon.
Come, reap thy rich inheritance of love!
Bask in the fondness of a Mother's eye!
Nor wit nor eloquence her heart shall move
Like the first accents of thy feeble cry.
Haste, little captive, burst thy prison doors!
Launch on the living world, and spring to light!
Nature for thee displays her various stores,
Opens her thousand inlets of delight.
If charmed verse or muttered prayers had power,
With favouring spells to speed thee on thy way,
Anxious I'd bid my beads each passing hour,
Till thy wished smile thy mother's pangs o'erpay.
Have you ever wondered how someone dying of consumption can belt out that aria just prior to her demise? I don't mean to make fun, as it is very serious--but here is a poetic equivalent, similar to that of Chidiock Tychburn (or any number of other spellings as you may like). It is at once, lovely, touching, and astonishing if the title is truly indicative of its composition.
VERSES WROTE ON HER DEATH-BED AT BATH, TO HER HUSBAND, IN LONDON MARY MONCK (C. 1678-1715)
THOU, who dost all my worldly thoughts employ,
Thou pleasing source of all my earthly joy :
Thou tend'rest husband, and thou best of friends,
To thee this first, this last adieu I send.
At length the conqu'ror death asserts his right,
And will for ever veil me from thy sight.
He wooes me to him with a chearful grace ;
And not one terror clouds his meagre face.
He promises a lasting rest from pain ;
And shews that all life's fleeting joys are vain.
Th' eternal scenes of heav'n he sets in view,
And tells me that no other joys are true.
But love, fond love, would yet resist his pow'r ;
Would fain awhile defer the parting hour :
He brings thy mourning image to my eyes,
And would obstruct my journey to the skies.
But say, thou dearest, thou unwearied friend ;
Say, should'st thou grieve to see my sorrows end ?
Thou know'st a painful pilgrimage I've past ;
And should'st thou grieve that rest is come at last ?
Rather rejoice to see me shake off life,
And die as I have liv'd, thy faithful wife.
I found this on Project Canterbury, which seems to be an Anglo-Catholic site. I would recommend the entire sermon to everyone, as it is remarkably appropos for today. In a sense, this is comforting--surely the trends we see today are those observed for a very long time--whether they were as severe or we are advancing at a more rapid pace, I cannot say. But I draw comfort that humans were ever thus.
National Apostasy John Keble
One of the most alarming, as a symptom, is the growing indifference, in which men indulge themselves, to other men's religious sentiments. Under the guise of charity and toleration we are come almost to this pass; that no difference, in matters of faith, is to disqualify for our approbation and confidence, whether in public or domestic life. Can we conceal it from ourselves, that every year the practice is becoming more common, of trusting men unreservedly in the most delicate and important matters, without one serious inquiry, whether they do not hold principles which make it impossible for them to be loyal to their Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier? Are not offices conferred, partnerships formed, intimacies courted,—nay, (what is almost too painful to think of,) do not parents commit their children to be educated, do they not encourage them to intermarry, in houses, on which Apostolical Authority would rather teach them to set a mark, as unfit to be entered by a faithful servant of Christ?
I do not now speak of public measures only or chiefly; many things of that kind may be thought, whether wisely or no, to become from time to time necessary, which are in reality as little desired by those who lend them a seeming concurrence, as they are, in themselves, undesirable. But I speak of the spirit which leads men to exult in every step of that kind; to congratulate one another on the supposed decay of what they call an exclusive system.
A 17th Century Wonder I Stumbled Onto
I found this poem while looking through the Classical Christian Poetry Site. The poet was unfamiliar to me--I knew John Fletcher of Beaumont and Fletcher fame, but I had not heard of Phineas. I don't know the relationship, if any, between these two.
Drop, drop, slow tears,
And bathe those beauteous feet
Which brought from Heaven
The news and Prince of Peace:
Cease not, wet eyes,
His mercy to entreat;
To cry for vengeance
Sin doth never cease.
In your deep floods
Drown all my faults and fears;
Nor let His eye
See sin, but through my tears.
There is a very gentle rhythm here and a beauty in the pleas of the the poet. "Nor let His eye/See sin, but through my tears," is a beautiful evocation of what every act of contrition begs of Jesus.
A Carmelite Reflection on Forgiveness
Forgiveness, and the Holy Father's absolute temerity in doing what Christ demands (what could he have been thinking?) has been much the subject of conversation all over the web this week. This guided lectio provides the scripture readings and some questions to ponder--however, it doesn't provide any answers (Praise God!) It seems good to spend some time thinking about forgiveness and where we stand in the spectrum this week. Wherever I am, I pray God move me somewhat closer to Christ. I offer the same prayer for all.
A Sobering Reminder
Even while it's all in fun, this passage from Samuel Butler's Hudibras (can you guess the century?) has some profound implications for any resolution by conflict. Of course we all know all of this--but I had to have a reason to post from this wonderful poem--one that in even in many colleges is taught in a short excerpt, if at all. That's a shame, because, while the politics and ideals may be difficult, and after the Victorian Age we received a much scrubbed and polished image of Oliver Cromwell, the poem still is quite a amusing and quite well constructed for a mock epic.
from Hudibras Part I Canto III Samuel Butler
Ah me! what perils do environ
The man that meddles with cold iron!
What plaguy mischiefs and mishaps
Do dog him still with after-claps!
For though dame Fortune seem to smile
And leer upon him for a while,
She'll after shew him, in the nick
Of all his glories, a dog-trick.
This any man may sing or say,
I' th' ditty call'd, What if a Day?
For HUDIBRAS, who thought h' had won
The field, as certain as a gun;
And having routed the whole troop,
With victory was cock a-hoop;
Thinking h' had done enough to purchase
Thanksgiving-day among the Churches,
Wherein his mettle, and brave worth,
Might be explain'd by Holder-forth,
And register'd, by fame eternal,
In deathless pages of diurnal;
Found in few minutes, to his cost,
He did but count without his host;
And that a turn-stile is more certain
Than, in events of war, dame Fortune.
For those who enjoyed this brief taste, you can get the entire poem here.
The purveyor of the largest number of the most completely depressing novels written in English (note, by number we eliminate Malcolm Lowry, and by Enlgish we eliminate Celine and Zola) also wrote some of the most depressing poetry in English. Here's an example. Down, but lovely.
At a Lunar Eclipse
Thy shadow, Earth, from Pole to Central Sea,
Now steals along upon the Moon's meek shine
In even monochrome and curving line
Of imperturbable serenity.
How shall I link such sun-cast symmetry
With the torn troubled form I know as thine,
That profile, placid as a brow divine,
With continents of moil and misery?
And can immense Mortality but throw
So small a shade, and Heaven's high human scheme
Be hemmed within the coasts yon arc implies?
Is such the stellar gauge of earthly show,
Nation at war with nation, brains that teem,
Heroes, and women fairer than the skies?
Mr. González at fotos del apocalipsis looks at the translating programs from his side and finds the same ludicrous results that Dylan previously recounted. So heeding his advice, I'll either puzzle it out myself, or where I cannot make out enough of it, take it to my translation department. But we all know the ludicrous inaccuracy possible so caution is required. If you're looking for a single word, maybe better to go to one of the on-line dictionaries. I'll see if I can dig up a few.
In my short sojourn in the blogworld, I have been delighted by the number of talented writers and now poets I have found. Recently (as in this morning) Dylan, our friend at La Vita Nuova, and able poetry critic decided to be more forthcoming about his own career as poet. Check out his contribution.
Our own Lane Core has a page devoted to his poetry. I owe Mr. Core an apology for not explaining myself better in a note about his own poetry. I indicated that his poetry was "not to my taste." And this is actually an inaccurate representation--it was, in fact, "not immediately to my taste." As with all such things that I do not take to immediately, I find that they grow upon reflection. Those interested in the poetry world would do themselves a service by visiting his poetry page and then dropping a note. There is nothing a poet or writer appreciates so much as hearing from someone who has read something. I may need to add Mr. Core's poetry page to my own side list here.
Again, you owe to yourselves and to the world at large to support your local poets. Heaven knows there are few enough to start with , and those with some form of recognizable faith informing their writing are vanishingly few. And Catholic Poets--to date I can name 4 worthy of the name and a possible fifty. (Of course Dylan could name twenty-three without pausing for a breath--but then, we all have our skills.)
Okay, these are the last for a while. One does not wish to wear out one's welcome and inundating a captive audience is the best way to do so. So far, everyone has been very polite--nary a jeer or a hiss from the audience, and I thank you. But I've selected two shorter and much lighter poems, and I thank you for being a polite and respectful audience.
I close my eyes and
see a black bowl
filled with golden stars.
A head from a painting--
An angel head
Dali's momentary genius.
And I wonder
at the meaningless meaning
I find for it.
A bowl of black and gold
black and gold.
c 2002 Steven Riddle
The following is a variation on a haiku suggested by American poets that found the 5-7-5 syllabification too expansive. In this case they suggested the much tighter compression of 3-5-3. I have further varied it by my own addition of a 3 syllable line. This is a very small sketch of an incident occuring as we were returning across the bridge from Merritt Island (Cape Canaveral's location) across the Indian River to the mainland.
c2002 Steven Riddle
I want to start by saying that the Church does not teach pacifism except, perhaps in a certain very restricted sense. However, I greatly admire the ideal, and I'm led to wonder what is its status for an individual? That is, can an individual hold pacifist ideals within the larger framework of church teaching.
Now I need to explain what I mean because I've just confused the issue. The Church acknowledges that there is such a thing as a "just war" that depends upon a number of conditions. I accept that teaching as a true son of the Church. However, I ask the question, "Is it possible that some few, by an interior call of conscience can be pacifist?" In other words, even given that I acknowledge that the cause is just, and by Church teaching the war is just, is it possible that I could find it sinful to participate in it?
I think that the hierarchy of discipline is God--church teaching--conscience. That is the strictest obedience must be paid to God and to God's laws. Church teaching fleshes out God's law. That is, if we were to strictly adhere to God's law we would have little guidance in the modern era about what we should be doing. The Magisterium of the Church, among other things, continues the pronouncement of God's law and serves as a kind of Talmud or continuing commentary and elaboration of the law, not adding to the Deposit of Faith so much as explicating it for the times. (I could have this wrong, and if so gladly welcome correction.) The final level of the hierarchy is conscience, which is called to be obedient to all of the teachings of the Church, and to God, but I believe God may have formed individuals in such away that the demands of conscience increase the other sources. Thinking this, I ask, is it possible to be a pacifist in the Church?
I believe that it is. I have always admired pacifists, and still admire the ideal. To be a strong pacifist, despite protestations to the contrary, takes an enormous amount of courage and strength of will. One must oppose the predominant social forces by oneself. (This, of course, does not make it right). I admire much of Civil Disobedience as I admire the work of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Stanley Hauerwas and Richard Foster are two modern voices (one Mennonite(?) and one Quaker) that speak persuasively of the need for and injunction to not only nonviolence but nonresistance. I find that their discussions are in line with biblical teaching and persuasive.
What I believe is NOT allowable is for me to impress this doctrine of nonviolence/nonresistance on others. That is, I am called to state my conscience--"I cannot kill others, it is forbidden regardless of the cause." But I am NOT called to defy church teaching and tell others that they cannot do so in a demonstrably "just war." Does this make any sense? I can, by conscience be a pacifist, but I cannot be an evangelist of pacifism because it is a calling of conscience not a teaching of God or the Church. I can evangelize by lifestyle or by presenting my reasons for my thought, but not by rebuking others for holding that it may be just to fight certain aggressors. I cannot hold others to the standard of my conscience, just as they cannot hold me to their standard of say, vegetarianism (another notion I have entertained for moral reasons).
Anyway is this simply wishful thinking or special pleading? Does the church categorically say that if a just war is declared it is the obligation of every person to fight in that just war? Or does the doctrine of just war simply indicate that those called by profession or by vocation to fight in this war can do so without fearing pain of sin for things which, outside of these circumstances, would normally be mortal? What do you all think about it? I'd like some input on the theoretical issues, not really the question of whether pacifism is good or evil in itself--that is another discussion entirely.
Normally I don't like controversy, I don't like to stir the waters, as it were, but this is important enough that I want to be certain of my grounding, and I certainly have no wish to be violating church teaching, nor do I wish to give offense to any. Hopefully we can talk gently and logically of this matter. I am certain I can rely upon a couple of my visitors to give me good feedback either here or at their own sites. Thanks.
Yes, I'm shouting, or yelling, or whatever at the wonderful response from the blog community. I want to thank everyone who expressed the intent to pray for my lovely wife yesterday and all of those who, I am certain, prayed without expressing intent--we've got a lot of shy people, but no doubt well intentioned. Thank you--the day was lovely and she enjoyed herself thoroughly. Boy seemed to be on his very best behavior and of course his joy added to our own--what a precious gift a child is!
Thank you all again.
St. Francis Borgia
Here's a mind-boggling concept from the Life of St. Francis Borgia.
From the time that he began to give himself totally to the divine service Francis Borgia, who was canonized in 1671, learned the importance and difficulty of attaining to humility, and he tried unremittingly to humble himself in the divine presence and within himself. Amidst the honours and respect that were shown him at Valladolid, his companion, Father Bustamante, noticed that he was not only quiet but more than ordinarily self-effacing, for which he asked the reason. "I considered", said St Francis, "in my morning meditation that Hell is my due. I think that all men and even dumb creatures ought to cry out after me, 'Hell is your place'." He one day told the novices that in meditating on the actions of Christ he had for six years always placed himself in spirit at the feet of Judas; but then he realized that Christ had washed the feet even of that traitor, so that he thenceforth felt unworthy to approach even him.
Praying for Others
On Mr. Shea's blog a question arose as to whether it might ever be improper to pray for the repose of the soul of anyone. The particular person fingered was Judas. Below is my response with a couple of other thoughts appended.
You ask whether it would be appropriate to pray privately or have a mass said for the repose of the soul of Judas. St. Francis Borgia prayed about/ for Judas quite frequently as part of his personal devotion.
There is an upside to "Judge not lest ye be judged," and that is, that it is legitimate to say a prayer for the repose of the soul of ANYBODY because we do not know what God's will was for them, nor are we required to know. We are required merely to extend to others what we would have them do for us. If Judas is in heaven, I would certainly want him praying for me, because he who is forgiven much, loves very much and the love is undoubtedly reciprocated.
I guess that's a long way of saying that prayer for anyone is never wrong. If the fate of that person has already been determined, God can use the willingness to do good things to other purposes. God is, after all, God, and prayer for others is, in part, about changing yourself into a better likeness of Jesus.
Most of us add the "Fatima Prayer" to each decade of the Rosary. If we are serious about that prayer, "Lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of thy mercy," we must include everyone. Here's the hard and frightening part, the part that has gotten the Holy Father criticism from some circles--"all souls" includes Osama Bin Laden, those who perpetrated the hideous crimes of last year, Slobodan Milosovic, those who masterminded the Genocide in Rwanda, Robert Mbotu, and all sorts of peole for whom we would rather not be praying. However, if we pray that single, simple prayer in each decade of the Rosary, we are indeed praying for those we would probably just as soon not. Isn't it wonderful the way our Lady gave us the opportunity to do the right thing in a way that would be easy to us?
Lovely, lovely, lovely, and still more lovely
Be sure to check out Mr. Ekeh's revamped site. He's added pictures both of himself and of some artwork that is incredibly lovely. More, he provides insights into an Afro-Latino culture that is most interesting. Do yourself a favor and make this site a frequent stop--you're likely to hear or learn something. Oh, and he's added the ability to e-mail him. Thank you, Mr. Ekeh!
The Most Famous Prayer of St. Thérèse
The following, in the original French with an English translation, is the most famous of the prayer of St. Thérèse--justly so.
Offrande de moi-même comme Victime d'Holocauste à l'Amour Miséricordieux du Bon Dieu St. Thérèse of Lisieux
Ô mon Dieu ! Trinité Bienheureuse, je désire vous Aimer et vous faire Aimer, travailler à la glorification de la Sainte Église en sauvant les âmes qui sont sur la terre et [en] délivrant celles qui souffrent dans le purgatoire. Je désire accomplir parfaitement votre volonté et arriver au degré de gloire que vous m'avez préparé dans votre royaume, en un mot, je désire être Sainte, mais je sens mon impuissance et je vous demande, ô mon Dieu ! d'être vous-même ma Sainteté.
Puisque vous m'avez aimée jusqu'à me donner votre Fils unique pour être mon Sauveur et mon Époux, les trésors infinis de ses mérites sont à moi, je vous les offre avec bonheur, vous suppliant de ne me regarder qu'à travers la Face de Jésus et dans son Coeur brûlant d'Amour.
Je vous offre encore tous les mérites des Saints (qui sont au Ciel et sur la terre) leurs actes d'Amour et ceux des Saints Anges enfin je vous offre, ô Bienheureuse Trinité ! L'Amour et les mérites de la Sainte Vierge, ma Mère chérie, c'est à elle que j'abandonne mon offrande la priant de vous la présenter. Son divin Fils, mon Époux Bien-Aimé, aux jours de sa vie mortelle, nous a dit : « Tout ce que vous demanderez à mon Père, en [1v°/2r°] mon nom, Il vous le donnera ! » Je suis donc certaine que vous exaucerez mes désirs ; je le sais, ô mon Dieu ! (plus vous voulez donner, plus vous faites désirer). Je sens en mon coeur des désirs immenses et c'est avec confiance que je vous demande de venir prendre possession de mon âme. Ah ! je ne puis recevoir la Sainte Communion aussi souvent que je le désire, mais, Seigneur, n'êtes-vous pas Tout-Puissant ?... Restez en moi, comme au tabernacle, ne vous éloignez jamais de votre petite hostie......
Je voudrais vous consoler de l'ingratitude des méchants et je vous supplie de m'ôter la liberté de vous déplaire, si par faiblesse je tombe quelquefois qu'aussitôt votre Divin Regard purifie mon âme consumant toutes mes imperfections, comme le feu qui transforme toute chose en lui-même......
Je vous remercie, ô mon Dieu ! de toutes les grâces que vous m'avez accordées, en particulier de m'avoir fait passer par le creuset de la souffrance. C'est avec joie que je vous contemplerai au dernier jour portant le sceptre de la Croix puisque vous [avez] daigné me donner en partage cette Croix si précieuse, j'espère au Ciel vous ressembler et voir briller sur mon corps glorifié les sacrés stigmates de votre Passion...
Après l'exil de la terre, j'espère aller jouir de vous dans la Patrie, mais je ne veux pas amasser de mérites pour le Ciel, je veux travailler pour votre seul Amour, dans l'unique but de vous faire plaisir, de consoler votre Coeur Sacré et de sauver des âmes qui vous aimeront éternellement.
Au soir de cette vie, je paraîtrai devant vous les mains vides, car je ne vous demande pas, Seigneur, de compter mes oeuvres. Toutes nos justices ont des taches à vos yeux. Je veux donc me revêtir de votre propre Justice et recevoir de votre Amour la possession éternelle de Vous-même. Je ne veux point d'autre Trône et d'autre Couronne que Vous, ô mon Bien-Aimé !......
A vos yeux le temps n'est rien, un seul jour est comme mille ans, vous pouvez donc en un instant me préparer à paraître devant vous...
Afin de vivre dans un acte de parfait Amour, je m'offre comme victime d'holocauste à votre Amour miséricordieux, vous suppliant de me consumer [2v°] sans cesse laissant déborder en mon âme les flots de tendresse infinie qui sont renfermés en vous et qu'ainsi je devienne Martyre de votre Amour, ô mon Dieu !...
Que ce martyre après m'avoir préparée à paraître devant vous me fasse enfin mourir et que mon âme s'élance sans retard dans l'éternel embrassement de Votre Miséricordieux Amour...
Je veux, ô mon Bien-Aimé, à chaque battement de mon coeur vous renouveler cette offrande un nombre infini de fois, jusqu'à ce que les ombres s'étant évanouies je puisse vous redire mon Amour dans un Face à Face Éternel !...
Marie, Françoise, Thérèse de l'Enfant Jésus
et de la Sainte Face
rel. carm. ind.
Fête de la Très Sainte Trinité
Le 9 juin de l'an de grâce 1895.
ACT OF OBLATION
TO MERCIFUL LOVE
St Thérèse of Lisieux
Offering of myself
as a Victim of Holocaust
to God's Merciful Love
O My God! Most Blessed Trinity, I desire to Love You and make You Loved, to work for the glory of Holy Church by saving souls on earth and liberating those suffering in purgatory. I desire to accomplish Your will perfectly and to reach the degree of glory You have prepared for me in Your Kingdom. I desire, in a word, to be a saint, but I feel my helplessness and I beg You, O my God! to be Yourself my Sanctity!
Since You loved me so much as to give me Your only Son as my Savior and my Spouse, the infinite treasures of His merits are mine. I offer them to You with gladness, begging You to look upon me only in the Face of Jesus and in His heart burning with Love.
I offer You, too, all the merits of the saints (in heaven and on earth), their acts of Love, and those of the holy angels. Finally, I offer You, O Blessed Trinity! the Love and merits of the Blessed Virgin, my dear Mother. It is to her I abandon my offering, begging her to present it to You. Her Divine Son, my Beloved Spouse, told us in the days of His mortal life: "Whatsoever you ask the Father in my name he will give it to you!" I am certain, then, that You will grant my desires; I know, O my God! that the more You want to give, the more You make us desire. I feel in my heart immense desires and it is with confidence I ask You to come and take possession of my soul. Ah! I cannot receive Holy Communion as often as I desire, but, Lord, are You not all-powerful?Remain in me as in a tabernacle and never separate Yourself from Your little victim.
I want to console You for the ingratitude of the wicked, and I beg of You to take away my freedom to displease You. If through weakness I sometimes fall, may Your Divine Glance cleanse my soul immediately, consuming all my imperfections like the fire that transforms everything into itself.
I thank You, O my God! for all the graces You have granted me, especially the grace of making me pass through the crucible of suffering. It is with joy I shall contemplate You on the Last Day carrying the sceptre of Your Cross. Since You deigned to give me a share in this very precious Cross, I hope in heaven to resemble You and to see shining in my glorified body the sacred stigmata of Your Passion.
After earth's Exile, I hope to go and enjoy You in the Fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for Your Love alone with the one purpose of pleasing You, consoling Your Sacred Heart, and saving souls who will love You eternally.
In the evening of this life, I shall appear before You with empty hands, for I do not ask You, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is stained in Your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in Your own Justice and to receive from Your Love the eternal possession of Yourself. I want no other Throne, no other Crown but You, my Beloved!
Time is nothing in Your eyes, and a single day is like a thousand years. You can, then, in one instant prepare me to appear before You.
In order to live in one single act of perfect Love, I OFFER MYSELF AS A VICTIM OF HOLOCAUST TO YOUR MERCIFUL LOVE, asking You to consume me incessantly, allowing the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within You to overflow into my soul, and that thus I may become a martyr of Your Love, O my God!
May this martyrdom, after having prepared me to appear before You, finally cause me to die and may my soul take its flight without any delay into the eternal embrace of Your Merciful Love.
I want, O my Beloved, at each beat of my heart to renew this offering to You an infinite number of times, until the shadows having disappeared I may be able to tell You of my Love in an Eternal Face to Face!
Marie, Francoise, Therese of the Child Jesus
and the Holy Face, unworthy Carmelite religious.
This 9th day of June,
Feast of the Most Holy Trinity,
In the year of grace, 1895.
Request for Prayers
Today is my wife's birthday and it would make a great birthday gift if you would remember her intentions in a prayer today! Thanks.
(Oh, and it may mean less blogging today that usual. I've taken off work (as usual) and Wife, Boy, and I shall be celebrating in one of many venues.
An Apt Comment from Argentina
I do not read Spanish directly--I know a few words of Spanish and mostly piece the message together from cognates in Latin and French (I'm going to have to start using Babelfish or something like that that I saw at Disputations--just don't have the time most of the time), so my interpretation of this message may not be the best--but if I understood Mr. González accurately, I could not agree more. It is not enough to be merely a pacifist--one needs to resist the zeitgeist--the emotion of the crowd that would drive us along to destruction. Democracy is a wonderful mode of government, but it is a terrible way to determine right from wrong. Unfortunately we too often depend upon the decision of the majority when we should stand fast and determined, stand on the Rock, the Truth, the Way and the Life, against the tide of popular opinion, or as it is more commonly manifested--"the madness of crowds."
Also, thank you kindly Mr. González for your kind thoughts at the end of the message.
A very old, and I fear, very imperfect poem, that still manages to convey most of my intent. It is one of those things that you keep digging up to work one, and yet it never seems to achieve exactly the effect or balance you have in mind, and so, you let it go anyway. Sometimes, one needs to settle for merely good enough.
La Dame Fichue (The Demolished Woman) Steven Riddle
We surgeons click
pieces back together
like pearls on a waxed strand.
The winding thread of sand
where we found bits
of the Demolished Woman
but not skillfully.
This Guernica model reject
lolled on the beach
perhaps awaiting a painter.
We surgeons in our rubber gloves
gathered her up with tongs
and put the bits in plastic pails
knowing we would not reassemble her.
But spread her out more beautifully
than had been done before
and wait for her to dry.
We would perfect this exploded woman
and ship her off, nicely
latinized, and preserve only the memory
of our perfect art, pure and clean.
c 2002 Steven Riddle
from Nicholas of Cusa
But to love Christ most ardently is to hasten toward him by spiritual movement, for he is not only lovable but is love itself. When by the steps of love the spirit hastens to love itself, it is engulfed in love itself not temporally but above all time and all worldly movement.
Love of God is entry into the eternal. We pass from the linear, temporal movement into eternity when we abandon ourselves entirely to God. Abandoning to God means entering Love. To do so means leaving the self behind in a radical way. We cannot enter Love wrapped with all the things normally use to protect ourselves. Among these are the masks, the lies, the stories we tell about ourselves. These must be purified and burned away. The last vestige of them must be eradicated. The Holy Spirit within works with each of us to purify and refine. Trials, temptations, adversity, turmoils, and all manner of difficulties prove us. They transform us (if we are faithful) gradually into the image of Love--for only Love can enter Love. This indeed is the principle of purgatory--nothing "unclean", nothing that is not pure Love can enter heaven because it would be destroyed and with it the soul that bears that impurity. It is not a punishment, but a spiritual law. So, in our earthly lives, we need to recognize and embrace the trials sent us--they are the gifts God has seen fit to give us to make us more like Him. When we do so we being to live a mysterious life of grace. The world is transformed (more accurately our ability to perceive is transformed) and suddenly, we can see God in places where we would never have thought to look for Him. St. Francis saw Him in nature and the world around Him. Mother Teresa recognized Him within the persons of the impoverished and dying. This gift is the gift of eternity, of heaven on Earth, of love and transformation, and of enthusiastic service of God toward our fellow human beings. This gift is, as Ms. Knapp so aptly described the other day, "The Pearl of Great Price" which once purchased does not count what was spent, but merely exults in the magnificence and beauty of the Pearl.
Our Intrepid Ms. Knapp
Ms. Knapp, once again showing more guts than twenty or thirty postculturist posturing professors dares to post this beautiful, and possibly controversial piece by Mark Twain. God bless her for the reminder.
Death Be Not Proud
Even as we remember, we need also to keep everything in the proper perspective. Death, for those who know God, is merely the change from life to Life, from seeing "through a glass darkly" to living in the presence of glory.
Holy Sonnet X John Donne Death be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not soe, For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow, Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill mee; From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee, Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow, And soonest our best men with thee doe goe, Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie. Thou'art slave to Fate, chance, kings, and desperate men, And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell, And poppie,' or charmes can make us sleepe as well, And better then they stroake; why swell'st thou then? One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally, And death shall be no more, Death thou shalt die.
One short sleep past and we wake eternally to spend that time with God. There is no death save that of not knowing and embracing God and I pray that not one of His children shall ever see that death. May He, in His mercy, grant us all the mercy of knowing and loving Him, of denying to death a victory that he has not earned and denying to Satan a prize that pride does not deserve. May we all be restored to glorious light and enjoy eternally the love and favor of God, our tender and caring Father.
Request for Prayers and Assistance:Northern Virginia
I just received word that some very dear friends of mine may be relocating to Northern Virginia--a blessed event--under some very trying circumstances. I would like to ask everyone to pray for this family. I would particularly ask those of you from Northern Virginia who would be willing to help with advice and information to comment below with contact information or to e-mail me with information that I could forward to my friend. I know your prayers are needed, and even though I am a native son, I am not presently in No. Va. and so I am certain any assistance you could provide would be a blessing (Churches, Order meetings, places to go/not to go, traffic--you know all the essentials). Thank you!
The following prayer was composed as part of a larger work when Donne felt that he was soon to die of an illness for which he was being treated.
from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions XVIII John Donne
O ETERNAL and most gracious God, I have a new occasion of thanks, and a new occasion of prayer to thee from the ringing of this bell. Thou toldest me in the other voice that I was mortal and approaching to death; in this I may hear thee say that I am dead in an irremediable, in an irrecoverable state for bodily health. If that be thy language in this voice, how infinitely am I bound to thy heavenly Majesty for speaking so plainly unto me? for even that voice, that I must die now, is not the voice of a judge that speaks by way of condemnation, but of a physician that presents health in that. Thou presentest me death as the cure of my disease, not as the exaltation of it; if I mistake thy voice herein, if I overrun thy pace, and prevent thy hand, and imagine death more instant upon me than thou hast bid him be, yet the voice belongs to me; I am dead, I was born dead, and from the first laying of these mud walls in my conception, they have mouldered away, and the whole course of life is but an active death. Whether this voice instruct me that I am a dead man now, or remember me that I have been a dead man all this while.
I humbly thank thee for speaking in this voice to my soul; and I humbly beseech thee also to accept my prayers in his behalf, by whose occasion this voice, this sound, is come to me. For though he be by death transplanted to thee, and so in possession of inexpressible happiness there, yet here upon earth thou hast given us such a portion of heaven, as that though men dispute whether thy saints in heaven do know what we in earth in particular do stand in need of, yet, without all disputation, we upon earth do know what thy saints in heaven lack yet for the consummation of their happiness, and therefore thou hast afforded us the dignity that we may pray for them. That therefore this soul, now newly departed to thy kingdom, may quickly return to a joyful reunion to that body which it hath left, and that we with it may soon enjoy the full consummation of all in body and soul, I humbly beg at thy hand, O our most merciful God, for thy Son Christ Jesus' sake. That that blessed Son of thine may have the consummation of his dignity, by entering into his last office, the office of a judge, and may have society of human bodies in heaven, as well as he hath had ever of souls; and that as thou hatest sin itself, thy hate to sin may be expressed in the abolishing of all instruments of so, the allurements of this world, and the world itself; and all the temporary revenges of sin, the stings of sickness and of death; and all the castles, and prisons, and monuments of sin, in the grave. That time may be swallowed up in eternity, and hope swallowed in possession, and ends swallowed in infiniteness, and all men ordained to salvation in body and soul be one entire and everlasting sacrifice to thee, where thou mayst receive delight from them, and they glory from thee, for evermore. Amen.
Philip Freneau was once one of the most famous poets in America. For the most part, his poetry has, unjustly, been forgotten. The following elegy, written for those who died in a battle of the Revolutionary War is distinctive, but much of what it has to say works well to commemorate this day.
To the Memory of the Brave Americans
Under General Greene, in South Carolina,
who fell in the action of September 8, 1781
AT Eutaw Springs the valiant died;
Their limbs with dust are covered o'er--
Weep on, ye springs, your tearful tide;
How many heroes are no more!
If in this wreck or ruin, they
Can yet be thought to claim a tear,
O smite your gentle breast, and say
The friends of freedom slumber here!
Thou, who shalt trace this bloody plain,
If goodness rules thy generous breast,
Sigh for the wasted rural reign;
Sign for the shepherds, sunk to rest!
Stranger, their humble graves adorn;
You too may fall, and ask a tear;
'Tis not the beauty of the morn
That proves the evening shall be clear.--
They saw their injured country's woe;
The flaming town, the wasted field;
Then rushed to meet the insulting foe;
They took the spear--but left the shield.
Led by thy conquering genius, Greene,
The Britons they compelled to fly;
None distant viewed the fatal plain,
None grieved, in such a cause to die--
But, like the Parthian, famed of old,
Who, flying, still their arrows threw,
These routed Britons, full as bold,
Retreated, and retreating slew.
Now rest in peace, our patriot band,
Though far from nature's limits thrown,
We trust they find a happier land,
A brighter sunshine of their own.
And now, a word from Jeremiah
A reminder that in the midst of affliction, God is still there. In fact, perhaps more there and more immediately present to us than at other times.
Lamentations 3:1-33 1: I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; 2: he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; 3: surely against me he turns his hand again and again the whole day long. 4: He has made my flesh and my skin waste away, and broken my bones; 5: he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; 6: he has made me dwell in darkness like the dead of long ago. 7: He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has put heavy chains on me; 8: though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer; 9: he has blocked my ways with hewn stones, he has made my paths crooked. 10: He is to me like a bear lying in wait, like a lion in hiding; 11: he led me off my way and tore me to pieces; he has made me desolate; 12: he bent his bow and set me as a mark for his arrow. 13: He drove into my heart the arrows of his quiver; 14: I have become the laughingstock of all peoples, the burden of their songs all day long. 15: He has filled me with bitterness, he has sated me with wormwood. 16: He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; 17: my soul is bereft of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is; 18: so I say, "Gone is my glory, and my expectation from the LORD." 19: Remember my affliction and my bitterness, the wormwood and the gall! 20: My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me. 21: But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; 23: they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. 24: "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." 25: The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. 26: It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. 27: It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. 28: Let him sit alone in silence when he has laid it on him; 29: let him put his mouth in the dust -- there may yet be hope; 30: let him give his cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults. 31: For the Lord will not cast off for ever, 32: but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; 33: for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the sons of men.
St. John Chrysostom
An excerpt from a reading in a small book entitled On Living Simply
So do I possess anything? Yes, I possess the virtues which during my life have grown and flourished within my soul. Inasmuch as I have grown in love, I possess love. Inasmuch as I have grown in faith, I possess faith. Inasmuch as I have grown in gentleness, I possess gentleness. These things are immortal; they are divine gifts which God will not take away, because he wants heaven itself to be filled with virtue. And, of course, I possess my soul, in which these virtues have thier roots.
All else is less than meaningless, more worthless than dross--deader than death itself. Attachments to all material things are deadly to the soul. Our object is to have our souls transformed and to participate to the greatest extent we can through acts of will, charity, ascesis, and alignment with God's will. Our transformation is the first step to the transformation of the world into a place where we will not have to commemorate the dreadful things we presently find cause to. Our transformation is not merely a step into heaven, but it is the beginning of forging the kingdom of God on Earth.
The Heart of Man
Gerald Vann was a Dominican writing in the first half of the twentieth Century. One of his books (probably retitled by Sophia Press) is called The Seven Sweet Blessings of Christ and in it is the following wonderful quotation.
from The Seven Sweet Blessings of Christ Gerald Vann O.P. "The Call to Love and Serve"
The heart of man is not a house that can be emptied of one set of furnishings that another may be installed: it is not the objects of our love that have to be changed, it is our love that has to be changed by being transformed into the love which is the heart of Christ.
As we look at the headlines and at the day, the truth of this comes home powerfully. When we are still wrapped up and tied to material things, our affections are distorted. Whatever the good we love, it is not the supreme good and when our chief love is not the supreme good, then those goods we love tend to become lesser and lesser goods, until our loves degenerate into obsessions and sin. Christ calls us to a change of heart. It is said that Catherine of Siena experienced a mystical exchange of hearts with Christ and thereafter prayed for what was "in thy heart." This mystical exchange requires that we root out all that is selfish and self-centered in our own loves and lives.
The only cure for the ills of the world is the Heart of Jesus beating in the breast of every single living human being. As long as we are bound to the things of the world, we will long for money and power and signs of our superiority, and symbols of the love others have for us. Power is simply the desire for love gone astray. We feel so unloved, unwanted, unneeded, uncared for, that we substitute all kinds of things for the one thing that matters. But we feel unloved because we stay in our own hearts, doors barred, windows shut and locked and dare anyone to get in.
Someone once pointed out that to open any area of access would be to become vulnerable to others. Well, Jesus was vulnerable to death for love of us--and as frightening as that is, it seems better to die of love than to die of want. Jesus did not die wanting--He died in the fullness of life, in the fullness of love, and in the apotheosis of humanity. He died to show us how to live--and living that way death is not death, but victory because our lives mirror His and our deaths call to others and inspire others to follow Him. As frightening as vulnerability is, it is far less frightening that remaining locked in the fortress of self. God save us from ourselves--the worst wardens, the worst dictators, the worst rulers the world has ever seen. The tyranny of self-love is the destruction of the world.
On the anniversary of such a somber ocassion, there is little to say that does not border on the mawkish or the idiotic. This, in fact, will be all that I say on the matter--other than the prayers that I offer for all.
I wrote the following poem after my mother died and I dedicate it respectfully to all of those who have been left behind.
for my mother
In green finery she walks the hallowed floor
(the clipping of her slippers on the wood
throws me off guard) and moves to the door
that leads to the hall where the glass-cased
Bastille key fills the wall (more or less)
and onward without a word into the blue
ballroom with chairs along the wall as though just
moments ago cleared for the first dance.
She neither glances back nor moves her head,
but glides on quietly, assured of her step--
her destination--the boxwood hedge--she leads
me and seems to know I follow, though how
I cannot say. Through the wrought-iron gate,
she scuffs the brownstones of the path
as she moves to the center, there to wait
for me. Still she does not face me, but I know
her for one who lost me years ago as she went
on and I was left behind. So now I go
through the gate and up the garden path,
praying as I do that she does not look back.
And then a glance, a moment's lapse, a laugh
(or is it a cry?) breaks the quiet and
as a storm surge tears the sand from the beach
I am pulled from the path-gone-out of her reach.
Pulled back, bereft of this promised paradise,
I now know what it is to be Eurydice.
c2002 Steven Riddle
Certain forms of poetry constitute a challenge all their own. The sestina, which has an elaborate rhyme scheme that retains the same six end-rhymes but rotates them from stanza to stanza. The villanelle must be one of the most difficult such forms. One of the most famous of these is Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle." The scheme of the villanelle isn't to keep simply an end-rhyme, but to retain one full line of the original triolet in each subsequent stanza and then in the final stanza to repeat all three lines with one additional line.
Here's an example from Edwin Arlington Robinson which is quite pleasing.
Villanelle of Change Edwin Arlington Robinson Since Persia fell at Marathon, The yellow years have gathered fast: Long centuries have come and gone.
And yet (they say) the place will don
A phantom fury of the past,
Since Persia fell at Marathon;
And as of old, when Helicon
Trembled and swayed with rapture vast
(Long centuries have come and gone),
This ancient plain, when night comes on,
Shakes to a ghostly battle-blast,
Since Persia fell at Marathon.
But into soundless Acheron
The glory of Greek shame was cast:
Long centuries have come and gone,
The suns of Hellas have all shone,
The first has fallen to the last:—
Since Persia fell at Marathon,
Long centuries have come and gone.
NOT the Seventeenth Century
The following passage is from a very short, lovely treatise by Walter Hilton called "The Song of Angels." The entire thing is available here.
Also, our Lord comforts a soul by angel's song. This song cannot be described by any bodily likeness, for it is spiritual, and above all imagination and reason. It may be felt and perceived in a soul, but it may not be showed. Nevertheless, I will speak of it to you as I think. When a soul is purified by the love of God, illumined by wisdom, and stabilized by the might of God, then the eye of the soul is opened to see spiritual things, as virtues and angels and holy souls, and heavenly things. Then, because it is clean, the soul is able to feel the touching, the speaking of good angels. This touching and speaking is spiritual and not bodily. For when the soul is lifted and ravished out of the sensuality, and out of mind of any earthly things, then in great fervour of love and light (if our Lord deigns) the soul may hear and feel heavenly sound, made by the presence of angels in loving God. Not that this song of angels is the supreme joy of the soul; but because of the difference between a person's soul in flesh and an angel, due to uncleanness, a soul may not hear it except by ravishing in love, and it must be much purified and well cleaned, and filled with much love, before it will be able to hear heavenly sound. For the supreme and essential joy is in the love of God by Himself and for Himself, and the secondary is in communing with and beholding angels and spiritual creatures. For just as a soul, in understanding spiritual things, is often touched and moved through bodily imagination by the work of angels, as when Ezekiel the prophet saw in bodily imagination the truth of God's hidden mysteries, just so, in the love of God, a soul by the presence of angels is ravished out of mind of all earthly and fleshly things and filled with a heavenly joy, to hear angel's song and heavenly sound, according to the measure of its love. I think that no soul may truly feel the angel's song or heavenly sound, unless it is in perfect love, though not all that are in perfect love have felt it, but only the soul that is so purified in the fire of love that all earthly savor is burned out of it, and all obstacles between the soul and the cleanness of angels are broken and put away from it. Then truly may he sing a new song, and truly may he hear a blessed heavenly sound, and angel's song, without deceit or feigning. Our Lord knows the soul that, for abundance of burning love, is worthy to hear angel's song.
"You may hear and feel the heavenly sound, made by the presence of Angels in loving God." This song is such that it does not consist of mere words. This song may be felt as well as heard. It is a song that enters the flesh through the grace of God, and serves as another consolation.
John Flavel who lived (as though there is some other century in this blog) in the seventeenth century was an English Presbyterian minister. Some of his works are still extant, most particularly his sermons. There are many very beautiful things in them. But I often think about this one sermon, and I am over and over again carried away by the beauty and truth of what Flavel teaches us.
from "Christ Altogether Lovely" John Flavel
Let us consider this excellent expression, and particularly reflect on what is contained in it, and you shall find this expression "altogether lovely."
First, It excludes all unloveliness and disagreeableness from Jesus Christ. As a theologian long ago said, "There is nothing in him which is not loveable." The excellencies of Jesus Christ are perfectly exclusive of all their opposites; there is nothing of a contrary property or quality found in him to contaminate or devaluate his excellency. And in this respect Christ infinitely transcends the most excellent and loveliest of created things. Whatsoever loveliness is found in them, it is not without a bad aftertaste. The fairest pictures must have their shadows: The rarest and most brilliant gems must have dark backgrounds to set off their beauty; the best creature is but a bitter sweet at best: If there is something pleasing, there is also something sour. if a person has every ability, both innate and acquired, to delight us, yet there is also some natural corruption intermixed with it to put us off. But it is not so in our altogether lovely Christ, his excellencies are pure and unmixed. He is a sea of sweetness without one drop of gall.
Secondly, "Altogether lovely," i.e. There is nothing unlovely found in him, so all that is in him is wholly lovely. As every ray of God is precious, so every thing that is in Christ is precious: Who can weigh Christ in a pair of balances, and tell you what his worth is? "His price is above rubies, and all that thou canst desire is not to be compared with him," Prov. 8:11.
Thirdly "Altogether lovely," i.e. He embraces all things that are lovely: he seals up the sum of all loveliness. Things that shine as single stars with a particular glory, all meet in Christ as a glorious constellation. Col. 1:19, "It pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell." Cast your eyes among all created beings, survey the universe: you will observe strength in one, beauty in a second, faithfulness in a third, wisdom in a fourth; but you shall find none excelling in them all as Christ does. Bread has one quality, water another, raiment another, medicine another; but none has them all in itself as Christ does. He is bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, a garment to the naked, healing to the wounded; and whatever a soul can desire is found in him, 1 Cor. 1:30.
Fourthly, "Altogether lovely," i.e. Nothing is lovely in opposition to him, or in separation from him. If he truly is altogether lovely, then whatsoever is opposite to him, or separate from him can have no loveliness in it. Take away Christ, and where is the loveliness of any enjoyment? The best creature-comfort apart from Christ is but a broken cistern. It cannot hold one drop of true comfort, Psalm 73:26. It is with the creature--the sweetest and loveliest creature--as with a beautiful image in the mirror: turn away the face and where is the image? Riches, honours, and comfortable relations are sweet when the face of Christ smiles upon us through them; but without him, what empty trifles are they all?
Fifthly, "Altogether lovely," i.e. Transcending all created excellencies in beauty and loveliness. If you compare Christ and other things, no matter how lovely, no matter how excellent and desirable, Christ carries away all loveliness from them. "He is (as the apostle says) before all things," Col. 1:17. Not only before all things in time, nature, and order; but before all things in dignity, glory, and true excellence. In all things he must have the pre-eminence. Let us but compare Christ's excellence with the creature's in a few particulars, and how manifest will the transcendent loveliness of Jesus Christ appear!
Christ is altogether lovely. Altogether lovely. Lovable, loving, Love Incarnate, altogether lovely. Are any other words necessary or meaningful in this relation?
In His humanity--altogether lovely,
In His divinity--altogether lovely,
In His humility--altogether lovely,
In His devotion--altogether lovely,
In His speech--altogether lovely,
In His appearance--altogether lovely,
In His life--altogether lovely,
In His words--altogether lovely,
In His sacrifice--altogether lovely,
In His death--altogether lovely,
In His friendship--altogether lovely,
In His anger--altogether lovely,
In His generosity--altogether lovely,
In His teaching--altogether lovely,
In His subservience--altogether lovely,
In His transcendence--altogether lovely,
In His apostles--altogether lovely,
In His saints--altogether lovely,
In His people--altogether lovely,
In all people--Christ is altogether lovely,
In His creation--Christ is altogether lovely.
Lord, teach me always and everywhere to live in awe, wonder, and constant attention to your loveliness--the loveliness of the most beautiful of God's creations or man's cocreations pales in comparison. Teach me to look upon this and desire this alone. Teach me to let go of everything that is not You--for in you alone is there anything worthwhile.
Mr. Alexander's Return
Our good friend and most excellent and interesting blogger, Mr. Matthew Alexander, respectfully requests that we inform all and sundry that he is back to blogging. Do yourself a favor and venture there to savor all kinds of things heretofore untold-- (at least in his words.)
Read Ms. Knapp on the frightening reality of her blog. Abagail is partially right--to those not used to it, someone with such a clear focus can be very daunting. All I can say is an encouraging--"Keep on Daunting!" A beautiful column, as usual.
Senses Working Overtime
As much as I love the presentations over at Disputations, I particularly loved this reflection on (in part) the meaning of sin. Seems Blogmaster and I were on a similar channel yesterday and this reflection just hit the spot for me.
I have thought long and hard before deciding to take this step. And the conclusion of my thought is that I have determined to try to share some of my own poetic endeavors from time to time. The poetry market seems mostly closed--I've tried time and again to break in, but other than little magazines, no one is really taking anything from any new voice. Or, perhaps, (and believe me this reality has hit home often) my poetry really doesn't deserve publication. That's hard for me to believe, particularly when I look at some of the stuff that does make its way into the paying market. Surely there is good stuff, and just as surely there is stuff that amounts to the emperor's new clothes. People have been told that it is good, and it is new, and that has been accepted. Whatever the reality, I humbly offer this poem for your delectation and delight (please keep any horror and repugnance to yourself--some things are best savored alone). And please pardon me if this seems too bold a step.
Completion: A Valediction
for Joyce M
The thousand paper cranes have been folded.
The day has come to set them to their flight.
As we pause to ponder, something like dread
threatens to consume us, as though we might
not be able to fold these birds again.
Our touch will be gone, the paper too coarse,
the folds too hard, our hearts too sad. But when
we think of our first efforts, and rehearse
our first completed crane, we see the hands
that guided us, feel their touch, and know that
they will show us how to shape and mold and
make new figures even at a distance. What
we thought would be the end, becomes the start
of even greater paper-folding art.
c. 2002 Steven Riddle
Many who read this have been spared the ordeal of Baptist Sunday School. I say ordeal, although at the time I am sure that I enjoyed it, and its effects have remained with me for a very long time. One aspect of this type of Sunday school was verse memorization. You would pick a chapter and verse of scripture and memorize it word for word in the King James (Authorized) Edition. As I said, something of this sort stays with you. However, there were weeks when you didn't have time to memorize, and every so often the verse you came up with was, "Jesus wept." Two words, not particularly difficult to remember. I believe they are found in the gospel of Luke, I forget the citation at this time. But I remember the verse.
One of the reasons I remember it is that it was the first time I realized that events and actions that affect us affect God. God, in fact, loves us so much that He allows Himself to be changed by us. The unchangeable allows Himself to be persuaded, cajoled, petitioned, and ultimately moved by the creation He loves so much. Too often I forget this. Too often in prayer I seem to be talking to a distant God who may or may not have much interest in what I am saying and what is happening to me here and now. What I need to remember at those times is "Jesus wept." Jesus, God incarnate, is moved for his creation. In fact, Jesus weeps over the destruction of Jerusalem that he foresees upon looking at the city. Jesus is moved by pity. Jesus is moved and He is changed by His creation. Not that He must be changed--he could remain as fixed as the center point of the Universe if He so willed. God has the capacity to resist any change or any force. But He allows the force of our lives, our needs, our wants, our love to move Him.
Time and again we see that God grieves with us, or God is moved by us. In the magnificent story of Jonah, God "repents" of His promised destruction of the city of Nineveh when the people of the town showed deep remorse. Jonah, in a fit of pique, wishes himself dead. God comforts him with the growth of a bean plant and then withers it. Jonah, apparently not the most happy of people at the best of times, once again sulks and God gently reminds Him that while Jonah had done nothing for the bean plant, God had thousands of men, women, and children who were utterly dependent upon Him and who acknowledged their dependence. How could He not heed their cries?
Jesus wept. And my guess is, He still weeps for us. As our companion in all of life's difficulties, He weeps for us when we lose someone, not because they are lost--after all, He knows where they are--but because we hurt and He knows the sharpness of that hurt. Jesus rejoices with us when we rejoice. He is our constant companion, our closest and most intimate friend, the Person who loves us best of all. In our sorrow and in our joy, we have the solace and the companionship of the God who deigned to become like us. This God, who could have saved in any way He wished, chose to show how much we meant by becoming one of us. He chose to give us Himself in all humanity so that we could not say He did not understand our problems--for indeed He does.
Jesus wept, and Jesus still weeps and God is still moved by His creation. There is enormous mystery in those words and thoughts. There is great strangeness in that reality. As we mourn, or as we rejoice, we should make an effort to be aware of Jesus who is with us through everything.
Sadness of the State Fair
A nice description of some of the true joys and interests of state fairs and of their unfortunate decline is available at Sainteros.
I have, for some reason, been thinking along the same lines for some time. Recent events in blogdom and in life has led me to really think about my appreciation of things rural. Being a suburban boy, this is a tough thing for me--the rural has all the horrors of the unknown, and yet those self-same beauties. We are too disconnected as a society and people. We have gradually obtained a sense that we are somehow above or outside of nature. This is a serious fallacy and a serious problem.
My solution--I have no wisdom here. But I believe that I shall attend next year's county fair and the Strawberry Festival in nearby Lakeland. It's only a bit of a reconnect, but it sure seems I'm being moved that way. Thanks Mr. First from Floyd, Mr. Bell from Front Royal, and Mr. Brobeck. Sometimes I need emphatic reminders.
As soon as I come up with an appropriate way to do so, I want to post the following quotation from The Sayings of Light and Love as site motto and reminder.
from Sayings of Light and Love Saint John of the Cross
118. Ignoring the imperfections of others, preserving silence and a continual communion with God will eradicate great imperfections from the soul and make it the possessor of great virtues.
My temptation is often to focus out from myself. I look at others and I see all sorts of undesirable qualities. What I need to remember is the psychological and spiritual reality articulated by Jesus--"Judge not, lest yet be judged."
When I look out into the world and see things I don't like, I must remember I am looking into a mirror. Those irritations and imperfections that upset me are my own in greater or lesser degree. When I judge them, when I lash out against them, I am in some sense judging what I do not like in myself.
But getting away from the whole question of judging--when I am looking at the blemishes of others, I prevent myself from seeing Christ in them. When I am focusing on the things that irritate me, I am incapable of perceiving Jesus who stands right beside me attempting to instruct me in love. In fact, ignoring the imperfections of others is the only way to begin to preserve silence and perfect communion with God. If we are obsessed with imperfections, charity would demand that we assist others in conquering them. Moreover, when we are continually examining those imperfections, we set ourselves up God and judge. We must speak, for not to speak would be to condemn the other to their imperfection. We exalt ourselves.
Better to maintain silence. Perhaps what we see as an imperfection God perceives as the pinnacle of perfection of a virtue we are neither interested in nor looking for. Our focus should be on Jesus Christ. When we look at others, we should see the image of Christ looking out to us. We need to reach out to that perfect image and lose ourselves in service. We need to serve Christ. If we are busy cataloguing imperfections, we will not serve anyone or anything other than our own prejudices. This is a place where I need a lot of grace. I need God's continual help and support, and I need the daily reminder--hence the site motto.
Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" is considered amongst the finest flowering of the "graveyard school" of poetry. Yes, there is such a thing--fortunately a phenomenon relatively short lived, but giving rise to this one great elegiac tribute. Here is an excerpt that gave us another famous work.
Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard Thomas Gray . . . Th' applause of list'ning senates to command, The threats of pain and ruin to despise, To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land, And read their hist'ry in a nation's eyes,
Their lot forbade: nor circumscrib'd alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confin'd;
Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,
The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
With incense kindled at the Muse's flame.
Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.
Yet ev'n these bones from insult to protect,
Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck'd,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.
. . .
Sin: Speech and Talk, Silence and Dumbness
This series of excerpts from Romano Guardini's great "Meditations Before Mass" provides a lot of food for thought.
Meditations Before Mass Romano Guardini "Silence and the Word"
But truth can be recognized only from silence. The constant talker will never, or at least rarely, grasp truth. Of course even he must experience some truths, otherwise he could not exist. He does notice certain facts, observe certain relations, draw conclusions and make plans. But he does not yet possess genuine truth, which comes into being only when the essence of an object, the significance of a relation, and what is valid and eternal in this world reveal themselves. This requires the spaciousness, freedom, and pure receptiveness of that inner "clean-swept room" which silence alone can create. The constant talker knows no such room within himself; hence he cannot know truth. Truth, and consequently the reality of speech, depends upon the speaker's ability to speak and to be silent in turn.
The heart incapable of storing anything, of withdrawing into itself, cannot thrive. Like a field that must constantly produce, it is soon impoverished.
Just as there exists a perverted variety of speech, "talk," there exists also a perverted silence, dumbness. Dumbness is just as bad as garrulity. It occurs when silence, sealed in the dungeon of a heart that has no outlet, becomes cramped and oppressive.
Consequently, even for the sake of speech we must practice silence. To a large extent the liturgy consists of words which we address to and receive from God. They must not degenerate to mere talk, which is the fate of all words, even the profoundest and holiest, when they are spoken improperly.
There is such a storehouse of wisdom in a few simple phrases. I particularly liked,” Truth, and consequently the reality of speech, depends upon the speaker's ability to speak and to be silent in turn. " I'm not sure I fully understand it, but I believe that there are two parts to what Guardini is saying. Truth is dynamic. That is, because of its nature it requires a direct interaction from us. If we are completely silent all of them time, we cannot begin to internalize truth. It seems to fully understand it, we must converse with it in a serious fashion. However, the second half of this I understand thoroughly. If one's mouth is constantly running, there can be no pause no space in which to hear the truth. If we are constantly speaking, we cannot hear. And perhaps that is why some of us are constantly talking--hearing the truth is hard. As much as we may love Jesus and want to please Him, we don't really want to know the truth about ourselves--we suspect that it would be too ugly and too hard.
We may be right. But it seems to me that when you face the crucifix, you are facing the ugliest and hardest truth about yourself that there is. Even if you don't feel it, even if you only pay lip-service to it. The truth revealed to us in the crucifix is that we all contributed to this. That is sin is not a potential, it is a reality, and it is a destructive, ugly, hard reality that means real pain for real people. Disobedience is not a matter lightly undertaken because it is a nail in the hand of Christ. Speaking poorly of our neighbors and friends is a hammer blow. Christ didn't lecture at us from the Cross telling us the meaning of the spectacle before us, rather he prayed for us and worked for us, all the while that we stared and did nothing. Yes--that is the truth and the hard reality. In the suffering of Jesus Christ , we did not exhibit merely the potential for cruelty; rather, we stood by and at the last moment offered Him a vinegar-soaked rag. That is the hard truth exhibited in every crucifix. It is, I suspect, the reason why some protestant sects have nothing corresponding to a crucifix. The truth is far too difficult to look upon--we can talk about utter depravity, but we can't face the consequences of our talk.
The truth is also that our cruelty is like the cruelty of children. Jesus Himself said it, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." We don't recognize that actions have eternal consequences. We don't realize that "a little sin" has a great echo. Like a shockwave in a tectonic plate under the ocean, we precipitate a ripple in the water, which, when it approaches shore becomes a tsunami of destruction. It may not seem so bad to look at our Playboys and other such magazines. Surely the swimsuit issue of Sport's Illustrated would be okay. It isn't so terrible to get a little tipsy and then drive ourselves home. Surely eating three times more than any normal person possibly could isn't so terrible an act. But every sin, every straying from the perfection of the life God would have us lead is a dire and dangerous thing. Small deviations from expectations gradually lead us to become more daring. From Playboy we may slip into depersonalizing our spouse or perhaps even adultery. From tipsy we move to drunk, to having killed some innocent because of our gross irresponsibility and sin. Venial sins are only venial when they are repudiated and confessed. Within them is the capacity to so warp our image of self and God that we move gradually into mortal sin without recognizing it. As with Church Doctrine--we dissent from some small teaching, something seemingly insignificant, for which we can bring enormous evidence to support our position--suddenly we find that we can accept no teaching because we "have broken the Authority" with which the Church teaches. Church teachings become simply a smorgasbord of suggestions about how we might lead better lives. So too with sin--one small step begins to unbind the authority of Conscience. Soon, we are lost, not knowing how we got there.
But we are never lost. Jesus is always there. Look at a crucifix in time of temptation. Place yourself not at the foot of the cross, but as one of those who is binding the Lord to it. Hold the hammer in your hand and feel its weight. Bring it down upon a nail. One moment of that, one turn of the thought of what you are doing, and if you are not our good friend Alex from A Clockwork Orange the wave of revulsion you feel may be enough to dissuade you from the action. Realizing the enormity of sin is one step toward avoiding near occasions of sin. The next time we think about sinning, this exercise, and a momentary consideration of how our sin extends beyond ourselves, may provide strong persuasion to refrain from our considered act.
"For the Snark was . . ."
A dear friend expressed the need for "Jabberwocky." So in my inimitably perverse way, I provide him solace via the eighth fit of "The Hunting of the Snark."
from "The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight Fits" Lewis Carroll Fit the Eighth. THE VANISHING.
They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;
They pursued it with forks and hope;
They threatened its life with a railway-share;
They charmed it with smiles and soap.
They shuddered to think that the chase might fail,
And the Beaver, excited at last,
Went bounding along on the tip of its tail,
For the daylight was nearly past.
"There is Thingumbob shouting!" the Bellman said,
"He is shouting like mad, only hark!
He is waving his hands, he is wagging his head,
He has certainly found a Snark!"
They gazed in delight, while the Butcher exclaimed
"He was always a desperate wag!"
They beheld him--their Baker--their hero unnamed--
On the top of a neighbouring crag,
Erect and sublime, for one moment of time
In the next, that wild figure they saw
(As if stung by a spasm) plunge into a chasm,
While they waited and listened in awe.
"It's a Snark!" was the sound that first came to their ears,
And seemed almost too good to be true.
Then followed a torrent of laughter and cheers:
Then the ominous words "It's a Boo-"
Then, silence. Some fancied they heard in the air
A weary and wandering sigh
Then sounded like "-jum!" but the others declare
It was only a breeze that went by.
They hunted till darkness came on, but they found
Not a button, or feather, or mark,
By which they could tell that they stood on the ground
Where the Baker had met with the Snark.
In the midst of the word he was trying to say,
In the midst of his laughter and glee,
He had softly and suddenly vanished away---
For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.
If you want a perfect example of the nearly complete opacity of Japanese Verse, go to the link below and visit Station 23, Hiraizumi. Click on each of the four different translations and see what the different translators make of the haiku that are included in the narrative. My own reading suggests that Corum's translation is the most accurate of the four, but it is nearly completely disjointed--abbreviated to the point of obscurity. What a challenge translating this must be!
One day, less than that, and I'm already endlessly in debt to Mr. Bell. This wonderful link is the latest in things discovered on his blog. I have an edition of Basho called, The Narrow Road to Oku which has magnificent plates accompanying the poems, along with some of the original Japanese for me to puzzle and marvel over (those chains of syllables that appear to have no real connectors in the way of verbs--fascinating stuff). But at this site you may choose one of four different translators or read the original Japanese, if you're so inclined. Even if you don't read it, it is wonderful to look at. I always marvel at the way that Japanese rains down on the page in beautiful rivulets. Given that they have phonograms (two different sets--one for Japanese words, one for non-Japanese) and Logograms, the symbols move from ripe, plump meaningful mysterys, to spare but gorgeous squiggles. One of the phonograms looks like it is escaping from being a "schwa." Enjoy the site. I'll be adding it to the permanent list, as this is one of my very favorite works of Asian poetry.
Selections from Japanese Poetry
Just a couple of short pieces:
A thousand years, you said,
As our hearts melted.
I look at the hand you held,
And the ache is hard to bear.
from Six Tanka for Yakamochi
Like the pearl of dew
On the grass in my garden
In the evening shadows,
I shall be no more.
Even the grains of sand
On a beach eight hundred days wide
Would not be more than my love,
Watchman of the island coast.
It took me quite a while to acquire the taste for this poet. However once I did, nothing I looked at seemed the same. There is power in his words that transcends my ability to describe, but I have come to love his work. The following poem is from The Country of Marriage.
The Cruel Plumage (A Theme of Edwin Muir) Wendell Berry
All our days are arrows; now at the turn
of life, half-fledged and knowledgeable, I face
the coming of the rest, their grief and pain
made accurate by their joy. So I will learn
the world. full-feathered, I must fly to an unknown
And one more, from the collection Openings
The Want of Peace Wendell Berry
All goes back to the earth,
and so I do not desire
pride of excess or power,
but the contentments made
by men who have had little:
the fisherman's silence
recieving the river's grace,
the gardener's musing on rows.
I lack the peace of simple things.
I am never wholly in place.
I find no peace or grace.
We sell the world to buy fire,
our way lighted by burning men,
and that has bent my mind
and made me think of darkness
and wish for the dumb life of roots.
I can't say enough about this latter poem. I suppose a poet speaks to where you are and where you have been. Mr. Berry is a poet for me for now, speaking volumes of truth in few words--few, but beautiful.
One for Dylan
Here's a relatively contemporary poet whom, I imagine, even Dylan has not had much of an encounter with. I knew this man personally and his poetry was potentially some of the very finest I have ever set eyes on. The only problem is that he did not believe in revision or revisiting in any extensive sense. It gave rise to some infelicities in language. But, all that can be forgiven for some of this beauty:
The Moon Has No Motion I Can Move
Jay Bradford Fowler Jr.
The moon has no motion I can move
Nor the trees in the night can I have
As my green leaves.
The moon made a soft motion
In the night and the leaves
Whispered closer to themselves.
My dream turns as softly
As the moon and thought, like leaves,
Grow in peace among their branches.
The moon is no maker. It does not mean.
And the leaves in the wind I cannot do.
The moon is no maker but for me to make
The letting of the moon grow soft
Upon my shoulder. The leaves are no wisdom.
They do not speak, but for saying
my prayers as I sleep.
from "When the Secret Taper Descends
When the secret taper decends
And holds steady on the tips of the phlox
Until they burst into blooms of pink
The man on the porch opens the door
To the yard and walks out into
The dark garden to hold his face among
Their blooms and smell their incense. . .
from "A Straight Line of Love
My father will not ascend into heaven.
He will drive there in his Packard.
And the drive will be north, through
Connecticut and New Hampshire, to Maine,
And beyond. One night my father will rise
From his bed and leave the little
Room with the chest of drawers and its wild
Garden of photographs. . .
Jay was a beautiful and unique voice in poetry. It is a shame he is no longer with us. It would be a greater shame if his poetry, which he loved as nothing else, were to be utterly unremembered.
Treasures Come from Digging
Sounds rather like an A. A. Fair title, does it not? Oh well--don't expect Bertha Cool here. What I found via my wanderings is this wonderful excerpt:
from "Prayer and Life"
Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh
IV. THE ROLE OF CONTEMPLATION
1. The Search for the Vision of Things as God Sees Them
What, then, is the nature of this contemplation? It is the function, the constant, unceasing situation of the Christian, irrespective of his position: he may belong to a contemplative Order, or to any other Order; or again he may be simply a layman who is doubly committed, that is, committed in relation to God and, by that very fact, totally committed in relation to all the rest of the created world, the world of men and things. The first fact to note is that this contemplation is a steady gaze, an attentive gaze, deriving from a lucid mind, concentrating on things, people and events, on both their static reality and their dynamism. It is a gaze fixed wholly on its object, and at the same time an ear wholly straining towards what it will hear, what will reach it from without. And to achieve this calls for a very definite and indispensable ascesis, for one must know how to be self-detached in order to see and hear. As long as we remain self-centred, we can only see a reflection of ourselves in the things that surround us, or a reflection of what surrounds us in the restless, troubled waters of our conscience. We must know how to be silent in order to hear; we must know how to gaze earnestly before believing that we have seen. We have to be at once free of ourselves and given over to God and to the object of his contemplation. Only then will we be able to see things in their objective reality.
This site seems to be devoted to his writings and worthy of several visits. Thanks to Mr. Bell again.
Notes from a Hillside Farm
Sometimes things simply speak to you. I was casting about for new blogs to read and new places to explore. I stumbled upon Mr. Bell's Notes from a Hillside Farm and immediately knew this would be a place I would visit often. I consider Northern/Tidewater Virginia home (Northern, because family is there, Tidewater, because it is where I seem always to be longing for). But the mountains of Virginia near Winchester, Front Royal, and most particularly Massanutten Mountain were the sites of some of my earliest work in geology, and still very, very dear to me. In addition, Mr. Bell seems to have some good insights and shares with me some of the things that are not presently possible for me to do. I'll be a frequent visitor.
More Modern Christian Poets
I've long wanted to blog some of the poetry of Luci Shaw. You can find one here. Search the index for this site to find other, she is often published in magazines such as First Things.
Sister Miriam Pollard O.C.S.O. is another fine poet. Here is a short excerpt from her poem "Elijah in December." Many of her poems follow this pattern of prosody. The book is available from Ignatius Press.
from "Elijah in December"
in Neither Be Afraid
Sr. Miriam Pollard OCSO
Nothing now sparkles and flashes,
Notheing here thunders or rings.
There's only the silvery rustle
Of something like wings.
Not in the sky's explosion,
Not where the mountains fall--
Stand and cover your face
Where a hush is all.
Dylan has blogged a poem from a Carmelite poet I have long considered placing on the site. The poetry of Jessica Powers is, for the most part, quite lovely and quite evocative. We have in our Chapter Book for Carmelite meetings a poem of Sr. Miriam which can be sung to the Music of "Ode to Joy." The OCDS publication Clarion Call often includes one of Sr. Miriam's poems. So, go and enjoy. I'll just have to find another poet to blog first.
Mr González very generously responded to my plea for help and then gave me a surprising bonus--a comment to comment upon.
Odd coincidence: I intended to comment in my weblog about some some english translations of "En una noche oscura ... " Perhaps next week... (did you hear the -somewhat 'new-age' but not bad- Loreena McKennit version?) If you know of some good english versions, please tell me.
I love the music of Loreena McKennitt, and while I can't claim to have been with her from the very beginning, I started loving her when I heard the fantastic song, "All Soul's Night" from The Visit while listening to my local classical music station. Loreena does vaguely Enya-like stuff--but the emphasis seems more Celtic than New Age--though I suppose the two are so closely allied in most aspects that they are difficult to separate.
What I particularly like about Loreena McKennitt's albums is that each one has one "Narrative Poem" set to music. On The Visit we have "The Lady of Shalott," on The Book of Secrets we have "The Highwayman," and on The Mask and the Mirror we have two: "The Dark Night of the Soul" and "The Bonny Swans." Actually "The Bonny Swans" is an old song, so the lyrics have entered the world of poetry by the back door.
The music is that lovely, largely minor key Celtic-themed material played largely on traditional instruments and Ms. McKennitt's voice is a beautiful accompaniment. I cannot say enough good about her, even though I have not of recent date picked up her albums. I will have to remedy that as soon as I have a chance.
Availablity of the Works of San Juan de la Cruz
First, many thanks to Mr. González for the advice on Spanish Versions of San Juan's works.
Now, a response to the query he posited--what are considered the very best English translations of San Juan's works can be found at ICS publications site. Go to the Archives and you'll find on-line English translations of everything except Ascent of Mount Carmel. The somewhat stodgier, older translation of Ascent by E. Allison Peers is available here. The Kiernan Kavanaugh/Ottilio Rodriguez translations available at ICS are considered among the finest. Also, they did tremendous editorial work that resulted in a much expanded version of The Sayings of Light and Love. Enjoy!
Two Childhood Favorites
I almost feel the need to apologize for the following, but I have loved it ever since I was a little child, and I will read it often to my own children. The lesson taught is more relevant than ever.
The Spider and the Fly Mary Howitt
"Will you walk into my parlour?" said the Spider to the Fly,"
'Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I have many curious things to show you when you are there."
"Oh no, no," said the Fly, "to ask me is in vain;
For who goes up your winding stair can ne'er come down again."
"I'm sure you must be weary, dear, with soaring up so high;
Will you rest upon my little bed?" said the Spider to the Fly.
"There are pretty curtains drawn around, the sheets are fine and thin;
And if you like to rest awhile, I'll snugly tuck you in!"
"Oh no, no," said the little Fly, "for I've often heard it said
They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed!"
Said the cunning Spider to the Fly, "Dear friend, what can I do
To prove that warm affection I've always felt for you?
I have within my pantry, good store of all that's nice;
I'm sure you're very welcome - will you please take a slice?"
"Oh no, no," said the little Fly, "kind sir, that cannot be,
I've heard what's in your pantry, and I do not wish to see!"
"Sweet creature," said the Spider, "you're witty and you're wise;
How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!
I have a little looking-glass upon my parlour shelf;
If you step in one moment, dear, you shall behold yourself."
"I thank you, gentle sir," she said, "for what you're pleased to say;
And bidding good morning now, I'll call another day."
The Spider turned him round about, and went into his den,
For well he knew the silly Fly would soon come back again;
So he wove a subtle web in a little corner sly,
And set his table ready to dine upon the Fly.
Then he came out to his door again, and merrily did sing,
"Come hither, hither, pretty Fly, with the pearl and silver wing;
Your robes are green and purple, there's a crest upon your head;
Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are as dull as lead."
Alas, alas! how very soon this silly little Fly,
Hearing his wily, flattering words, came slowly flitting by;
With buzzing wings she hung aloft, Then near and nearer drew, -
Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue;
Thinking only of her crested head - poor foolish thing! At last,
Up jumped the cunning Spider, and fiercely held her fast.
He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den
Within his little parlour - but she ne'er came out again!
And now, dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly, flattering words, I pray you ne'er heed;
Unto an evil counsellor close heart, and ear, and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale of the Spider and the Fly.
The Duel Eugene Field The gingham dog and the calico cat Side by side on the table sat; T'was half past twelve, and (what do you think!) Nor one nor t'other had slept a wink! The old Dutch clock and the Chinese plate Appeared to know as sure as fate There was going to be a terrible spat (I wasn't there; I simply state What was told to me by the Chinese plate!)
The gingham dog went "Bow-wow-wow!"
And the calico cat replied "Mee-ow!"
The air was littered, an hour or so,
With bits of gingham and calico,
While the old Dutch clock in the chimney-place
Up with its hands before its face,
For it always dreaded a family row!
(Now mind: I'm only telling you
What the old Dutch clock declares is true!)
The Chinese plate looked very blue,
And wailed, "Oh, dear! what shall we do!"
But the gingham dog and the calico cat
Wallowed this way and tumbled that,
Employing every tooth and claw
In the awfulest way you ever saw--
And oh! How the gingham and calico flew!
(Don't fancy I exaggerate--I got my news from the Chinese plate!)
Next morning, where the two had sat
They found no trace of dog or cat;
And some folks think unto this day
That burglars stole that pair away!
But the truth about that cat and pup
Is this: they ate each other up!
Now what do you really think of that!
(The old Dutch clock it told me so,
And that is how I came to know.)
I was seeking to regale you with the delightsome poetry of Erasmus Darwin and I stumbled upon this wonderful site. It contains something close to 100 poems and I include a couple of highlights here.
from The Botanic Garden
She comes!--the Goddess!--through the whispering air,
Bright as the morn, descends her blushing car;
Each circling wheel a wreath of flowers intwines,
and gemd with flowers the silken harness shines;
The golden bits with flowery studs are deck'd,
And knots of flowers the crimson reisn connect.--
And now on earth the silver axle rings,
And the shell sinks upon its slender springs;
Light from airy feat the Goddess bounds,
And steps celestial press the pansied grounds.
In my years as geologist one of the great prizes in fossil collecting was a trilobite. I did much of my work in areas where these were not uncommon; however, you often found only bits and pieces. I found a single sclerite (body plate) of the Ohio State fossil--Isotelus gigas (for a photograph see this site)that was more than an inch across it's anterior-posterior dimension. Estimating the overall size, the trilobite would have been on the order of three and a half feet long. Hence this excerpt:
Lay of the Trilobite May Kendall
A mountain's giddy height I sought,
Because I could not find
Sufficient vague and mighty thought
To fill my mighty mind;
And as I wandered ill at ease,
There chanced upon my sight
A native of Silurian seas,
An ancient Trilobite.
So calm, so peacefully he lay,
I watched him even with tears:
I thought of Monads far away
In the forgotten years.
How wonderful it seemed and right,
The providential plan,
That he should be a Trilobite,
And I should be a Man!
As Forewarned--Fulke Greville
I had forgotten for a long while about the work of Lord Brooke, until I stumbled upon the Luminarium. I would hardly consider him a major voice of his time, but some of his poems are amusing and interesting. I've a particular interest in heresies exposed in verse and so I present this delightful little ditty:
Caelica Sonnet 89 Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke
The Manicheans did no idols make
Without themselves, nor worship gods of wood,
Yet idols did in their Ideas take,
And figured Christ as on the cross he stood.
Thus did they when they earnestly did pray,
Till clearer Faith this idol took away.
We seem more inwardly to know the Son,
And see our own salvation in his blood.
When this is said, we think the work is done,
And with the Father hold our portion good,
As if true life within these words were laid
For him that in life never words obeyed.
If this be safe, it is a pleasant way,
The Cross of Christ is very easily borne;
But six days' labour makes the sabbath day,
The flesh is dead before grace can be born.
The heart must first bear witness with the book,
The earth must burn, ere we for Christ can look.
Request for Assistance--San Juan de la Cruz
At one time I had two different sources for Works of San Juan in Spanish. I was unable to get to either of these locations when I tried recently. My Carmelite group has a largely hispanic contingent and it seemed to make more sense for people who could read Spanish more easily than English to read St. John in the original. In addition, they could advise when our translations went astray. If you know of a place where the complete works are on-line in Spanish, or failing that a site at which I could find Subida al Monte Carmelo I'd appreciate it. Thanks.