May 27, 2013

"No sculptured stone will tell"

Royal Irish Rifles in a communications trench on the first day on the Somme 1 July 1916
Royal Irish Rifles in a communications trench on the first day on the Somme, 1 July 1916
CASUALTY
John Delaney of the Rifles has been shot.
A man we never knew,
Does it cloud the day for you
That he lies among the dead
Moving, hearing, heeding not?

No history will hold his humble name.
No sculptured stone will tell
The traveller where he fell;
That he lies among the dead
Is the measure of his fame.

When our troops return victorious shall we care
The deaf to all the cheers
Lacking tribute of our tears,
He is lying with the dead
Stark and silent, God knows where?

John Delaney of the Rifles – who was he?
A name seen on a list
All unknown and unmissed,
What to us that he is dead?-
Yet he died for you and me.

-- Winifred Letts

Posted by John Weidner at 6:00 PM | Comments (0)

September 21, 2012

I will take you walking with me to a place you have not seen...

Canals are fascinating things. Scary, strange, mysteriously beautiful. Flecker gets it. Oxford Canal, by James Elroy Flecker (1884 – 1915)

OXFORD CANAL

When you have wearied of the valiant spires of this County Town,
Of its wide white streets and glistening museums, and black monastic walls,
Of its red motors and lumbering trains, and self-sufficient people,
I will take you walking with me to a place you have not seen —
Half town and half country—the land of the Canal.

It is dearer to me than the antique town: I love it more than the rounded hills:
Straightest, sublimest of rivers is the long Canal.
I have observed great storms and trembled: I have wept for fear of the dark.
But nothing makes me so afraid as the clear water of this idle canal on a summer's noon.
Do you see the great telegraph poles down in the water, how every wire is distinct?
If a body fell into the canal it would rest entangled in those wires for ever, between earth and air.
For the water is as deep as the stars are high.

One day I was thinking how if a man fell from that lofty pole
He would rush through the water toward me till his image was scattered by his splash,
When suddenly a train rushed by: the brazen dome of the engine flashed:
the long white carriages roared;
The sun veiled himself for a moment, and the signals loomed in fog;
A savage woman screamed at me from a barge: little children began to cry;
The untidy landscape rose to life: a sawmill started;
A cart rattled down to the wharf, and workmen clanged over the iron footbridge;
A beautiful old man nodded from the first story window of a square red house,
And a pretty girl came out to hang up clothes in a small delightful garden.

O strange motion in the suburb of a county town: slow regular movement of the dance of death!
Men and not phantoms are these that move in light.
Forgotten they live, and forgotten die.

James Elroy Flecker, poet, 1884--1915

(If you are among the happy few, I have other things by Flecker in my Poems category)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:24 PM | Comments (2)

December 24, 2011

It's sort of like a riddle....

Your voice speaks:

In my arms I still carry flowers from the wilderness, the dew on my hair is from the valleys of the dawn of humankind.

I have prayers that the meadows lend an ear to, I know how storms are tempered, how water is blest.

I carry in my womb the secrets of the desert, on my head the noble web of ancient thought.

For I am mother to all Earth’s children: why do you scorn me, world, when my Heavenly Father makes me so great?

Behold, in my long-vanished generations still kneel, and out of my soul many pagans shine toward the infinite.

I lay hidden in the temples of their Gods, I was darkly present in the sayings of their wise men.

I was on the towers with their star-gazers, I was with the solitary women on whom the spirit descended.

I was the desire of all times, I was the light of all times, I am the fullness of all times.

I am their great union, I am their eternal oneness. I am the way of all their ways, on me the millennia are drawn to God.

      ~ Gertrude von le Fort

Happy Christmas to you all! I hope Santa is kind.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:52 PM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2011

"But when they march before Him, God's welcome will be kind"

THE CONNAUGHT RANGERS

I SAW the Connaught Rangers when they were passing by,
On a spring day, a good day, with gold rifts in the sky.
Themselves were marching steadily along the Liffey quay
An' I see the young proud look of them as if it were to-day!
The bright lads, the right lads, I have them in my mind,
With the green flags on their bayonets all fluttering in the wind.

A last look at old Ireland, a last good-bye maybe,
Then the gray sea, the wide sea, my grief upon the sea!
And when will they come home, says I, when will they see once more
The dear blue hills of Wicklow and Wexford's dim gray shore?
The brave lads of Ireland, no better lads you'll find,
With the green flags on their bayonets all fluttering in the wind!

Three years have passed since that spring day, sad years for them and me.
Green graves there are in Serbia and in Gallipoli.
And many who went by that day along the muddy street
Will never hear the roadway ring to their triumphant feet.
But when they march before Him, God's welcome will be kind,
And the green flags on their bayonets will flutter in the wind.
    -- Winifred Letts
Posted by John Weidner at 10:28 PM

March 26, 2011

On rainy days I dine alone...

The Dean's Manner of Living

On rainy days alone I dine
Upon a chick and pint of wine,
On rainy days I dine alone,
And pick my chicken to the bone;
But this my servant much enrages,
No scraps remain to save board-wages.
In weather fine I nothing spend,
But often spunge upon a friend;
Yet, where he's not so rich as I,
I pay my club, and so good b'ye.

      --Swift
Posted by John Weidner at 9:41 PM

February 16, 2011

Why can't foreigners speak in a simple straightforward way, like we do?

'AND SHE IS SPOKE'

I'VE heard a half a dozen times
    Folks call it Reims.
That isn't right, though, so it seems,
    Perhaps it's Reims.
Poor city ruined now by flames--
    Can it be Reims?--
That once was one of France's gems-
    More likely Reims.
I'll get it right sometime, perchance
    I'm told it's Reims.
      -- Winifred Letts

Posted by John Weidner at 8:54 PM

January 25, 2011

The coils of rope, the nets, the old brown sails...

THE HARBOUR

I think if I lay dying in some land
Where Ireland is no more than just a name,
My soul would travel back to find that strand
From whence it came.

I'd see the harbour in the evening light,
The old men staring at some distant ship,
The fishing boats they fasten left and right
Beside the slip.

The sea-wrack lying on the wind-swept shore,
The grey thorn bushes growing in the sand,
Our Wexford coast from Arklow to Cahore -
My native land.

The little houses climbing up the hill
Sea daises growing in the sandy grass,
The tethered goats that wait large -eyed and still
To watch you pass.

The women at the well with dripping pails,
Their men colloguing by the harbour wall,
The coils of rope, the nets, the old brown sails,
I'd know them all.

And then the Angelus - I'd surely see
The swaying bell against a golden sky,
So God, WHO KEPT THE LOVE OF HOME IN ME
Would let me die.

    -- Winifred Letts

Posted by John Weidner at 7:28 AM

January 2, 2011

All battle-stained and grim are they, Who seek the Prince of Peace to-day...

Today is the Feast of the Epiphany...

EPIPHANY, 1916

THE Kings still come to Bethlehem
Though nineteen centuries have fled;
The Kings still come to Bethlehem
To worship at a Baby's bed.
And still a star shines in the East,
For sage and soldier, king and priest.

They come not as they came of old
On lordly camels richly dight;
They come not bearing myrrh and gold
And jewels for a king's delight.
All battle-stained and grim are they
Who seek the Prince of Peace to-day.

They bring not pearls nor frankincense
To offer Him for His content.
Weary and worn with long suspense
With kingdoms ravished, fortunes spent,
They have no gifts to bring but these
Men's blood and women's agonies.

What toys have they to please a child?
Cannon and gun and bayonet.
What gold? Their honour undefiled.
What myrrh? Sad hearts and long regret.
For they have found through bitter loss
That Kings are throned upon the Cross.

The Kings still come to Bethlehem
With broken hearts and souls sore-vexed.
And still the star is guiding them
Through weary nights and days perplexed.
God greet you, Kings, that you may be
New-crowned at His Epiphany.
    -- Winifred Letts
Posted by John Weidner at 6:38 PM

December 18, 2010

What though you tread the roads of Hell, Your Captain these same ways has trod...

CHAPLAIN TO THE FORCES

Ambassador of Christ you go
Up to the very gates of Hell ,
Through fog of powder, storm of shell,
To speak your Master's message: "Lo,
The Prince of Peace is with you still,
His peace be with you, His good-will."

It is not small, your priesthood's price.
To be a man and yet stand by,
To hold your life while others die,
To bless, not share the sacrifice,
To watch the strife and take no part—
You with the fire at your heart.

But yours, for our great Captain Christ,
To know the sweat of agony,
The darkness of Gethsemane,
In anguish for these souls unpriced.
Vicegerent of God's pity you,
A sword must pierce your own soul through.

In the pale gleam of new-born day,
Apart in some tree-shadowed place,
Your altar but a packing-case,
Rude as the shed where Mary lay,
Your sanctuary the rain-drenched sod,
You bring the kneeling soldier God.

As sentinel you guard the gate
'Twixt life and death, and unto death
Speed the brave soul whose failing breath
Shudders not at the grip of Fate,
But answers, gallant to the end,
"Christ is the Word—and I his friend."

Then God go with you, priest of God,
For all is well and shall be well.
What though you tread the roads of Hell,
Your Captain these same ways has trod.
Above the anguish and the loss
Still floats the ensign of His Cross.

      -- Winifred Mary Letts
Posted by John Weidner at 6:11 PM

November 21, 2010

A riddle for you!

MASTER of human destinies am I!
Fame, love, and fortune on my footsteps wait.
Cities and fields I walk; I penetrate
Deserts and seas remote, and passing by
Hovel and mart and palace — soon or late
I knock, unbidden, once at every gate!
If sleeping, wake — if feasting, rise before
I turn away. It is the hour of fate,
And they who follow me reach every state
Mortals desire, and conquer every foe
Save death; but those who doubt or hesitate,
Condemned to failure, penury, and woe,
Seek me in vain and uselessly implore.
I answer not, and I return no more!

(For the answer, click below)

OPPORTUNITY. A poem by John James Ingalls (1833-1900) [Link to info on Ingalls]

Posted by John Weidner at 4:53 PM

November 18, 2010

He's a massacree dog that knows no fear...

TIM, AN IRISH TERRIER

It's wonderful dogs they're breeding now:
Small as a flea or large as a cow;
But my old dog Tim he'll never be bet
By any dog that ever he met.
'Come on,' says he, 'for I'm not kilt yet.'

No matter the size of the dog he'll meet,
Tim trails his coat the length o' the street.
D'ye mind his scar an' his ragged ear,
The like of a Dublin Fusilier?
He's a massacree dog that knows no fear.

But he'd stick to me till his lastest breath;
An' he'd go with me to the gates of death.
He'd wait for a thousand years, maybe,
Scratching the door 'an whining for me
If myself were inside in Purgatory.

So I laugh when I hear them make it plain
That dogs and men never meet again.
For all their talk who'd listen to thim
With the soul in the shining eyes of him?
Would God be wasting a dog like Tim?

      -- Winifred Mary Letts
Posted by John Weidner at 5:57 PM

October 19, 2010

Mornings are dark, and evenings come apace...

    OCTOBER

Look, how those steep woods on the mountain's face
Burn, burn against the sunset; now the cold
Invades our very noon: the year's grown old,
Mornings are dark, and evenings come apace.
The vines below have lost their purple grace,
And in Forreze the white wrack backward rolled,
Hangs to the hills tempestuous, fold on fold,
And moaning gusts make desolate all the place.

Mine host the month, at thy good hostelry,
Tired limbs I'll stretch and steaming beast I'll tether;
Pile on great logs with Gascon hand and free,
And pour the Gascon stuff that laughs at weather;
Swell your tough lungs, north wind, no whit care we,
Singing old songs and drinking wine together.

      —Hilaire Belloc

Hillaire Belloc

Posted by John Weidner at 5:47 PM

October 9, 2010

But we that sit in a sturdy youth, And still can drink strong ale...

Hillaire Belloc

THE PELAGIAN DRINKING SONG

Pelagius lived at Kardanoel
And taught a doctrine there
How, whether you went to heaven or to hell
It was your own affair.
It had nothing to do with the Church, my boy,
But was your own affair.

No, he didn't believe
In Adam and Eve
He put no faith therein!
His doubts began
With the Fall of Man
And he laughed at Original Sin.
With my row-ti-tow
Ti-oodly-ow
He laughed at original sin.

Then came the bishop of old Auxerre
Germanus was his name
He tore great handfuls out of his hair
And he called Pelagius shame.
And with his stout Episcopal staff
So thoroughly whacked and banged
The heretics all, both short and tall --
They rather had been hanged.

Oh he whacked them hard, and he banged them long
Upon each and all occasions
Till they bellowed in chorus, loud and strong
Their orthodox persuasions.
With my row-ti-tow
Ti-oodly-ow
Their orthodox persuasions.

Now the faith is old and the Devil bold
Exceedingly bold indeed.
And the masses of doubt that are floating about
Would smother a mortal creed.
But we that sit in a sturdy youth
And still can drink strong ale
Let us put it away to infallible truth
That always shall prevail.

And thank the Lord
For the temporal sword
And howling heretics too.
And all good things
Our Christendom brings
But especially barley brew!
With my row-ti-tow
Ti-oodly-ow
Especially barley brew!
    -- Hilaire Belloc
Posted by John Weidner at 8:48 PM

August 5, 2010

"Frost, with a gesture, stays the winds that dance..."

      THE DEAD

These hearts were woven of human joys and cares,
Washed marvelously with sorrow, swift to mirth.
The years had given them kindness. Dawn was theirs,
And sunset, and the colors of the earth.
These had seen movement, and heard music; known
Slumber and waking; loved; gone proudly friended;
Felt the quick stir of wonder; sat alone;
Touched flowers and furs and cheeks. All this is ended.

There are waters blown by changing winds to laughter
And lit by the rich skies, all day. And after,
Frost, with a gesture, stays the winds that dance
And wandering loveliness. He leaves a white
Unbroken glory, a gathered radiance,
A width, a shining peace, under the night.

      --Rupert Brooke (1887-1915)
Posted by John Weidner at 1:37 PM

July 9, 2010

R.I.P. Seablogger

Blogger and poet Alan Sullivan has died; I have quoted him often here. Charlene and I once had lunch with him and his partner Tim Murphy in Fargo, ND! She and I will both miss reading him. He was always so open about his life and feelings that I feel closer to him than one normally would with an Internet acquaintance. Also, he came to Catholic faith not very long after I did. That was something that astonished and delighted us...

This is the last stanza of Alan and Tim's translation of Beowulf...

High on the headland         they heaped his grave-mound
which seafaring sailors         would see from afar.
Ten days they toiled         on the scorched hilltop,
the cleverest men         skillfully crafting
a long-home built         for the bold in battle.
They walled with timbers         the trove they had taken
sealing in stone         the circlets and gems
wealth of the worm-hoard         gotten with grief
gold from the ground         gone back to Earth
as worthless to men         as when it was won
the sorrowing swordsman         circled the barrow
twelve of his earls         telling their tales,
the sons of nobles         sadly saluting
deeds of the dead.         So dutiful thanes
in liege to their lord         mourn him with lays
praising his peerless         prowess in battle
as it is fitting         when life leaves the flesh.
Heavy-hearted         his hearth-companions
grieved for Beowulf         great among kings,
mild in his mien         most gentle of men,
kindest to kinfolk         and keenest for fame.

Some old posts that mention Alan... Link, link, link, link, link, link.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:53 PM

June 19, 2010

"And she grows young as the world grows old..."


THE TOWERS OF TIME
    By GK Chesterton (An excerpt)

Under what withering leprous light
The very grass as hair is grey,
Grass in the cracks of the paven courts
Of gods we graved but yesterday.
Senate, republic, empire, all
We leaned our backs on like a wall
And blessed as strong as strong and blamed as stolid—
Can it be these that waver and fall?
And what is this like a ghost returning,
A dream grown strong in the strong daylight?
The all-forsaken, the unforgotten,
The ever-behind and out of sight.
We turned our backs and our blind flesh felt it
Growing and growing, a tower in height.

Ah, not alone the evil splendour
And not the insolent arms alone
Break with the ramrod, stiff and brittle,
The sceptre of the nordic throne;
But things of manlier renown
Reel in the wreck of throne and crown,
With tyrannous tyranny, tyrannous loyalty
Tyrannous liberty, all gone down.

(There is never a crack in the ivory tower
Or a hinge to groan in the house of gold
Or a leaf of the rose in the wind to wither
And she grows young as the world grows old.
A Woman clothed with the sun returning
to clothe the sun when the sun is cold.)

Ah, who had guessed that in a moment
Great Liberty that loosed the tribes,
the Republic of the young men's battles
Grew stale and stank of old men's bribes;
And where we watched her smile in power
A statue like a starry tower
the stone face sneers as in a nightmare
Down on a world that worms devour.
(Archaic incredible dead dawns breaking
Deep in the deserts and waste and wealds,
Where the dead cry aloud on Our Lady of Victories,
Queen of the Eagles, aloft on the shields,
And the sun is gone up on the Thundering Legion
On the roads of Rome to the Battlefields.)....
Posted by John Weidner at 9:04 PM

May 2, 2010

"Till I fill their hearts with knowledge, While I fill their eyes with tears..."

Mark Steyn, Police State:

Well, what else would you call a country where the cops threaten a man with arrest for putting an election sign saying "GET THE LOT OUT" in his window, and charge a Christian with "hooliganism" after he was overheard saying that he believed homosexuality was a sin?

Why the British put up with their capriciously thuggish inept constabulary is a mystery. But certainly a land where displaying the colors of the Union Jack counts as "racist" and expressing what remains the Church of England's official position on homosexuality gets you fingerprinted and locked up is not one that has any meaningful commitment to freedom of expression. The current election feels like a theatrical pseudo-campaign played out in the ruins of a civilization.

Yep. Game's over. But WE are the English now. We fought our revolution for the "Rights of Englishmen," and we still retain... well, some of those rights. And we still retain at least some of the Christian faith that was the basis and wellspring of those rights. The torch has been passed to the Americans, and the Australians. And perhaps to the other lands of the Anglosphere, though the news from Canada is not encouraging...

    THE RECALL
I am the land of their fathers.
In me the virtue stays.
I will bring back my children,
After certain days.

Under their feet in the grasses
My clinging magic runs.
They shall return as strangers.
They shall remain as sons.

Over their heads in the branches
Of their new-bought, ancient trees,
I weave an incantation
And draw them to my knees.

Scent of smoke in the evening,
Smell of rain in the night—
The hours, the days and the seasons,
Order their souls aright,

Till I make plain the meaning
Of all my thousand years—
Till I fill their hearts with knowledge,
While I fill their eyes with tears.
    --Rudyard Kipling

What's really cool is that we Americans have taken this mysterious compelling something, expressed in the phrase The Rights of Englishmen, and we made it universal in its applicability...

New citizens

Posted by John Weidner at 6:54 PM

February 18, 2010

"What dreams of splendour blinded us and fled!"



TO MY OLD FAMILIARS

Do you remember — can we e'er forget? —
How, in the coiled-perplexities of youth,
In our wild climate, in our scowling town,
We gloomed and shivered, sorrowed, sobbed and feared?
The belching winter wind, the missile rain,
The rare and welcome silence of the snows,
The laggard morn, the haggard day, the night,
The grimy spell of the nocturnal town,
Do you remember? — Ah, could one forget!

As when the fevered sick that all night long
Listed the wind intone, and hear at last
The ever-welcome voice of chanticleer
Sing in the bitter hour before the dawn, —
With sudden ardour, these desire the day:
So sang in the gloom of youth the bird of hope;
So we, exulting, hearkened and desired.
For lo! as in the palace porch of life
We huddled with chimeras, from within —
How sweet to hear! — the music swelled and fell,
And through the breach of the revolving doors
What dreams of splendour blinded us and fled!

I have since then contended and rejoiced;
Amid the glories of the house of life
Profoundly entered, and the shrine beheld:
Yet when the lamp from my expiring eyes
Shall dwindle and recede, the voice of love
Fall insignificant on my closing ears,
What sound shall come but the old cry of the wind
In our inclement city? What return
But the image of the emptiness of youth,
Filled with the sound of footsteps and that voice
Of discontent and rapture and despair?
So, as in darkness, from the magic lamp,
The momentary pictures gleam and fade
And perish, and the night resurges — these
Shall I remember, and then all forget.
    -- Robert Louis Stevenson
Posted by John Weidner at 8:41 AM

February 13, 2010

At sundown to the garden door...

For my garden-loving spouse...

TO A GARDENER

Friend, in my mountain-side demesne
My plain-beholding, rosy, green
And linnet-haunted garden-ground,
Let still the esculents abound.
Let first the onion flourish there,
Rose among roots, the maiden-fair,
Wine-scented and poetic soul
Of the capacious salad bowl.
Let thyme the mountaineer (to dress
The tinier birds) and wading cress,
The lover of the shallow brook,
From all my plots and borders look
Nor crisp and ruddy radish, nor
Pease-cods for the child's pinafore
Be lacking; nor of salad clan
The last and least that ever ran
About great nature's garden-beds.
Nor thence be missed the speary heads
Of artichoke; nor thence the bean
That gathered innocent and green
Outsavours the belauded pea.
These tend, I prithee; and for me,

Thy most long-suffering master, bring
In April, when the linnets sing
And the days lengthen more and more,
At sundown to the garden door.
And I, being provided thus.
Shall, with superb asparagus,
A book, a taper, and a cup
Of country wine, divinely sup.
    -- Robert Louis Stevenson, La Solitude, Hyeres.
Posted by John Weidner at 9:26 PM

January 28, 2010

Interesting word mistake...

Top Democrats at war - with each other - Glenn Thrush and John Bresnahan - POLITICO.com:

Word Note logo...In a display of contempt unfathomable in the feel-good days after Obama's Inauguration, freshman Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) stood up at a meeting with Pelosi last week to declare: "Reid is done; he's going to lose" in November, according to three people who were in the room....

I'll bet that authors started with "unthinkable" and decided to find something more jazzy in the Thesaurus. But unfathomable has meanings like mysterious, mystifying, deep, profound. Its origin in the nautical measurement of depth, "fathoms," calls to mind the mysterious depths of the sea. There is nothing "unfathomable" about mentioning the political troubles that Dems are in right now, it's an obvious point.

...O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne'er hung there. Nor does long our small
Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep,
Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all
Life death does end and each day dies with sleep.
    -- Hopkins
Posted by John Weidner at 8:38 AM

December 13, 2009

"And Baghdad darken and the bridge, Across the silent river gone ..."

The title of this poem by Archibald Macleish will make sense to anyone familiar with Andrew Marvell's poem "To His Coy Mistress," with its cadences of devouring time. (You can read it below the fold.)

    YOU, ANDREW MARVELL

And here face down beneath the sun
And here upon earth's noonward height
To feel the always coming on
The always rising of the night:

To feel creep up the curving east
The earthly chill of dusk and slow
Upon those under lands the vast
And ever-climbing shadow grow

And strange at Ecbatan the trees
Take leaf by leaf the evening strange
The flooding dark about their knees
The mountains over Persia change

And now at Kermanshah the gate
Dark empty and the withered grass
And through the twilight now the late
Few travelers in the westward pass

And Baghdad darken and the bridge
Across the silent river gone
And through Arabia the edge
Of evening widen and steal on

And deepen on Palmyra's street
The wheel rut in the ruined stone
And Lebanon fade out and Crete
High through the clouds and overblown

And over Sicily the air
Still flashing with the landward gulls
And loom and slowly disappear
The sails above the shadowy hulls

And Spain go under and the shore
Of Africa the gilded sand
And evening vanish and no more
The low pale light across that land

Nor now the long light on the sea:

And here face downward in the sun
To feel how swift how secretly
The shadow of the night comes on . . .

    -- Archibald Macleish

TO HIS COY MISTRESS

by Andrew Marvell

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love's day;
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood;
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

        But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long preserv'd virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust.
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.

        Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may;
And now, like am'rous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour,
Than languish in his slow-chapp'd power.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:11 PM

November 28, 2009

God's silent, searching flight....

From NIGHT, by Henry Vaughan

          ...Dear night! this world's defeat;
The stop to busy fools; care's check and curb;
The day of Spirits; my soul's calm retreat
               Which none disturb!
     Christ's progress, and his prayer time;
     The hours to which high Heaven doth chime.

          God's silent, searching flight:
When my Lord's head is filled with dew, and all
His locks are wet with the clear drops of night;
               His still, soft call;
     His knocking time; the soul's dumb watch,
     When Spirits their fair kindred catch.

          Were all my loud, evil days
Calm and unhaunted as is thy dark Tent,
Whose peace but by some Angel's wing or voice
               Is seldom rent;
     Then I in Heaven all the long year
     Would keep, and never wander here.

          But living where the sun
Doth all things wake, and where all mix and tire
Themselves and others, I consent and run
               To every mire,
     And by this world's ill-guiding light,
     Err more than I can do by night.

          There is in God (some say)
A deep, but dazzling darkness; as men here
Say it is late and dusky, because they
               See not all clear;
     O for that night! where I in him
     Might live invisible and dim.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:42 PM

October 16, 2009

"And then awaken in the hurtling track..."

Yet in this journey back
If I should reach the end, if end there was
Before the ever-running roads began
And race and track and runner all were there
Suddenly, always, the great revolving way
Deep in its trance;—if there was ever a place
Where one might say, 'Here is the starting-point,'
And yet not say it, or say it as in a dream,
In idle speculation, imagination,
Reclined at ease, dreaming a life, a way,
And then awaken in the hurtling track,
The great race in full swing far from the start,
No memory of beginning, sign of the end,
And I the dreamer there, a frenzied runner;—
If I should reach that place, how could I come
To where I am but by that deafening road,
Life-wide, world-wide, by which all come to all,
The strong with the weak, the swift with the stationary,
For mountain and man, hunter and quarry there
In tarrying do not tarry, nor hastening hasten,
But all with no division strongly come
For ever to their steady mark, the moment,
And the tumultuous world slips softly home
To its perpetual end and flawless bourne.
How could we be if all were not in all?
Borne hither on all and carried hence with all,
We and the world and that unending thought
Which has elsewhere its end and is for us
Begotten in a dream deep in this dream
Beyond the place of getting and spending.
There's no prize in this race; the prize is elsewhere,
Here only to be run for. There's no harvest,
Though all around the fields are white with harvest.
There is our journey's ground; we pass unseeing.
But we have watched against the evening sky,
Tranquil and bright, the golden harvester.

    -- Edwin Muir
Posted by John Weidner at 10:00 PM

October 3, 2009

The broad cloak of Herakles...

OCTOBER

~ Elinor Wylie

Beauty has a tarnished dress,
And a patchwork cloak of cloth
Dipped deep in mournfulness,
Striped like a moth.

Wet grass where it trails
Dyes it green along the hem;
She has seven silver veils
With cracked bells on them.

She is tired of all these--
Grey gauze, translucent lawn;
The broad cloak of Herakles.
Is tangled flame and fawn.

Water and light are wearing thin:
She has drawn above her head
The warm enormous lion skin
Rough red and gold.

Posted by John Weidner at 2:45 PM

July 17, 2009

"Land of the English breed..."


I purloined this poem from the blog Laudator Temporis Acti

            A SAXON SONG:

        Tools with the comely names,
        Mattock and scythe and spade,
        Couth and bitter as flames,
        Clean, and bowed in the blade,—
A man and his tools make a man and his trade.

        Breadth of the English shires,
        Hummock and kame and mead,
        Tang of the reeking byres,
        Land of the English breed,—
A man and his land make a man and his creed.

        Leisurely flocks and herds,
        Cool-eyed cattle that come
        Mildly to wonted words,
        Swine that in orchards roam,—
A man and his beasts make a man and his home.

        Children sturdy and flaxen
        Shouting in brotherly strife,
        Like the land they are Saxon,
        Sons of a man and his wife,—
For a man and his loves make a man and his life.

    -- Victoria Sackville-West
Posted by John Weidner at 9:38 AM

June 6, 2009

"Down the blue night the unending columns press..."

    CLOUDS

Down the blue night the unending columns press
In noiseless tumult, break and wave and flow,
Now tread the far South, or lift rounds of snow
Up to the white moon's hidden loveliness.

Some pause in their grave wandering comradeless,
And turn with profound gesture vague and slow,
As who would pray good for the world, but know
Their benediction empty as they bless.

They say that the Dead die not, but remain
Near to the rich heirs of their grief and mirth.
I think they ride the calm mid-heaven, as these,
In wise majestic melancholy train,
And watch the moon, and the still-raging seas,
And men, coming and going on the earth.

-- Rupert Brook



Posted by John Weidner at 7:12 AM

March 21, 2009

"Reason kept telling me all day my mood was out of season"

  THE DAY WITH A WHITE MARK

All day I have been tossed and whirled in a preposterous happiness:
Was it an elf in the blood? or a bird in the brain? or even part
Of the cloudily crested, fifty-league long, loud uplifted wave
Of a journeying angel's transit roaring over and through my heart?

My garden's spoiled, my holidays are cancelled, the omens harden;
The plann'd and unplann'd miseries deepen; the knots draw tight.
Reason kept telling me all day my mood was out of season,
It was, too. In the dark ahead the breakers only are white.

Yet I—I could have kissed the very scullery taps. The colour of
My day was like a peacock's chest. In at each sense there stole
Ripplings and dewy sprinkles of delight that with them drew
Fine threads of memory through the vibrant thickness of the soul.

As though there were transparent earths and luminous trees should grow there,
And shining roots worked visibly far down below one's feet,
So everything, the tick of the clock, the cock crowing in the yard
Probing my soil, woke diverse buried hearts of mine to beat,

Recalling either adolescent heights and the inaccessible
Longings and ice-sharp joys that shook my body and turned me pale,
Or humbler pleasures, chuckling as it were in the ear, mumbling
Of glee, as kindly animals talk in a children's tale.

Who knows if ever it will come again, now the day closes?
No-one can give me, or take away, that key. All depends
On the elf, the bird, or the angel. I doubt if the angel himself
Is free to choose when sudden heaven in man begins or ends.

    -- C. S. Lewis
Posted by John Weidner at 6:36 PM

December 21, 2008

"Yearning for that far home that might have been."

    THE UNFATHOMABLE SEA

The unfathomable sea, and time, and tears,
The deeds of heroes and the crimes of kings
Dispart us; and the river of events
Has, for an age of years, to east and west
More widely borne our cradles. Thou to me
Art foreign, as when seamen at the dawn
Descry a land far off and know not which.
So I approach uncertain; so I cruise
Round thy mysterious islet, and behold
Surf and great mountains and loud river-bars,
And from the shore hear inland voices call.
Strange is the seaman's heart; he hopes, he fears;
Drawn closer and sweeps wider from that coast;
Last, his rent sail refits, and to the deep
His shattered prow uncomforted puts back.
Yet as he goes he ponders at the helm
Of that bright island; where he feared to touch,
His spirit re-adventures; and for years,
Where by his wife he slumbers safe at home,
Thoughts of that land revisit him; he sees
The eternal mountains beckon, and awakes
Yearning for that far home that might have been.
-- ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
Posted by John Weidner at 5:20 AM

October 27, 2008

A good man passes...

One of my favorite bloggers and writers, Dean Barnett, died today. I've quoted him here many times. I feel like I've lost a friend, though I never met him.

You might want to read these tributes by Hugh Hewitt, and Dafydd....



        REVERSES,

    WHEN mirth is full and free,
    Some sudden gloom shall be;
    When haughty power mounts high,
    The Watcher's axe is nigh.
All growth has bound; when greatest found,
    It hastes to die.

    When the rich town, that long
    Has lain its huts among,
    Uprears its pageants vast,
    And vaunts � it shall not last!
Bright tints that shine, are but a sign
    Of summer past.

   And when thine eye surveys,
    With fond adoring gaze,
    And yearning heart, thy friend�
    Love to its grave doth tend.
All gifts below, save Truth, but grow
    Towards an end.

      -- John Henry Newman, Valletta, January 1833
Posted by John Weidner at 7:38 PM

October 12, 2008

"But I will out amid the sleet, and view..."

PROGRESS OF UNBELIEF

NOW is the Autumn of the Tree of Life;
Its leaves are shed upon the unthankful earth,
Which lets them whirl, a prey to the winds' strife,
Heartless to store them for the months of dearth.
Men close the door, and dress the cheerful hearth,
Self-trusting still; and in his comely gear
Of precept and of rite, a household Baal rear.

But I will out amid the sleet, and view
Each shrivelling stalk and silent-falling leaf.
Truth after truth, of choicest scent and hue,
Fades, and in fading stirs the Angels' grief,
Unanswer'd here; for she, once pattern chief
Of faith, my Country, now gross-hearted grown,
Waits but to burn the stem before her idol's throne.

At Sea. June 23, 1833. John Henry Newman. From Lyra Apostolica

JH Newman portrait, engraving by R Woodman, after portrait by Sir WC Ross
John Henry Newman,
Engraving by R Woodman, after portrait by Sir WC Ross

Posted by John Weidner at 5:18 AM

October 4, 2008

"We watch the wrinkles crawl like snakes, On the new image in our sight..."

The Anchoress: GOP: Get the lawyers ASSEMBLED

... I despise the insertion of lawyers and courts into election processes, but Al Gore did create the precedent, and after reading this, I'm thinking if the GOP has any brains left (and that is debatable) they'll start assembling an 'army of lawyers' for this election day.

And this is why I am fasting [and praying], because this election has been co-opted by something dark that has too many tentacles, and too many mindless ant-workers, in too many places. McCain can never beat it back because he -- like Bush, I'm sorry to say -- is still trying to hold on to what America has always been, instead of dealing with what it has become. And that,s not going to work, this election. If the GOP does not have an army of lawyers ready to challenge state after state, they may as well shut up their shop...

"this election has been co-opted by something dark that has too many tentacles" Well, I say that would describe the whole Western world. Regular readers will perhaps be annoyed by my returning to old themes, but I feel like the guy in some SF movie who's running around desperately, warning that alien shape-shifters are replacing people, and everyone just thinks he's crazy, or maybe stares at him with strange glowing green eyes...

I keep thinking about the curious fact that I've been blogging since 2001, and my blog has annoyed more than a few leftish people, and yet never once has one of them given me a well-reasoned or principled counter-argument. One that really challenged me to answer. And I've personally had, several times, the experience of knowing someone who seems reasonably intelligent -- maybe more intelligent than I -- and then watching them drift into the Leftish camp. And each time I am disappointed, but I think that at least I'll get some good debates going. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENS! And the things they subsequently write or say are, frankly, not very intelligent. It's like they've given themselves some sort of higher-brain-function lobotomy.

I think many people right now are intentionally making themselves stupid. Probably because if you think clearly about life, then you see that life demands that you grow up and discard childish things, and decide that certain things are True. And then act on those truths, to the extant of putting your own self second. (I often write that I think many people today, especially on the Left, are nihilists. The nihilist believes in nothing except himself, but that's just a different way of saying he doesn't want to grow up.) People are making themselves stupid because they want to remain children, without responsibilities.

And the Anchoress's "something dark that has too many tentacles" is just another way of describing this. Millions of people are working to make a world that is congenial to their decision to remain childish. And they are working like children do, not laying a deep plan or taking a broad view, but just scheming to get the next piece of candy. But all those petty little schemes of "mindless ant-workers" keep pushing our world, our country in certain direction, one that they can never clearly describe. Socialism and atheism are a large part of the goal, but there are few Socialists or Atheists anymore. Not in the old sense of those being causes that are bigger than the individual. It's just socialism in the sense of being taken care of from cradle to grave. (I was recently reading about how increasing numbers of Italian men are living with their parents permanently. Take that as a picture of what I have in mind.) And atheism in the sense of just not wanting to think about deep and demanding questions.

And I'm feeling very pessimistic, because it's a plague that is almost impossible to fight. You can't reason or argue little children into seeing things that are above their heads. And if a large portion of the population is basically reasoning at the level of a five-year old, then how do you get a grip in the problem? What can you do?

..Ah, who had known who had not seen
How soft and sudden on the fame
Of my most noble English ships
The sunset light of Carthage came
And the thing I never had dreamed could be
In the house of my fathers came to me
Through the sea-wall cloven, the cloud and dark,
A voice divided, a doubtful sea...

...How swift as with a fall of snow
New things grow hoary with the light.
We watch the wrinkles crawl like snakes
On the new image in our sight.
The lines that sprang up taut and bold
Sag like primordial monsters old,
Sink in the bas-reliers of fossil
And the slow earth swallows them, fold on fold...
      -- GK Chesterton, from The Towers of Time
Of course there is more to the long poem than that. Here are a few lines...
...(The light is bright on the Tower of David,
The evening glows with the morning star
In the skies turned back and the days returning
She walks so near who had wandered far
And in the heart of the swords, the seven times wounded,
Was never wearied as our hearts are.)...

...Thou wilt not break as we have broken
The towers we reared to rival Thee.
More true to England than the English
More just to freedom than the free.
O trumpet of the intolerant truth
Thou art more full of grace and ruth
For the hopes of the world than the world that made them,
The world that murdered the loves of our youth.
Thou art more kind to our dreams, Our Mother,
Than the wise that wove us the dreams for shade...
Posted by John Weidner at 10:32 AM

"The first rain of our lives, it seems..."

TURN OF THE MOON

Never forget who brings the rain
In swarthy goatskin bags from a far sea:
It is the Moon as she turns, repairing
Damages of long drought and sunstroke.
Never count upon rain, never foretell it,
For no power can bring rain
Except the Moon as she turns; and who can rule her?

She is prone to delay the necessary floods,
Lest such a gift become an obligation,
A month, or two, or three; then suddenly
Not relenting, but by way of whim
Will perhaps conjure from the cloudless west
A single rain-drop to surprise with hope
Each haggard upturned face.

Were the Moon a Sun, we could count upon her
To bring rain seasonably as she turned;
Yet no-one thinks to thank the regular Sun
For shining fierce in summer, mild in winter—
Why should the moon so drudge?

But if one night she brings us, as she turns,
Soft, steady, even, copious rain
That harms no leaf nor flower, but gently falls
Hour after hour, sinking to the tap roots,
And the sodden earth exhales at dawn
A long sigh scented with pure gratitude,
Such rain -- the first rain of our lives, it seems,
Neither foretold, cajoled, nor counted on --
Is woman giving as she loves.

--Robert Graves
Late last night I heard the pattering of our first rain since last April. It's an interesting thing to live in a Mediterranean climate, with a dry season. Very classical. Like the world of the Greeks and Romans and Israelites. Robert Graves himself lived in Majorca, so he has the very feel of it...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:11 AM

September 9, 2008

But have you wine and music still, And statues and a bright-eyed love?

I who am dead a thousand years,
And wrote this sweet archaic song,
Send you my words for messengers
The way I shall not pass along.

I care not if you bridge the seas,
Or ride secure the cruel sky,
Or build consummate palaces
Of metal or of masonry.

But have you wine and music still,
And statues and a bright-eyed love,
And foolish thoughts of good and ill,
And prayers to them who sit above?

How shall we conquer? Like a wind
That falls at eve our fancies blow,
And old Maenads the blind
Said it three thousand years ago.

O friend unseen, unborn, unknown,
Student of our sweet English tongue,
Read out my words at night, alone:
I was a poet, I was young.

Since I can never see your face,
And never shake you by the hand,
I send my soul through time and space
To greet you. You will understand.

-- James Elroy Flecker (1884-1915).

Posted by John Weidner at 8:50 AM

June 22, 2008

"Soon, it is hoped, we will reach our full potential"

    Matthew VIII, 28 ff.

Rabbi, we Gadarenes
Are not ascetics; we are fond of wealth and possessions.
Love, as You call it, we obviate by means
Of the planned release of aggressions.

We have deep faith in prosperity.
Soon, it is hoped, we will reach our full potential.
In the light of our gross product, the practice of charity
Is palpably non-essential.

It is true that we go insane;
That for no good reason we are possessed by devils;
That we suffer, despite the amenities which obtain
At all but the lowest levels.

We shall not, however, resign
Our trust in the high-heaped table and the full trough.
If You cannot cure us without destroying our swine,
We had rather You shoved off.
    -- Richard Wilbur

Posted by John Weidner at 8:43 AM

June 6, 2008

"And every hour a score is born, a dozen dies."

      IDEAL
When all my gentle friends had gone
I wandered in the night alone:
Beneath the green electric glare
I saw men pass with hearts of stone.
Yet still I heard them everywhere,
Those golden voices of the air:
"Friend, we will go to hell with thee,
Thy griefs, thy glories we will share,
And rule the earth, and bind the sea,
And set ten thousand devils free;--"
"What dost thou, stranger, at my side,
Thou gaunt old man accosting me?
Away, this is my night of pride!
On lunar seas my boat will glide
And I shall know the secret things."
The old man answered: "Woe betide!"
Said I "The world was made for kings:
To him who works and working sings
Come joy and majesty and power
And steadfast love with royal wings."
"O watch these fools that blink and cower,"
Said that wise man: "and every hour
A score is born, a dozen dies."
Said I: --"In London fades the flower;
But far away the bright blue skies
Shall watch my solemn walls arise,
And all the glory, all the grace
Of earth shall gather there, and eyes
Will shine like stars in that new place."
Said he. "Indeed of ancient race
Thou comest, with thy hollow scheme.
But sail, O architect of dream,
To lands beyond the Ocean stream.
Where are the islands of the blest,
And where Atlantis, where Theleme?"
      -- James Elroy Flecker

[Link]

Posted by John Weidner at 10:44 AM

May 22, 2008

Ballad of the Londoner

Evening falls on the smoky walls,
    And the railings drip with rain,
And I will cross the old river
    To see my girl again.

The great and solemn-gliding tram,
    Love's still-mysterious car,
Has many a light of gold and white,
    And a single dark red star.

I know a garden in a street
    Which no one ever knew;
I know a rose beyond the Thames,
    Where flowers are pale and few.

    -- James Elroy Flecker
   
Posted by John Weidner at 5:04 PM

April 20, 2008

Melchizedek

Thrice bless'd are they, who feel their loneliness;
To whom nor voice of friends nor pleasant scene
Brings aught on which the sadden'd heart can lean;
Yea, the rich earth, garb'd in her daintiest dress
Of light and joy, doth but the more oppress,
Claiming responsive smiles and rapture high;
Till, sick at heart, beyond the veil they fly,
Seeking His Presence, who alone can bless.
Such, in strange days, the weapons of Heaven's grace;
When, passing o'er the high-born Hebrew line,
He moulds the vessel of His vast design;
Fatherless, homeless, reft of age and place,
Sever'd from earth, and careless of its wreck,
Born through long woe His rare Melchizedek.
      -- John Henry Newman

Posted by John Weidner at 5:22 AM

March 26, 2008

"We shall escape the circle, and undo the spell."

A good poem for a time when some of my Spring hopes have been blasted....

WHAT THE BIRD SAID EARLY IN THE YEAR

I heard in Addison's Walk a bird sing clear
'This year the summer will come true. This year. This year.

'Winds will not strip the blossom from the apple trees
this year, nor want of rain destroy the peas.

'This year time's nature will no more defeat you,
Nor all the promised moments in their passing cheat you.

'This time they will not lead you round and back
To Autumn, one year older, by the well-worn track.

'This year, this year, as all these flowers foretell,
We shall escape the circle, and undo the spell.

'Often deceived, yet open once again your heart,
Quick, quick, quick, quick!—the gates are drawn apart.

-- C. S. Lewis
Posted by John Weidner at 5:51 PM

February 13, 2008

"So cheer thee well, thynges could be wors"

Iowahawk is the poet of our age. If you haven't read his latter-day Canterbury Tales, Heere Bigynneth the Tale of the Asse-Hatte, do so right away...

...61 Then bespake the Po-Mo artist,
62 "My last skulptyure was hailed as smartest
63 Bye sondry criticks at the Tate
64 Whom called it genius, brillyant, greate
65 A Jesus skulpted out of dunge
66 Earned four starres in the Guardian;
67 But now the same schtick withe Mo-ha-med
68 Has earned a bountye on my hed."
69 Sayed the Bishop, "that's quyte impressyve
70 To crafte a Jesus so transgressyve
71 But to do so with the Muslim Prophet
72 Doomed thy neck to lose whats off it.
73 Thou should have showen mor chivalrie
74 In committynge such a blasphemie."
75 And so it went, the pilgryms all
76 Complaynynge of the Muslim thrall;
77 To eaches same the Bishop lectured
78 About the cultur fabrick textured
79 With rainbow threyds from everie nation
80 With rainbow laws for all situations.
81 "But Father Rowan, we bathyr nae one
82 We onlye want to hav our funne!"
83 "But the Musselman is sure to see
84 Thy funne as Western hegemony.
85 'Tis not Cristian for Cristians to cause
86 The Moor to live by Cristendom's laws
87 Whan he has hise sovereyn culture
88 Crist bade us put ours in sepulture.
89 To be divyne we must first be diverse
90 So cheer thee well, thynges could be wors
91 Sharia is Englishe as tea and scones,
92 So everybody muste get stoned."
93 The pilgryms shuffled for the door
94 To face the rule of the Moor;
95 Poets, Professors, Starbucks workers
96 Donning turbans, veils and burqqas.
97 As they face theyr fynal curtan
98 Of Englande folk, one thynge is certan:
99 Dying by theyr own thousande cuts,
100 The Englande folk are folking nuts.
101 BURMA SHAVE
Posted by John Weidner at 8:22 AM

January 13, 2008

Noon can only sear the Moon...

    TO A FRIEND

If knowledge like the mid-day heat
Uncooled with cloud, unstirred with breath
Of undulant air, begins to beat
On minds one moment after death,

From your rich soil what lives will spring,
What flower-entangled paradise,
Through what green walks the birds will sing,
What med'cinable gums, what spice,

Apples of what smooth gold! But fear
Gnaws at me for myself; the noon
That nourishes Earth can only sear
And scald the unresponding moon.

Her gaping valleys have no soil,
Her needle-pointed hills are bare;
Water, poured on those rocks, would boil,
And day lasts long, and long despair.

      -- CS Lewis

"Random Thoughts Sundays"250

Posted by John Weidner at 6:52 AM

January 7, 2008

Jam tomorrow....

    Evolutionary Hymn

Lead us, Evolution, lead us
Up the future's endless stair;
Chop us, change us, prod us, weed us.
For stagnation is despair:
Groping, guessing, yet progressing,
Lead us nobody knows where.

Wrong or justice, joy or sorrow,
In the present what are they
While there's always jam-tomorrow,
While we tread the onward way?
Never knowing where we're going,
We can never go astray.

To whatever variation
Our posterity may turn
Hairy, squashy, or crustacean,
Bulbous-eyed or square of stern,
Tusked or toothless, mild or ruthless,
Towards that unknown god we yearn.

Ask not if it's god or devil,
Brethren, lest your words imply
Static norms of good and evil
(As in Plato) throned on high;
Such scholastic, inelastic,
Abstract yardsticks we deny.

Far too long have sages vainly
Glossed great Nature's simple text;
He who runs can read it plainly,
'Goodness = what comes next.'
By evolving, Life is solving
All the questions we perplexed.

Oh then! Value means survival-
Value. If our progeny
Spreads and spawns and licks each rival,
That will prove its deity
(Far from pleasant, by our present,
Standards, though it may well be).

      -- C S Lewis
Posted by John Weidner at 8:13 PM

December 23, 2007

"And never before or again"

    A CHILD OF THE SNOWS

There is heard a hymn when the panes are dim,
And never before or again,
When the nights are strong with a darkness long,
And the dark is alive with rain.

Never we know but in sleet and in snow,
The place where the great fires are,
That the midst of the earth is a raging mirth
And the heart of the earth a star.

And at night we win to the ancient inn
Where the child in the frost is furled,
We follow the feet where all souls meet
At the inn at the end of the world.

The gods lie dead where the leaves lie red,
For the flame of the sun is flown,
The gods lie cold where the leaves lie gold,
And a Child comes forth alone.

      -- Gilbert Keith Chesterton

"Random Thoughts Sundays"250

Posted by John Weidner at 7:25 AM

November 5, 2007

November

NOVEMBER

Yea, I have looked, and seen November there;
The changeless seal of change it seemed to be,
Fair death of things that, living once, were fair;
Bright sign of loneliness too great for me,
Strange image of the dread eternity,
In whose void patience how can these have part,
These outstretched feverish hands, this restless heart?

- William Morris

Posted by John Weidner at 8:07 PM

August 12, 2007

"And I shall hymn you in a harbour story told..."

Ballade to Our Lady of Częstochowa

I
Lady and Queen and Mystery manifold
And very Regent of the untroubled sky,
Whom in a dream St. Hilda did behold
And heard a woodland music passing by:
You shall receive me when the clouds are high
With evening and the sheep attain the fold.
This is the faith that I have held and hold,
And this is that in which I mean to die.

II
Steep are the seas and savaging and cold
In broken waters terrible to try;
And vast against the winter night the wold,
And harbourless for any sail to lie.
But you shall lead me to the lights, and I
Shall hymn you in a harbour story told.
This is the faith that I have held and hold,
And this is that in which I mean to die.

III
Help of the half-defeated, House of gold,
Shrine of the Sword, and Tower of Ivory;
Splendour apart, supreme and aureoled,
The Battler's vision and the World's reply.
You shall restore me, O my last Ally,
To vengence and the glories of the bold.
This is the faith that I have held and hold,
And this is that in which I mean to die.

Envoi
Prince of the degradations, bought and sold,
These verses, written in your crumbling sty,
Proclaim the faith that I have held and hold
And publish that in which I mean to die.

    -- Hilaire Belloc

"Random Thoughts Sundays"250
The 15th of August, as I'm sure you know, is the Feast of Our Lady of Częstochowa (pronounced Chens-toe-HOE-vah), whose icon at the monastery of Jasna Góra is the great goal of pilgrimage in Poland.

"Steep are the seas and savaging and cold, In broken waters terrible to try, And vast against the winter night the wold, And harbourless for any sail to lie..." Sorry to break it to you, but that's where you (and I) are at. We won't find harbor on our own. No way, no hope, no leastest shred of hope.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:51 PM

August 10, 2007

"Men ask the way to Cold Mountain ..."

From Cold Mountain Poems, by Han-shan. Translated by Gary Snyder.

4
I spur my horse through the wrecked town,
The wrecked town sinks my spirit.
High, low, old parapet walls
Big, small, the aging tombs.
I waggle my shadow, all alone;
Not even the crack of a shrinking coffin is heard.
I pity all those ordinary bones,
In the books of the Immortals they are nameless.

5
I wanted a good place to settle:
Cold Mountain would be safe.
Light wind in a hidden pine -
Listen close - the sound gets better.
Under it a gray haired man
Mumbles along reading Huang and Lao.
For ten years I haven't gone back home
I've even forgotten the way by which I came.

6
Men ask the way to Cold Mountain
Cold Mountain: there's no through trail.
In summer, ice doesn't melt
The rising sun blurs in swirling fog.
How did I make it?
My heart's not the same as yours.
If your heart was like mine
You'd get it and be right here...

"Han-shan" means "Cold Mountain," and part of the delight of these 8th-Century poems is that Cold Mountain is the narrator, the place, and the state of enlightenment that he is trying to tease us into "getting."

Posted by John Weidner at 8:19 AM

June 24, 2007

" The land of spices, something understood."

        PRAYER.

PRAYER the Churches banquet, Angels age,
      Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
      The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth ;

Engine against th’ Almightie, sinner's towre,
      Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
      The six daies world-transposing in an houre,
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear ;

Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
      Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
      Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The milkie way, the bird of Paradise,

      Church-bels beyond the stars heard, the souls bloud,
      The land of spices, something understood.

          George Herbert-- 1593-1633

(When I Googled up a copy of this, I found some interesting thoughts on the meanings of the poem here.)

"Random Thoughts Sundays"250

Posted by John Weidner at 5:47 AM

May 27, 2007

"So limping, my soul, we will together go..."

(Thoughts for Sunday)

What are you, my soul, you lean and bloodless thing
Like a withered fig that has survived the winter?
In youth it was so different: then the blood
Sang along the veins and it was easy both to love and welcome love.
But when you are old grace conquers only by hard victories;
You are stiffened, crusted by the salt spray
After the long sea voyage.

The lanes of memory may be as green
As in the year's paradise of spring.
It is the immediate present that slips unremembered,
Yet in love's presence there is only this one moment—
A question not of time but of understanding,
As when beauty seeps through the crevices of the soul
Burning the dead wood and illuming the self's verities.—
This, only after a long journey.

So limping, my soul, we will together go
Into the city of the shining ones,
Of those whose crutches have been cast into the sea,
Whose love is garlanded across the festal stars;
And we with them will bow before the sceptred wisdom of a child.
The trembling broken years shall be restored
And these shall be our offering; for by them we shall know
Love has travailed with us all the way.
        ML., A nun of Burnham Abbey
Posted by John Weidner at 6:15 AM

April 11, 2007

APRIL RISE

If ever I saw blessing in the air
I see it now on this still early day
Where lemon-green the vaporous morning drips
Wet sunlight on the powder of my eye.

Blown bubble-film of blue, the sky wraps round
Weeds of warm light whose every root and rod
Splutters with soapy green, and all the world
Sweats with the bead of summer in its bud

If ever I heard blessing it is there
Where birds in trees that shoals and shadows are
Splash with their hidden wings and drops of sound
Break on my ears their crests of throbbing air.

Pure in the haze the emerald sun dilates
The lips of sparrows milk the mossy stones,
While white as water by the lake a girl
Swims her green hand among the gathered swans,

Now, as the almond burns its smoking wick,
Dropping small flames to light the candled grass;
Now, as my low blood scales its second chance,
If ever world were blessed, now it is.

    -- Laurie Lee
Posted by John Weidner at 6:08 PM

January 7, 2007

"brought from the springs of the Nile..."

    LAMENT FOR TROY

This was a city once, that’s now a copse
Of lusty privet: she had twice five years
Of war and killing and the destroyer, fire.
She bore great chieftains once: hazelnuts now.
It bewilders her, crouching there with her doomed head low,
To see a wood has grown out of her: how the corn
Grows yellow about Priam’s judgement seat,
And cattle dung where Hecuba suckled kings.
Men lived in her houses once, that were sweet with Syrian nard,
They house the tiger now and the deadly snake...

Alas, what war can do! The delicate column
Lies broken, and in Jove’s shrine
Is bedded here a sheep, and yonder a kid.
The ground is shaggy with rushes and thistles and briars,
And stumps of trees and thorns and wild growing thyme.
And the heart turns sick to look on her squalor
That once rayed out like the sun with jewels and bronze,
Topaz, emerald, onyx, sard,
That Trojan victories brought from the springs of the Nile,
Now shabby in the dust...

O Troy, enough! When I remember thee,
Remember thy beginning and thy end,
I cannot hold my weeping,
Until in mercy comes the night for sleeping.

    -- Hugh Priams of Orleans (c1094 - 1160)
    translated by Helen Waddell
    [link]
Posted by John Weidner at 6:40 AM

December 31, 2006

For Sunday, a little pome from about the year 800...


This life is naught but a struggle for good men.
The holy book hath sung it in your ears.
The son the father loves most tenderly
He chastens most: and so God proves his saints
By hard blows here, and recompense of joy hereafter.

So take it not to heart, my brothers,
This inconsistency of earthly things,
      The swirling eddies.
So was and so shall be this changing world,
And let none think that he is sure of joy.
He lies bedridden now, who coursed with stags
Over the ploughed lands: age was far away.
And this man tugging at his ancient tatters
To hide his shivering legs
Slept under purple once.
The eyes are dim and fogged with length of days,
That counted dancing atoms: the right hand
That swung the sword and brandished
      the stout spear
Is shaky now, and finds it hard enough
To carry to the mouth a piece of bread.
Beloved, let us love the lasting things
Of heaven, than the dying things of earth.
Here time brings change, and nothing
      canst thou see
But suffers alteration: there abides
One sole unchanging everlasting day...

For He that cast down raiseth up again,
He maketh sore and bindeth up,
He woundeth and his hands make whole.
Breaketh in shards and buildeth up again.
By day and night entreat in holy prayer
The kind Christ, that He keep you everywhere;
And if ye learn the things that please Him best,
Then let your hand do what the heart hath willed.
So Heaven itself shall be your shield and buckler,
And God's own hand protect and be your guide.
    -- Alcuin

Alcuin (died 804) was a noted churchman, scholar, and confidant of Charlemagne.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:30 AM

December 17, 2006

Fideles...

Too busy to blog...we're having a little Christmas party today. I'll post this Sunday item a bit early...

ADESTE FIDELES

Adeste Fideles
Laeti triumphantes
Venite, venite in Bethlehem
Natum videte
Regem angelorum
Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus, Dominum

Cantet nunc io
Chorus angelorum
Cantet nunc aula caelestium
Gloria, gloria
In excelsis Deo
Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus, Dominum

Ergo qui natus
Die hodierna
Jesu, tibi sit gloria
Patris aeterni
Verbum caro factus
Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus, Dominum
O COME ALL YE FAITHFUL

O Come All Ye Faithful
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

O Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing all that hear in heaven God's holy word.
Give to our Father glory in the Highest;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

All Hail! Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
O Jesus! for evermore be Thy name adored.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.
Posted by John Weidner at 6:15 AM

December 13, 2006

It being the shortest day and all...

A NOCTURNAL UPON ST. LUCY'S DAY,
BEING THE SHORTEST DAY.
  by John Donne

'TIS the year's midnight, and it is the day's,
Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks;
    The sun is spent, and now his flasks
    Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;
        The world's whole sap is sunk;
The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed's-feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr'd ; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compared with me, who am their epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring;
    For I am every dead thing,
   In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
       For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness;
He ruin'd me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death—things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that's good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have;
   I, by Love's limbec, am the grave
    Of all, that's nothing. Oft a flood
       Have we two wept, and so
Drown'd the whole world, us two; oft did we grow,
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death—which word wrongs her—
Of the first nothing the elixir grown ;
   Were I a man, that I were one
   I needs must know; I should prefer,
      If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means ; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love ; all, all some properties invest.
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light, and body must be here.

But I am none; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
   At this time to the Goat is run
   To fetch new lust, and give it you,
       Enjoy your summer all,
Since she enjoys her long night's festival.
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year's and the day's deep midnight is
Posted by John Weidner at 4:43 PM

December 3, 2006

"Beyond, we dare not look..."

THE FATHERS

Our fathers all were poor,
Poorer our fathers' fathers;
Beyond, we dare not look.
We, the sons, keep store
Of tarnished gold that gathers
Around us from the night,
Record it in this book
That, when the line is drawn,
Credit and creditor gone,
Column and figure flown,
Will open into light.

Archaic fevers shake
Our healthy flesh and blood
Plumped in the passing day
And fed with pleasant food.
The fathers' anger and ache
Will not, will not away
And leave the living alone,
But on our careless brows
Faintly their furrows engrave
Like veinings in a stone,
Breathe in the sunny house
Nightmare of blackened bone,
Cellar and choking cave.

Panics and furies fly
Through our unhurried veins,
Heavenly lights and rains
Purify heart and eye,
Past agonies purify
And lay the sullen dust.
The angers will not away.
We hold our fathers' trust,
Wrong, riches, sorrow and all
Until they topple and fall,
And fallen let in the day.
--
Edwin Muir
Posted by John Weidner at 6:04 AM

November 18, 2006

Our place...

Blogger Gerald Augustinus has posted pictures he took of our church, St Dominic's, in San Francisco. I think you might enjoy them...

(By the way, if you are in Southern California and need photography, he's trying to go full-time as a photographer. You can see his work often on his blog.)

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Simul ergo cum in unum congregamur:
Ne nos mente dividamur caveamus.
Cessent iurgia maligna, cessent lites.
Et in medio nostri sit Christus Deus
Posted by John Weidner at 8:17 AM

November 16, 2006

"The cock that crows, the smoke that curls..."

Composed in the Valley Near Dover, On the Day of Landing

Here, on our native soil, we breathe once more.
The cock that crows, the smoke that curls, that sound
Of bells—those boys who in yon meadow ground
In white-sleeved shirts are playing; and the roar
Of the waves breaking on the chalky shore—
All, all are English. Oft have I looked round
With joy in Kent's green vales; but never found
Myself so satisfied in heart before.
Europe is yet in bonds; but let that pass,
Thought for another moment. Thou art free,
My Country! and 'tis joy enough and pride
For one hour's perfect bliss, to tread the grass
Of England once again, and hear and see,
With such a dear Companion at my side.

-- William Wordsworth, August 30, 1802
Posted by John Weidner at 2:52 PM

November 12, 2006

"But light are the feet on the hills of the morning..."

....Ah, who had known who had not seen
How soft and sudden on the fame
Of my most noble English ships
The sunset light of Carthage came
And the thing I never had dreamed could be
In the house of my fathers came to me
Through the sea-wall cloven, the cloud and dark,
A voice divided, a doubtful sea.
      (The light is bright on the Tower of David,
      The evening glows with the morning star
      In the skies turned back and the days returning
      She walks so near who had wandered far
      And in the heart of the swords, the seven times wounded,
      Was never wearied as our hearts are.)

How swift as with a fall of snow
New things grow hoary with the light.
We watch the wrinkles crawl like snakes
On the new image in our sight.
The lines that sprang up taut and bold
Sag like primordial monsters old,
Sink in the bas-reliefs of fossil
And the slow earth swallows them, fold on fold,
But light are the feet on the hills of the morning
Of the lambs that leap up to the Bride of the Sun,
And swift are the birds as the butterflies flashing
And sudden as laughter the rivulets run
And sudden for ever as summer lightning
The light is bright on the world begun.

Thou wilt not break as we have broken
The towers we reared to rival Thee.
More true to England than the English
More just to freedom than the free.
O trumpet of the intolerant truth
Thou art more full of grace and ruth
For the hopes of the world than the world that made them,
The world that murdered the loves of our youth....

    --GK Chesterton

(A selection from the poem The Towers of Time. You can read the whole poem here.)

Posted by John Weidner at 6:27 AM

November 11, 2006

One more thing for Veteran's Day...

Thanks to Jay Tea, for bringing this to our attention...

IT IS THE SOLDIER

It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

Poem by Charles Michael Province, U.S. Army
Copyright Charles M. Province, 1970, 2005
All rights reserved.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:50 PM

November 4, 2006

THE RAIN

(In honor of the end of the dry season here...)

THE RAIN

Rain, do not hurt my flowers, but quickly spread
Your honey drops: presse not to smell them here:
When they are ripe, their odour will ascend
And at your lodging with their thanks appear.

-- George Herbert
Posted by John Weidner at 12:42 PM

October 29, 2006

In thought the seasons run concurrently...

  CLIMATE OF THOUGHT
But, without winter, blood would run too thin;
Or, without summer, fires would burn too long.
In thought the seasons run concurrently.
Thought has a sea to gaze, not voyage, on;
And hills, to rough the edge of the bland sky,
Not to be climbed in search of blander prospect:.
Few birds, sufficient for such caterpillars
As are not fated to turn butterflies;
Few butterflies, sufficient for such flowers
As are the luxury of a full orchard;
Wind, sometimes, in the evening chimneys; rain
On the early morning roof, on sleepy sight;
Snow streaked upon the hilltop, feeding
The fond brook at the valley-head
That greens the valley and that parts the lips;
The sun, simple, like a country neighbour;
The moon, grand, not fanciful with clouds.
In thought the seasons run concurrently
    -- Robert Graves
Posted by John Weidner at 5:26 AM

October 15, 2006

"Sorrow walks after love..."

  THE GUARDIANS

The guardians said: 'Wait for him if you like.
Often he comes when called, this time he may.
You will know it when the hawk, ruffling to strike,
Glimpses his white coat, and forbears to slay.
If it be in his mind, he will
Come at twilight to the dark pool.'

I said, 'Since childhood I have watched for him,
Burying this head so heavy with so much
Confusion, in my hands, while the world, dim
With many twilights, spun toward his touch.
Through a child's fingers then the time of love
Flowered in his eyes, and became alive.

'Sorrow walks after love: our childhood dies.
My twenty years of fighting came to this:
The brown eyes of my love looked in my eyes,
Beautiful in farewell, at our last kiss.
Her eyes like his eyes dealt so deep a wound,
Until he touch it, it will itch in wind.'

The guardians with stone flesh and faces of
Crumpled and heavy lines, stared at me.
With neither pity nor the fear of love,
Each stony hand clenched on a stony knee.
Grinding like a crushed stone, each voice said, 'Let
Time pass. Pray you are not too late.

-- Dom Moraes
Posted by John Weidner at 4:19 AM

October 14, 2006

Alternate history--The Burgundiosphere...

Via Tim Blair, a fine letter to Mark Steyn...

I am a Brit nearing 60 living happily in the U.S.A. these past few years. I have just read America Alone. The World as I knew it has already ended....

....I live in the South in modest circumstances. Each day God sends is a joy – I catch my breath at the politeness and gentility of everyday life, and the innate goodness of the people I have the good fortune to meet every time I go to the store or fill up with gas.

It’s the same thing in Australia – whenever I have had the privilege of visiting I have been struck by how much Australia has stuck to its values and continues to do so. The complete and utter absence of bullshit is exhilarating.

And as each day passes I realize with deep sorrow how much multiculturalism has damaged, and is close to destroying, my beloved old England. As you have mentioned before, "Fings ain’t wot they used ter be".

National pride hides in the closet in England. It is the love that dare not speak its name....

I've long suspected that the Anglosphere is the new "England." And that poor England itself is too far over the edge to pull back. (I would LOVE to be proved wrong on that!) A certain mysterious and palmary quality of Englishness has been passed on to many lands, with Australia and the USA currently showing the most of it. And India being a question mark of the most fascinating sort...

An interesting thing to ponder is, how much of this "Englishness" is racial/tribal/deep-cultural—I don't quite know what term I need. And how much was contingent on history. Especially on how Britain's being an island prevented the need to create an absolutist monarchy with a large standing army ready to fight the forces of Philip II or Louis XIV. One wonders if, had Burgundy or Bavaria been islands, they might have preserved more of the pluralism of the Middle Ages. Things like parliaments, boroughs, declarations of rights, perhaps a system of slowly-evolving law with a fairly independent judiciary...Might we now be saying that those places settled by Burgundians have a special flavor of freedom, moderation and free enterprise?

One interesting oddity to me is that when I wander Catholic blogs, it is often impossible to know if I am "in" the US or Australia. [link, link] At least until somebody mentions the Archdiocese of Mudamuckla, or the scandals at Yankalilla. Then I know I'm far from Kansas...(Just kidding with the Aussie place-names. I love them. Here's a good quote.) I've never had that experience with an English Catholic blog. And recently Englishwoman Natalie Solent, who is Catholic, mentioned in an interesting post that Catholics are "frightfully dull nowadays." Wow. I can't imagine anybody in America or Australia saying that, grave though our many Catholic problems and shortcomings are....

THE RECALL
I am the land of their fathers.
In me the virtue stays.
I will bring back my children,
After certain days.

Under their feet in the grasses
My clinging magic runs.
They shall return as strangers.
They shall remain as sons.

Over their heads in the branches
Of their new-bought, ancient trees,
I weave an incantation
And draw them to my knees.

Scent of smoke in the evening,
Smell of rain in the night�
The hours, the days and the seasons,
Order their souls aright,

Till I make plain the meaning
Of all my thousand years�
Till I fill their hearts with knowledge,
While I fill their eyes with tears.
    --Rudyard Kipling
Posted by John Weidner at 11:36 AM

October 1, 2006

I wander still....

  POEM FOR PSYCHOANALYSTS AND/OR THEOLOGIANS

Naked apples, woolly-coated peaches
Swelled on the garden's wall. Unbounded
Odour of windless, spice-bearing trees
Surrounded my lying in sacred turf,
Made dense the guarded air—the forest of trees
Buoyed up therein like weeds in ocean
Lived without motion. I was the pearl,
Mother-of-pearl my bower. Milk-white the cirrhus
Streaked the blue egg-shell of the distant sky,
Early and distant, over the spicy forest;
Wise was the fangless serpent, drowsy.
All this, indeed, I do not remember,
I remember the remembering, when first walking
I heard the golden gates behind me
Fall to, shut fast. On the flinty road,
Black-frosty, blown on with an eastern wind,
I found my feet. Forth on journey,
Gathering this garment over aching bones,
I went. I wander still. But the world is round.

    --C. S. Lewis
Posted by John Weidner at 6:29 AM

September 24, 2006

the mirrors, still dizzy with you...

    BELOVED, LOST TO BEGIN WITH

Beloved,
lost to begin with, never greeted,
I do not know what tones most please you.
No more when the future's wave hangs poised is it you
I try to discern there. All the greatest
images in me, far-off experienced landscape,
towers and towns and bridges and unsuspected
turns of the way,
and the power of those lands once intertwined
with the life of the gods:
mount up within me to mean
you, who forever elude.

Oh, you are the gardens!
Oh, with such yearning
hope I watched them! An open window
in a country house, and you almost stepped out
thoughtfully to meet me. Streets I discovered,—
you had just walked down them,
and sometimes in dealers' shops the mirrors,
still dizzy with you, returned with a stare
my too-sudden image.— Who knows whether the
self-same bird didn't ring through each of us,
separately, yesterday evening?

    -- Rainer Maria Rilke
Posted by John Weidner at 6:11 AM

September 2, 2006

In tarrying do not tarry, nor hastening hasten...

Yet in this journey back
If I should reach the end, if end there was
Before the ever-running roads began
And race and track and runner all were there
Suddenly, always, the great revolving way
Deep in its trance;—if there was ever a place
Where one might say, 'Here is the starting-point,'
And yet not say it, or say it as in a dream,
In idle speculation, imagination,
Reclined at ease, dreaming a life, a way,
And then awaken in the hurtling track,
The great race in full swing far from the start,
No memory of beginning, sign of the end,
And I the dreamer there, a frenzied runner;—
If I should reach that place, how could I come
To where I am but by that deafening road,
Life-wide, world-wide, by which all come to all,
The strong with the weak, the swift with the stationary,
For mountain and man, hunter and quarry there
In tarrying do not tarry, nor hastening hasten,
But all with no division strongly come
For ever to their steady mark, the moment,
And the tumultuous world slips softly home
To its perpetual end and flawless bourne.
How could we be if all were not in all?
Borne hither on all and carried hence with all,
We and the world and that unending thought
Which has elsewhere its end and is for us
Begotten in a dream deep in this dream
Beyond the place of getting and spending.
There's no prize in this race; the prize is elsewhere,
Here only to be run for. There's no harvest,
Though all around the fields are white with harvest.
There is our journey's ground; we pass unseeing.
But we have watched against the evening sky,
Tranquil and bright, the golden harvester.

-- Edwin Muir
Posted by John Weidner at 8:12 PM

August 27, 2006

How once these heavy stones swam in the sea....

    IDLENESS

God, you've so much to do,
To think of, watch, and listen to,
That I will let all else go by
And lending ear and eye
Help you to watch how in the combe
Winds sweep dead leaves without a broom;
And rooks in the spring-reddened trees
Restore their villages,
Nest by dark nest
Swaying at rest on the trees' frail unrest;
Or on this limestone wall,
Leaning at ease, with you recall
How once these heavy stones
Swam in the sea as shells and bones;
And hear that owl snore in a tree
Till it grows dark enough for him to see;
In fact, will learn to shirk
No idleness that I may share your work.

    --Andrew Young
Posted by John Weidner at 7:13 AM

August 20, 2006

No man knows the way to it...

There are mines for silver
and places where men refine gold;
where iron is won from the earth
and copper smelted from the ore;
the end of the seam lies in darkness,
and it is followed to its farthest limit.
Strangers cut the galleries;
they are forgotten as they drive forward far from men.

While corn is springing from the earth above,
what lies beneath is raked over like a fire,
and out of its rocks comes lapis lazuli,
dusted with flecks of gold.
No bird of prey knows the way there,
and the falcon's keen eye cannot descry it;
proud beasts do not set foot on it,
and no serpent comes that way.

Man sets his hand to the granite rock
and lays bare the roots of the mountains;
he cuts galleries in the rocks;
and gems of every kind meet his eye;
he dams up the sources of the streams
and brings the hidden riches of the earth to light.
But where can wisdom be found?
And where is the source of understanding?
No man knows the way to it,
it is not found in the land of living men.
The depths of ocean say, 'It is not in us,'
and the sea says, 'It is not with me'
Red gold cannot buy it,
nor can its price be weighed out in silver;
it cannot be set in the scales against gold of Ophir,
against precious cornelian or lapis lazuli;
gold and crystal are not to be matched with it,
no work in fine gold can be bartered for it;
black coral and alabaster are not worth mention,
and a parcel of wisdom fetches more than red coral;
topaz from Ethiopia is not to be matched with it,
it cannot be set in the scales against pure gold.

Where then does wisdom come from,
and where is the source of understanding?
No creature on earth can see it,
and it is hidden from the birds of the air.
Destruction and death say,
'We know of it only by report.'

But God understands the way to it,
he alone knows its source;
for he can see to the ends of the earth
and he surveys everything under heaven.
When he made a counterpoise for the wind
and measured out the waters in proportion,
when he laid down a limit for the rain
and a path for the thunderstorm,
even then he saw wisdom and took stock of it,
he considered it and fathomed its very depths.
And he said to man:
    The fear of the Lord is wisdom.
    and to turn from evil is understanding.

--- The Book of Job

(New English Bible. Quoted in A Book of Faith, by Elizabeth Goudge)
Posted by John Weidner at 5:17 AM

August 13, 2006

Help of the half-defeated, House of gold...

Ballade to Our Lady of Częstochowa

I
Lady and Queen and Mystery manifold
And very Regent of the untroubled sky,
Whom in a dream St. Hilda did behold
And heard a woodland music passing by:
You shall receive me when the clouds are high
With evening and the sheep attain the fold.
This is the faith that I have held and hold,
And this is that in which I mean to die.

II
Steep are the seas and savaging and cold
In broken waters terrible to try;
And vast against the winter night the wold,
And harbourless for any sail to lie.
But you shall lead me to the lights, and I
Shall hymn you in a harbour story told.
This is the faith that I have held and hold,
And this is that in which I mean to die.

III
Help of the half-defeated, House of gold,
Shrine of the Sword, and Tower of Ivory;
Splendour apart, supreme and aureoled,
The Battler's vision and the World's reply.
You shall restore me, O my last Ally,
To vengence and the glories of the bold.
This is the faith that I have held and hold,
And this is that in which I mean to die.

Envoi

Prince of the degradations, bought and sold,
These verses, written in your crumbling sty,
Proclaim the faith that I have held and hold
And publish that in which I mean to die.

    -- Hilaire Belloc

Belloc portrait by Zach Brissett
(Sketch by Zach Brissett)

Just for your information, Częstochowa is pronounced Chens-toe-HOE-vah... It is the premier pilgrimage site in Poland, the home of the monastery of Jasna Góra, and the shrine with the painting of the Black Madonna.

As poetry, this is just what I like, and just the sort that is, of course, is not written any more. And also, I encountered it by chance just after talking to a girl whose sister was on a pilgrimage to Częstochowa...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:17 AM

July 13, 2006

Thy latent talons...

    TO A CAT

Cat! Who hast pass'd thy grand climacteric,
How many mice and rats hast in thy days
Destroy'd?—How many tit bits stolen? Gaze
With those bright languid segments green, and prick
Those velvet ears—but pr'ythee do not stick
Thy latent talons in me—and upraise
Thy gentle mew—and tell me all thy frays
Of fish and mice, and rats and tender chick.
Nay, look not down, nor lick thy dainty wrists—
For all the wheezy asthma—and for all
Thy tail's tip is nick'd off—and though the fists
Of many a maid have given thee many a maul,
Still is that fur as soft as when the lists
In youth thou enter'dst on glass-bottled wall.

    -- John Keats
Posted by John Weidner at 8:03 PM

July 4, 2006

the dewdrop of her life...

Our mad infatuation with LibraryThing has led to one happy result, the rediscovery of many fine books on our many many shelves. This is a piece from Tale of the Heike, which I haven't read these twenty or thirty years...

..."You are coldhearted. Even so I cannot stop loving you..." began the letter, [to lady-in-waiting Kozaishô, which princess Shôsaimon-In has picked up off the floor] and the princess read until she came to the following poem, which concluded it:
As a single log
Over a small mountain stream
Endures being trodden upon,
I feel like that log and weep,
Having no reply from you.
"This is a letter protesting that you never responded to him," said the princess, turning to Kozaishô. "If you remain too hard-hearted, you will be liable to ill-fortune.

"Long ago there lived a woman named Ono no Komachi, renowned for her beauty, and her talent at composing poems. Many men approached her and wooed her, but they were all rejected, and finally everyone began to despise her. Her heart of stone brought inevitable retribution to her. She was then obliged to live alone in a desolate hut, hardly protected from the wind and rain. Her eyes, dimmed with tears, reflected the light of the moon and stars filtering through the chinks of the hut. She managed to sustain the dewdrop of her life by eating young grass in the field and plucking watercress. This letter should be answered by all means.

So saying, she called for an ink stone and wrote as a reply in her own distinguished hand the following poem:

Simply trust the log,
Be it ever so slender,
As strong is the core.
Although trampled and splashed,
It will stay over the stream.
The poem kindled the fire of passion that had been smoldering in the depths of Kozaishô's heart. Now it rose like smoke from the crater of Mount Fuji. Her tears of joy rushed down her sleeves like the lapping waves at the Kiyomi Checkpoint. Thus her flower-like beauty brought her happiness and led her to be the wife of Lord Michimori of the third court rank. The affection between them was so profound that they journeyed together even among the clouds of the western sea and even to the dark path in the world beyond.

The Vice-Councillor by the Main Gate, Norimori, outlived his eldest son Michimori, and his youngest son Norimori. Only two of his sons—the governor of Noto Province, Noritsune, and the priest and vice-councilor, Chukai—survived the battle. He had eagerly wished to see Michimori's child, but this hope was carried away with his daughter-in-law Kozaishô to the regions beyond the grave. He now fell into deep sorrow...
Posted by John Weidner at 3:30 PM

June 24, 2006

Can make grass grow, coax lilies up....

    THE SECRET LAND

Every woman of true royalty owns
A secret land more real to her
Than this pale outer world:

At midnight when the house falls quiet
She lays aside needle or book
and visits it unseen

Shutting her eyes, she improvises
A five-barred gate among tall birches,
Vaults over, takes possession.

Then runs, or flies, or mounts a horse
(A horse will canter up to greet her)
And travels where she will;

Can make grass grow, coax lilies up
From bud to blossom as she watches,
Lets fish eat out of her palm.

Has founded villages, planted groves
And hollowed valleys for brooks running
Cool to a land-locked bay.

I never dared question my muse
About the government of her queendom
Or its geography,

Nor followed her between those birches,
Setting one leg astride the gate,
spying into the mist.

Yet she has pledged me, when I die,
A lodge beneath her private palace
In a level clearing of the wood
Where gentians grow and gillyflowers
And sometimes we may meet.

    --Robert Graves
Posted by John Weidner at 8:43 PM

June 17, 2006

Through corridors of light where the hours are suns...

    THE TRULY GREAT

I think continually of those who were truly great.
Who, from the womb, remembered the soul's history
Through corridors of light where the hours are suns
Endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition
Was that their lips, still touched with fire,
Should tell of the spirit clothed from head to foot in song.
And who hoarded from the Spring branches
The desires falling across their bodies like blossums.

What is precious is never to forget
The essential delight of the blood drawn from ageless springs
Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth.
Never to deny its pleasure in the morning simple light
Nor its grave evening demand for love.
Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother
With noise and fog the flowering of the spirit.

Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields
See how these names are fêted by the waving grass
And by the streamers of white cloud
And whispers of wind in the listening sky.
The names of those who in their lives fought for life
Who wore at their hearts the fire's center.
Born of the sun they traveled a short while towards the sun,
And left the vivid air signed with their honor.

    -- Stephen Spender
Posted by John Weidner at 5:14 PM

June 2, 2006

We're away for the weekend...

...but we'll be back Sunday PM. (I expect you all to behave.)

WHAT THE BIRD SAID EARLY IN THE YEAR

I heard in Addison's Walk a bird sing clear
'This year the summer will come true. This year. This year.

'Winds will not strip the blossom from the apple trees
this year, nor want of rain destroy the peas.

'This year time's nature will no more defeat you,
Nor all the promised moments in their passing cheat you.

'This time they will not lead you round and back
To Autumn, one year older, by the well-worn track.

'This year, this year, as all these flowers foretell,
We shall escape the circle, and undo the spell.

'Often deceived, yet open once again your heart,
Quick, quick, quick, quick!—the gates are drawn apart.

      -- C. S. Lewis
Posted by John Weidner at 8:48 AM

May 29, 2006

One more post for Memorial Day

I saw this poem at BrothersJudd. I think it's awesome...

Ode to the Confederate Dead (Allen Tate 1899-1979)

Row after row with strict impunity
The headstones yield their names to the element,
The wind whirrs without recollection;
In the riven troughs the splayed leaves
Pile up, of nature the casual sacrament
To the seasonal eternity of death;
Then driven by the fierce scrutiny
Of heaven to their election in the vast breath,
They sough the rumour of mortality.
Autumn is desolation in the plot
Of a thousand acres where these memories grow
From the inexhaustible bodies that are not
Dead, but feed the grass row after rich row.
Think of the autumns that have come and gone!-
Ambitious November with the humors of the year,
With a particular zeal for every slab,
Staining the uncomfortable angels that rot
On the slabs, a wing chipped here, an arm there:
The brute curiosity of an angel's stare

Turns you, like them, to stone,
Transforms the heaving air
Till plunged to a heavier world below
You shift your sea-space blindly
Heaving, turning like the blind crab.
Dazed by the wind, only the wind
The leaves flying, plunge
You know who have waited by the wall
The twilight certainty of an animal,
Those midnight restitutions of the blood
You know-the immitigable pines, the smoky frieze
Of the sky, the sudden call: you know the rage,
The cold pool left by the mounting flood,
Of muted Zeno and Parmenides.
You who have waited for the angry resolution
Of those desires that should be yours tomorrow,
You know the unimportant shrift of death
And praise the vision
And praise the arrogant circumstance
Of those who fall
Rank upon rank, hurried beyond decision-
Here by the sagging gate, stopped by the wall.
Seeing, seeing only the leaves
Flying, plunge and expire
Turn your eyes to the immoderate past,
Turn to the inscrutable infantry rising
Demons out of the earth-they will not last.
Stonewall, Stonewall, and the sunken fields of hemp,
Shiloh, Antietam, Malvern Hill, Bull Run.
Lost in that orient of the thick-and-fast
You will curse the setting sun.
Cursing only the leaves crying
Like an old man in a storm
You hear the shout, the crazy hemlocks point
With troubled fingers to the silence which
Smothers you, a mummy, in time.
The hound bitch
Toothless and dying, in a musty cellar
Hears the wind only.
Now that the salt of their blood
Stiffens the saltier oblivion of the sea,
Seals the malignant purity of the flood,

What shall we who count our days and bow
Our heads with a commemorial woe
In the ribboned coats of grim felicity,
What shall we say of the bones, unclean,
Whose verdurous anonymity will grow?
The ragged arms, the ragged heads and eyes
Lost in these acres of the insane green?
The gray lean spiders come, they come and go;
In a tangle of willows without light
The singular screech-owl's tight
Invisible lyric seeds the mind
With the furious murmur of their chivalry.
We shall say only the leaves
Flying, plunge and expire
We shall say only the leaves whispering
In the improbable mist of nightfall
That flies on multiple wing;
Night is the beginning and the end
And in between the ends of distraction
Waits mute speculation, the patient curse
That stones the eyes, or like the jaguar leaps
For his own image in a jungle pool, his victim.

What shall we say who have knowledge
Carried to the heart? Shall we take the act
To the grave? Shall we, more hopeful, set up the
grave
In the house? The ravenous grave?

Leave now
The shut gate and the decomposing wall:
The gentle serpent, green in the mulberry bush,
Riots with his tongue through the hush--
Sentinel of the grave who counts us all!
Posted by John Weidner at 3:08 PM

May 24, 2006

I concede your point, but...

Charlene and I liked this poem, found at First Things...

....So when the poet Julie Stoner—who in her spare time is a home-schooling mother in California—mentioned that she had an idea for a funny poem in sapphics, no one was hopeful. But she managed to use the suspension of that short fourth line for perfect comic effect:

TERRA FIRMA

Yes, you’re right. I’m sure Armageddon’s coming:
wars, tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, locusts,
killer flus, et cetera. Yes, I’m awed by
all the destruction.

I concede your point that the world might end, and
all your puny labors will be as nothing.
Still, you can’t go out with your friends until you’ve
folded the laundry.

—Julie Stoner
Posted by John Weidner at 7:17 PM

May 2, 2006

I should have posted this yesterday...

Get up! get up for shame! the blooming morn
Upon her wings presents the god unshorn.
    See how Aurora throws her fair
    Fresh-quilted colors through the air:
    Get up, sweet slug-a-bed, and see
    The dew bespangling herb and tree.
Each flower has wept and bowed toward the east
Above an hour since, yet you not dressed;
    Nay, not so much as out of bed?
    When all the birds have matins said,
    And sung their thankful hymns, 'tis sin,
    Nay, profanation to keep in,
Whenas a thousand virgins on this day
Spring, sooner than the lark, to fetch in May...

     --Robert Herrick
Posted by John Weidner at 11:28 AM

April 16, 2006

Happy Easter...

I'm pretty tired, we went beforetimes to the Easter Vigil last night so Charlene could help set up, and didn't get home until late. But it was worth it. Very moving.

I hadn't been to one before, and so had never heard the traditional hymn, The Exsultet. Here's a little part of it, which hopefully will display side-by-side...


...This is our passover feast,
when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.

This is the night
when first you saved our fathers:
you freed the people of Israel from their slavery
and led them dry-shod through the sea.

This is the night
when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin!

This is night
when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.

This is the night
when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave...

...Haec sunt enim festa paschalia,
in quibus verus ille Agnus occiditur,
cuius sanguine postes fidelium consecrantur.

Haec nox est,
in qua primum patres nostros, filios Israel
eductos de Aegypto,
Mare Rubrum sicco vestigio transire fecisti.

Haec igitur nox est,
quae peccatorum tenebras columnae illuminatione purgavit.

Haec nox est,
quae hodie per universum mundum in Christo credentes,
a vitiis saeculi et caligine peccatorum segregatos,
reddit gratiae, sociat sanctitati.

Haec nox est,
in qua, destructis vinculis mortis,
Christus ab inferis victor ascendit...
Posted by John Weidner at 10:36 AM

April 14, 2006

Spring

NOTHING is so beautiful as spring—
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden.—Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

---Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:56 PM

December 24, 2005

To house the King of Kings....

  IN TERRA NOSTRA

By brake unleaved and hedgerow
Alight with barren thorn,
Along our English byways
The Son of God is born.

Where northern mountains muster
In steely grip their chain,
Or nursed by Gentler hillocks
that hold a Suffolk lane:

On Cotswold ridge of splendour
By fretted music crowned,
Or where the streams meander
Through marshy Kentish ground;

In rain that clogs the earthways
Or snow on timid wings
A Manger stands erected
To house the King of Kings.
    --Alan C. Tarbat
Posted by John Weidner at 8:55 PM

the waving song, the mystery...

I noticed this poem because I was just last night listening to a CD with Byrd and Tallis and other Renaissance masters...

    KING'S COLLEGE CHAPEL

When to the music of Byrd or Tallis,
  The ruffled boys singing in the blackened stalls,
The candles lighting the small bones on their faces,
  The Tudors stiff in marble on the walls,

There comes to evensong Elizabeth or Henry,
  Rich with brocade, pearl, golden lilies, at the altar,
The scarlet lions leaping on their bosoms,
  Pale royal hands fingering the crackling psalter,

Henry is thinking of his lute and of backgammon,
  Elizabeth follows the waving song, the mystery,
Proud in her red wig and green jewelled favors,
  They sit in their white lawn sleeves, as cool as history.
      --Charles Causley
Posted by John Weidner at 10:37 AM

December 14, 2005

Memento mori...

   THE SPARROW'S SKULL

Memento Mori           Written at the Fall of France

The kingdoms fall in sequence, like the waves on the shore.
All save divine and desperate hopes go down, they are no more.
Solitary is our place, the castle in the sea,
And I muse on those I have loved, and on those who have loved me.

I gather up my loves, and keep them all warm,
While above our heads blows the bitter storm:
The blessed natural loves, of life-supporting flame,
And those whose name is Wonder, which have no other name.

The skull is in my hand, the minute cup of bone,
And I remember her, the tame, the loving one,
Who came in at the window, and seemed to have a mind
More towards sorrowful man than to those of her own kind.

She came for a long time, but at length she grew old;
And on her death-day she came, so feeble and so bold;
And all day, as if knowing what the day would bring,
She waited by the window, with her head beneath her wing.

And I will keep the skull, for in the hollow here
Lodged the minute brain that had outgrown a fear;
Transcended an old terror, and found a new love,
and entered a strange life, a world it was not of.

Even so, dread God! even so my Lord!
The fire is at my feet, and at my breast the sword:
and I must gather up my soul, and clap my wings, and flee
Into the heart of terror, to find myself in thee.

      --Ruth Pitter

Posted by John Weidner at 1:55 PM

October 27, 2005

Orient pearl fit for a queen, Will I give thy love to win...

THE RIVER GOD

I am this fountain's god. Below.
My waters to a river grow,
and 'twixt two banks with osiers set,
That only prosper in the wet.
Through the meadows do they glide,
Wheeling still on every side,
Sometimes winding round about,
To find the evenest channel out.
and if thou wilt go with me
Leaving mortal company,
In the cool streams shalt thou lie,
Free from harm as well as I:
I will give thee for thy food
No fish that useth in the mud;
But trout and pike, that love to swim
Where the gravel from the brim
Through the pure streams may be seen:
Orient pearl fit for a queen
Will I give thy love to win,
And a shell to keep them in;
Not a fish in all my brook,
That shall disobey thy look,
But when thou wilt come sliding by,
And from thy white hand take a fly
And to make thee understand
How I can my waves command,
They shall bubble whilst I sing,
Sweeter than the silver string.
Do not fear to put thy feet
Naked in the river sweet;
Think not leech, nor newt, or toad,
will bite thy foot when thou hast trod;
Nor let the water rising high
As thou wad'st in, make thee cry
And sob; but ever live with me,
And not a wave shall trouble thee
--John Fletcher
Posted by John Weidner at 9:31 AM

August 20, 2005

An old punning poem...

At a tavern one night,
Messrs More, Strange, and Wright
Met to drink and their good thoughts exchange.
Says More, "Of us three,
The whole will agree,
There's only one knave, and that's Strange."

"Yes," says Strange, rather sore,
"I'm sure there's one More,
A most terrible knave, and a bite,
Who cheated his mother,
His sister, and brother."
"Oh yes," replied More, "that is Wright."'
Posted by John Weidner at 8:04 AM

August 6, 2005

wotthehell, archy, wotthehell...

Mike has a great long post on Don Marquis, a great American writer. I've been a fan of Archy and Mehitabel since I bought the book of that title when I was in high school, but I've never really investigated his other writings. (And probably won't, it will be on my to-do list, along with the other 9,444 items.)

I liked this poem. Fits my mood...

LINES FOR A GRAVESTONE

Here the many lives I led,
All my Selves, are lying dead:
All they journeyed far to find
Strawed by the dispersing wind:
You that were my lovers true,
That is neither sad nor new!

Naught that I have been or planned
Sails the seas nor walks the land:
That is not a cause for woe
Where the careless planets go!
Naught that I have dreamed or done
Casts a shadow in the sun:
Not for that shall any Spring
Fail of song or swallow's wing!

Neither change nor sorrow stays
The bright processional of days --
When the hearts that grieved die, too,
Where is then the grief they knew?

Speed, I bid you, speed the earth
Onward with a shout of mirth,
Fill your eager eyes with light,
Put my face and memory
Out of mind and out of sight.

Nothing I have caused or done,
But this gravestone, meets the sun:
Friends, a great simplicity
Comes at last to you and me!

By Don Marquis, in
"The Almost Perfect State," 1927
Posted by John Weidner at 2:19 PM

June 16, 2005

Two poems by Li Bai

    A SONG OF AN AUTUMN MIDNIGHT

A slip of the moon hangs over the capital;
Ten thousand washing-mallets are pounding;
And the autumn wind is blowing my heart
For ever and ever toward the Jade Pass....
Oh, when will the Tartar troops be conquered,
And my husband come back from the long campaign!



    BALLADS OF FOUR SEASONS: WINTER

The courier will depart next day, she's told.
She sews a warrior's gown all night.
Her fingers feel the needle cold.
How can she hold the scissors tight?
The work is done, she sends it far away.
When will it reach the town where warriors stay?

      -- Li Bai

[
link]
Posted by John Weidner at 6:48 PM

May 15, 2005

What shall we tell you? Tales, marvellous tales....

THE GOLDEN JOURNEY TO SAMARKAND

PROLOGUE

We who with songs beguile your pilgrimage
And swear that Beauty lives though lilies die,
We Poets of the proud old lineage
Who sing to find your hearts, we know not why, -
What shall we tell you? Tales, marvellous tales
Of ships and stars and isles where good men rest,
Where nevermore the rose of sunset pales,
And winds and shadows fall towards the West:
And there the world's first huge white-bearded kings
In dim glades sleeping, murmur in their sleep,
And closer round their breasts the ivy clings,
Cutting its pathway slow and red and deep.

--James Elroy Flecker

Posted by John Weidner at 8:55 AM

April 11, 2005

a ship of pearl...

      THE CHAMBERED NAUTILUS

This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
Sails the unshadowed main,—
The venturous bark that flings
On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings
In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings,
And coral reefs lie bare,
Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.

Its webs of living gauze no more unfurl;
Wrecked is the ship of pearl!
And every chambered cell,
Where its dim dreaming life was wont to dwell,
As the frail tenant shaped his growing shell,
Before thee lies revealed,—
Its irised ceiling rent, its sunless crypt unsealed!

Year after year beheld the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil;
Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year's dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.
Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee,
Child of the wandering sea,
Cast from her lap, forlorn!
From thy dead lips a clearer note is born
Than ever Triton blew from wreathed horn;
While on mine ear it rings,
Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:—

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea!

      by Oliver Wendall Holmes (1809-94)
Posted by John Weidner at 4:17 PM

March 26, 2005

"I am dust and wind and shadow..."

O God that art the sole hope of the world,
The only refuge for unhappy men,
Abiding in the faithfulness of Heaven,
Give me a strong succour in this testing-place,
O King, protect Thy man from utter ruin,
Lest the weak flesh surrender to the tyrant,
Facing innumerable blows alone.
Remember I am dust and wind and shadow,
And life as fleeting as the flower of the grass.
But may the eternal mercy which hath shone from time of old
Rescue Thy servant from the jaws of the lie.
Thou who didst come from on high in the cloak of the flesh,
Strike down the dragon with the two-edged sword
Whereby our mortal flesh can war with the winds
And break down strongholds, with our Captain, God. Amen

      --The Venerable Bede
Posted by John Weidner at 8:44 PM

March 11, 2005

who can afford these peonies?

Facing the wind makes us sigh
we know how many flowers fall
spring has come back again
and where have the fragrant longings gone?
who can afford these peonies?
their price is much too high
their arrogant aroma
even intimidates butterflies
flowers so deeply red
they must have been grown in a palace
leaves so darkly green
dust scarcely dares to settle there
if you wait till they're transplanted
to the Imperial Gardens
then you, young lords, will find
you have no means to buy them

      --
Yu Xuanji. 844-871

Poem found here

Posted by John Weidner at 10:30 PM

February 8, 2005

This year. This year.

   WHAT THE BIRD SAID EARLY IN THE YEAR

I heard in Addison's Walk a bird sing clear
'This year the summer will come true. This year. This year.

'Winds will not strip the blossom from the apple trees
this year, nor want of rain destroy the peas.

'This year time's nature will no more defeat you,
Nor all the promised moments in their passing cheat you.

'This time they will not lead you round and back
To Autumn, one year older, by the well-worn track.

'This year, this year, as all these flowers foretell,
We shall escape the circle, and undo the spell.

'Often deceived, yet open once again your heart,
Quick, quick, quick, quick!—the gates are drawn apart.

      -- C. S. Lewis
Posted by John Weidner at 6:29 PM

January 21, 2005

"A great wind rushes under all of us"

       IN JANUARY
 
Only one cell in the frozen hive of night
is lit, or so it seems to us:
this Vietnamese café, with its oily light,
its odors whose colorful shapes are like flowers.
Laughter and talking, the tick of chopsticks.
Beyond the glass, the wintry city
creaks like an ancient wooden bridge.
A great wind rushes under all of us.
The bigger the window, the more it trembles.

       --
Ted Kooser
Posted by John Weidner at 4:56 PM

January 12, 2005

Butterfly caught in hat.....

   THE BUTTERFLY

        To Julia

I caught a swallow-tail inside my hat
To send you in a letter, redolent
Of sun and savage mountains, blossom too,
Lush grass and teeming flowers, bringing you
The Alpine breath:—
              But when I picked him out
He glowed so fiercely, not a feather dimmed,
His six legs waving protest, could I kill him?
Brilliant his blue eye-spots; his wings were saffron:
It would have been a blasphemy against Day.
He was life-holy. so I let him soar
Up, if he wished, to meet the glinting glacier.
He must shine, if he will, upon my page.

     --Joseph Braddock

Posted by John Weidner at 5:46 PM

January 4, 2005

Alas, alas for England...

ELEGY IN A COUNTRY CHURCHYARD

The men that worked for England,
They have their graves at home:
And birds and bees of England
About the cross can roam.

But they that fought for England,
Following a falling star,
Alas, alas for England
They have their graves afar.

And they that rule in England,
In stately conclave met,
Alas, alas for England
They have no graves as yet.

by G. K. Chesterton

(thanks to Joe Horn)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:29 PM

"Dead that shall quicken at the call of Spring"

THE SEED SHOP

Here in a quiet and dusty room they lie,
Faded as crumbled stone or shifting sand,
Forlorn as ashes, shrivelled, scentless, dry —
Meadows and gardens running through my hand.

Dead that shall quicken at the call of Spring,
Sleepers to stir beneath June’s magic kiss,
Though birds pass over, unremembering,
And no bee seek here roses that were his.

In this brown husk a dale of hawthorn dreams,
A cedar in this narrow cell is thrust
That will drink deeply of a century’s streams,
These lilies shall make summer on my dust.

Here in their safe and simple house of death,
Sealed in their shells a million roses leap;
Here I can blow a garden with my breath,
And in my hand a forest lies asleep.


-- Muriel Stuart

Posted by John Weidner at 7:43 AM

December 10, 2004

the leaf-mould of the brain...

THE CROCUS
The winter night is round me like a skull, Hollow and black, and time has rotted off; The sky is void, the starry creeds are null, And death is at the throat in a soft cough.

And rooted in the leaf-mould of the brain, I see the crocus burn, sudden as spring,

Yet not of seasons, not of sun or rain, Bright as a ghost in the skull's scaffolding.

It is not hope, this flower, nor love its light. It makes the darkness glow, the silence chime; Its life gives sense to death, names black with white— The timeless flame that is the wick of time.
-- Norman Nicholson

Here's a very interesting church window commemorating Norman Nicholson..

Posted by John Weidner at 9:56 PM

November 29, 2004

"Though the heart be still as loving, And the moon be still as bright"

SO WE'LL GO NO MORE A ROVING

So, we'll go no more a roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.

For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And Love itself have rest.

Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we'll go no more a roving
By the light of the moon.

--Lord Byron (1788-1824)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:06 PM

November 9, 2004

High and high in the diamond air...

THE SWIFTS

Flying low over the warm roof of an old barn,
Down in a flask to the water, up and way with a cry,
And a wild swoop and a swift turn
And a fever of life under a thundery sky,
So they go, so they go by.                                        

And high and high and high in the diamond light,
They soar and they shriek in the sunlight when
         heaven is bare,
With the pride of life in their strong flight
And a rapture of love to lift them, to hurtle them        
         there,
High and high in the diamond air.

And away with the summer, away like the spirit of glee
Flashing and calling, and strong on the wing,
         and wild in their play,                                      
With a high cry to the high sea,
And a heart for the south, a heart for the diamond
         Day,
So they go over, so go away.

--Ruth Pitter, 1930

Posted by John Weidner at 3:16 PM

October 30, 2004

Who never sings but once...

SUGGESTED BY THE COVER OF A VOLUME OF KEATS'S POEMS

Wild little bird, who chose thee for a sign
To put upon the cover of this book?
Who heard thee singing in the distance dim,
The vague, far greenness of the enshrouding wood,
When the damp freshness of the morning earth
Was full of pungent sweetness and thy song?
Who followed over moss and twisted roots,
And pushed through the wet leaves of trailing vines
Where slanting sunbeams gleamed uncertainly,
While ever clearer came the dropping notes,
Until, at last, two widening trunks disclosed
Thee singing on a spray of branching beech,
Hidden, then seen; and always that same song
Of joyful sweetness, rapture incarnate,
Filled the hushed, rustling stillness of the wood?
We do not know what bird thou art. Perhaps
That fairy bird, fabled in island tale,
Who never sings but once, and then his song
Is of such fearful beauty that he dies
From sheer exuberance of melody.
For this they took thee, little bird, for this
They captured thee, tilting among the leaves,
And stamped thee for a symbol on this book.
For it contains a song surpassing thine,
Richer, more sweet, more poignant. And the poet
Who felt this burning beauty, and whose heart
Was full of loveliest things, sang all he knew
A little while, and then he died; too frail
To bear this untamed, passionate burst of song.

-- Amy Lowell

Posted by John Weidner at 9:58 AM

October 17, 2004

"Neither foretold, cajoled, nor counted on..."

TURN OF THE MOON

Never forget who brings the rain
In swarthy goatskin bags from a far sea:
It is the Moon as she turns, repairing
Damages of long drought and sunstroke.
Never count upon rain, never foretell it,
For no power can bring rain
Except the Moon as she turns; and who can rule her?

She is prone to delay the necessary floods,
Lest such a gift become an obligation,
A month, or two, or three; then suddenly
Not relenting, but by way of whim
Will perhaps conjure from the cloudless west
A single rain-drop to surprise with hope
Each haggard upturned face.

Were the Moon a Sun, we could count upon her
To bring rain seasonably as she turned;
Yet no-one thinks to thank the regular Sun
For shining fierce in summer, mild in winter—
Why should the moon so drudge?

But if one night she brings us, as she turns,
Soft, steady, even, copious rain
That harms no leaf nor flower, but gently falls
Hour after hour, sinking to the tap roots,
And the sodden earth exhales at dawn
A long sigh scented with pure gratitude,
Such rain -- the first rain of our lives, it seems,
Neither foretold, cajoled, nor counted on --
Is woman giving as she loves.

--Robert Graves
I woke up in the middle of the night, and heard the first rain drops of the season...

Posted by John Weidner at 10:29 AM

September 24, 2004

"But first to arms, to armor...."

FIRST FIGHT. THEN FIDDLE.

First fight. Then fiddle. Ply the slipping string
With feathery sorcery; muzzle the note
With hurting love; the music that they wrote
Bewitch, bewilder. Qualify to sing
Threadwise. Devise no salt, no hempen thing
For the dear instrument to bear. Devote
The bows to silks and honey. Be remote
A while from malice and from murdering.
But first to arms, to armor. Carry hate
In front of you and harmony behind.
Be deaf to music and to beauty blind.
Win war. Rise bloody, maybe not too late
For having first to civilize a space
Wherein to play your violin wiith grace.

-- Gwendolyn Brooks 1949
(Thanks to Jason Van Steenwyk)

Posted by John Weidner at 6:50 PM

September 16, 2004

O friend unseen, unborn, unknown...

TO A POET A THOUSAND YEARS HENCE

I who am dead a thousand years,
And wrote this sweet archaic song,
Send you my words for messengers
The way I shall not pass along.

I care not if you bridge the seas,
Or ride secure the cruel sky,
Or build consummate palaces
Of metal or of masonry.

But have you wine and music still,
And statues and a bright-eyed love,
And foolish thoughts of good and ill,
And prayers to them who sit above?

How shall we conquer? Like a wind
That falls at eve our fancies blow,
And old Maenads the blind
Said it three thousand years ago.

O friend unseen, unborn, unknown,
Student of our sweet English tongue,
Read out my words at night, alone:
I was a poet, I was young.

Since I can never see your face,
And never shake you by the hand,
I send my soul through time and space
To greet you. You will understand.

-- James Elroy Flecker (1884-1915).

Posted by John Weidner at 4:14 PM

August 24, 2004

"Strange is the seaman's heart"

THE UNFATHOMABLE SEA

The unfathomable sea, and time, and tears,
The deeds of heroes and the crimes of kings
Dispart us; and the river of events
Has, for an age of years, to east and west
More widely borne our cradles. Thou to me
Art foreign, as when seamen at the dawn
Descry a land far off and know not which.
So I approach uncertain; so I cruise
Round thy mysterious islet, and behold
Surf and great mountains and loud river-bars,
And from the shore hear inland voices call.
Strange is the seaman's heart; he hopes, he fears;
Drawn closer and sweeps wider from that coast;
Last, his rent sail refits, and to the deep
His shattered prow uncomforted puts back.
Yet as he goes he ponders at the helm
Of that bright island; where he feared to touch,
His spirit re-adventures; and for years,
Where by his wife he slumbers safe at home,
Thoughts of that land revisit him; he sees
The eternal mountains beckon, and awakes
Yearning for that far home that might have been.

-- ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Posted by John Weidner at 9:17 PM

August 18, 2004

Taps

Day is done, gone the sun
From the hills, from the lake,
From the skies.
All is well, safely rest,
God is nigh.

Go to sleep, peaceful sleep,
May the soldier or sailor,
God keep.
On the land or the deep,
Safe in sleep.

Love, good night, Must thou go,
When the day, And the night
Need thee so?
All is well. Speedeth all
To their rest.

Fades the light; And afar
Goeth day, And the stars
Shineth bright,
Fare thee well; Day has gone,
Night is on.

Thanks and praise, For our days,
'Neath the sun, Neath the stars,
'Neath the sky,
As we go, This we know,
God is nigh.

For the story of "Taps," go here. Thanks to Orrin Judd.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:34 PM

July 4, 2004

Ye country Comets...

THE MOWER TO THE GLOW-WORMS

Ye living lamps, by whose dear light
The Nightingale does sit so late,
And studying all the Summer night,
Her matchless Songs does meditate;

Ye country Comets, that portend
No War, nor Princes funeral,
Shining unto no higher end
Than to presage the Grasses fall;

Ye Glow-worms, whose officious Flame
To wandring Mowers shows the way,
That in the Night have lost their aim,
And after foolish fires do stray;

Your courteous Lights in vain you waste,
Since Juliana here is come
For She my Mind hath so displac'd
That I shall never find my home.

Andrew Marvell

Posted by John Weidner at 10:24 PM

June 23, 2004

Over the swan-road...

One treat of our little vacation was a stop in Fargo for lunch with Alan Sullivan and Tim Murphy. We liked them a lot. Alan's a blogger who seems to think a lot like I do, but with enough difference to often irritate me into thinking. But I have to say it's damned peculiar to have lived in San Francisco for decades and then have to go all the way to North Dakota to meet our first gay venture-capitalist/poet! Or should I say poet/venture-capitalist? That's Tim.

We got Alan and Tim to autograph a copy of their translation of Beowulf, recently published. Here's a little bit of it. I think they get the flavor of Old English better than anybody...

...A thane of Hygelac     heard in his homeland
of Grendel's deeds.     Great among Geats,
this man was more mighty     than any then living.
He summoned and stocked     a swift wave courser,
and swore to sail     over the swan-road
as one warrior should     for another in need.
His elders could find     no fault with his offer,
and awed by the omens,     they urged him on.
He gathered the bravest     of Geatish guardsmen.
One of fifteen,     the skilled sailor
Strode to his ship     at the ocean's edge

He was keen to embark:     his keel was beached
under the cliff     where sea currents curled
surf against sand     his soldiers were ready.
Over the bow     they boarded in armor,
bearing their burnished     weapons below,
their gilded war-gear     to the boat's bosom.
Other men shoved     the ship from the shore,
and off went the band,     their wood-braced vessel
bound for the venture     with wind on the waves
and foam under bow,     like a fulmar in flight...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:35 PM

June 3, 2004

Not gold but only men can make...

Take a look at this Memorial Day post by Athena. It has, among other things, the number (or estimates) of battle deaths and wounded for all our wars. Also "other deaths in service" starting with the Mexican War. Interestingly, WWII is the first war where battle deaths are higher than "other deaths in service."

There's also this poem:

A Nation's Strength

What makes a nation's pillars high
And it's foundations strong?
What makes it mighty to defy
The foes that round it throng?

It is not gold. Its kingdoms grand
Go down in battle shock;
Its shafts are laid on sinking sand,
Not on abiding rock.

Is it the sword? Ask the red dust
Of empires passed away;
The blood has turned their stones to rust,
Their glory to decay.

And is it pride? Ah, that bright crown
Has seemed to nations sweet;
But God has struck its luster down
In ashes at his feet.

Not gold but only men can make
A people great and strong;
Men who for truth and honor's sake
Stand fast and suffer long.

Brave men who work while others sleep,
Who dare while others fly...
They build a nation's pillars deep
And lift them to the sky.

--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Posted by John Weidner at 9:48 AM

May 31, 2004

Accurate as death upon the stone...

AT THE BRITISH WAR CEMETARY, BAYEUX

I walked where in their talking graves
And shirts of earth five thousand lay,
When history with ten feasts of fire
Had eaten the red air away.

I am Christ's boy, I cried, I bear
In iron hands the bread, the fishes,
I hang with honey and the rose
This tidy wreck of all your wishes.

On your geometry of sleep
The chestnut and the fir-tree fly,
And lavender and marguerite
Forge with their flowers an English sky.

Turn now towards the belling town
Your jigsaws of impossible bone,
And rising read your rank of snow
Accurate as death upon the stone.

About your easy heads my prayers
I said with syllables of clay,
What gift I asked, shall I bring now
Before I weep and walk away?

Take, they replied, the oak and laurel.
Take our fortune of tears and live
Like a spendthrift lover. All we ask
Is the one gift you cannot give.

-- Charles Causley

Posted by John Weidner at 6:44 AM

April 11, 2004

the corn that makes the holy bread...

From THE EVERLASTING MERCY

. . . . . . .

O Christ who holds the open gate,
O Christ who drives the furrow straight,
O Christ the plough, O Christ the laughter
Of holy white birds flying after,
Lo all my heart's field red and torn,
And though wilt bring the young green corn
The young green corn divinely springing,
The young green corn for ever singing;
And when the field is fresh and fair,
Thy blessèd feet shall glitter there.
And we will walk the weeded field,
And tell the golden harvest's yield,
The corn that makes the holy bread
By which the soul of man is fed,
The holy bread, the food unpriced,
Thy everlasting mercy, Christ.

-- John Masefield

Posted by John Weidner at 9:06 AM

March 31, 2004

Now, as the almond burns its smoking wick...

APRIL RISE

If ever I saw blessing in the air
I see it now on this still early day
Where lemon-green the vaporous morning drips
Wet sunlight on the powder of my eye.

Blown bubble-film of blue, the sky wraps round
Weeds of warm light whose every root and rod
Splutters with soapy green, and all the world
Sweats with the bead of summer in its bud

If ever I heard blessing it is there
Where birds in trees that shoals and shadows are
Splash with their hidden wings and drops of sound
Break on my ears their crests of throbbing air.

Pure in the haze the emerald sun dilates
The lips of sparrows milk the mossy stones,
While white as water by the lake a girl
Swims her green hand among the gathered swans,

Now, as the almond burns its smoking wick,
Dropping small flames to light the candled grass;
Now, as my low blood scales its second chance,
If ever world were blessed, now it is.

-- Laurie Lee

Posted by John Weidner at 7:26 AM

March 15, 2004

Riveting sky to earth...

Somewhere beyond the railheads
Of reason, south or north,
Lies a magnetic mountain
Riveting sky to earth.

No line is laid so far.
Ties rusting in a stack
And sleepers--dead men's bones--
Mark a defeated track.

Kestrel who yearly changes
His tenement of space
At the last hovering
May signify that place.

Iron in the soul,
Spirit steeled in fire,
Needle trembling on truth--
These shall draw me there.

The planets keep their course,
Blindly the bee comes home,
And I shall need no sextant
To prove I'm getting warm.

Near that miraculous mountain
Compass and clock must fail,
For space stands on its head there
And time chases its tail.

There's iron for the asking
Will keep ill winds at bay,
Girders to take the leaden
Strain of a sagging sky.

Oh there's a mine of metal,
Enough to make me rich
And build right over chaos
A cantilever bridge.

-- C Day Lewis


Posted by John Weidner at 8:28 PM

February 14, 2004

Soldier of fortune, northwest Jack...

A Stormcock is a Missel Thrush, found in Britain and Europe. The Welsh call it "pen y llwyn," the head or master of the coppice. It's known for its song, and for fierce defense of its family and territory against larger birds. Here the poet glimpses one through a hole in her roof...

STORMCOCK IN ELDER

In my dark hermitage, aloof
From the world's sight and the world's sound,
By the small door where the old roof
Hangs but five feet above the ground,
I groped along the shelf for bread
But found celestial food instead:

For suddenly close at my ear,
Loud, loud and wild, with wintry glee,
the old unfailing chorister
Burst out in pride of poetry;
And through the broken roof I spied
Him by his singing glorified.

Scarcely at arm's-length from the eye,
Myself unseen, I saw him there;
The throbbing throat that made the cry,
The breast dewed from the misty air,
The polished bill that opened wide
And showed the pointed tongue inside:

The large eye, ringed with many a ray
Of minion feathers, finely laid,
The feet that grasped the elder-spray:
How strongly used, how subtly made
The scale , the sinew, and the claw,
Plain through the broken roof I saw;

The flight-feathers in tail and wing,
The shorter coverts, and the white
Merged into russet, marrying
The bright breast to the pinions bright,
Gold sequins, spots of chestnut, shower
Of silver, like a brindled flower.

Soldier of fortune, northwest Jack,
Old hard-times braggart, there you blow!
But tell me ere your bagpipes crack
How you can make so brave a show,
Full-fed in February, and dressed
Like a rich merchant at a feast.

One-half the world, or so they say,
Knows not how half the world may live;
So sing you song, and go your way,
And still in February contrive
As bright as Gabriel to smile
On elder-spray by broken tile.

-- Ruth Pitter

Posted by John Weidner at 9:10 PM

January 17, 2004

On crumbling clouds of stone...

Dave T has posted a poem inspired by the Northridge Quake.

...I was browsing through the essays of Montaigne not long ago,
Reclining in the shadow of the century-old oak that shades my home,
Half drowsing in the warmth of a hazy winter day
In the city of the angels, where the sun first strikes the Ring of Fire.
We cannot hear the music of the spheres, he wrote,
Because our hearing sense is deafened,
Like the smith among the hammers of his forge,
By continual exposure to that marvelous harmony...

---

...If you could scale a few more rungs upon that cosmic ladder,
Growing 'til the stratosphere lapped round your chest,
Your heartbeat once a century, your breaths the measure of millenia�
Then you would just begin to hear the song of Earth
It rises from her iron core, engendered by the almost stellar heat
Of actinide decay, the life-bestowing legacy of dying stars...

I like it. Putting things that are more-or-less scientific into poetry or any sort of artwork is very ambitious, and is an easy way to make yourself look foolish. Erasmus Darwin could have taken some lessons from Dave.

Charlene and I were in the big quake of '89, and this rings too true: You'd see that all of us have built our lives, the castles of our dreams,
On crumbling clouds of stone...

Posted by John Weidner at 2:35 PM

January 4, 2004

"A drowsy ship of some yet older day"

THE OLD SHIPS

I have seen old ships sail like swans asleep
Beyond the village which men still call Tyre,
With leaden age o'ercargoed, dipping deep
For Famagusta and the hidden sun
That rings black Cyprus with a lake of fire;
And all those ships were certainly so old
Who knows how oft with squat and noisy gun,
Questing brown slaves or Syrian oranges,
The pirate Genoese
Hell-raked them till they rolled
Blood, water, fruit and corpses up the hold.
But now through friendly seas they softly run,
Painted the mid-sea blue or shore-sea green,
Still patterned with the vine and grapes in gold.

But I have seen,
Pointing her shapely shadows from the dawn
An image tumbled on a rose-swept bay,
A drowsy ship of some yet older day;
And, wonder's breath indrawn,
Thought I�who knows�who knows�but in that same
(Fished up beyond Aeaea, patched up new
�Stern painted brighter blue�)
That talkative, bald-headed seaman came
(Twelve patient comrades sweating at the oar)
From Troy's doom-crimson shore,
And with great lies about his wooden horse
Set the crew laughing, and forgot his course.

It was so old a ship�who knows, who knows?
�And yet so beautiful, I watched in vain
To see the mast burst open with a rose,
And the whole deck put on its leaves again.

-- James Elroy Flecker

Posted by John Weidner at 4:27 PM

December 29, 2003

Let it seem small matter if he come or stay...

A PINCH OF SALT

(Dream Bird)

When a dream is born in you
With a sudden clamorous pain,
When you know the dream is true
And lovely, with no flaw or stain,
O then be careful, or with sudden clutch
You'll hurt the thing you prize so much.

Dreams are like a bird that mocks,
Flirting the feathers of his tail.
When you seize at the salt-box
Over the hedge you'll see him sail.
Old birds are neither caught with salt or chaff:
They watch you from the apple bough and laugh.

Poet, never chase the dream.
Laugh yourself and turn away.
Mask your hunger, let it seem
Small matter if he come or stay;
And when he nestles in your hand at last,
Close up your fingers tight and hold him fast.

-- Robert Graves

Posted by John Weidner at 9:01 PM

December 23, 2003


THE COURTS

A figure of the Epiphany

The poet's imageries are noble ways,
Approaches to a plot, an open shrine.
Their splendors, colors, avenues, arrays,
Their courts that run with wine;

Beautiful similes, 'fair and fragrant things,'
Enriched, enamouring,�raptures, metaphors
Enhancing life, are paths for pilgrim kings
Made free of golden doors.

And yet the open heavenward plot, with dew,
Ultimate poetry, enclosed, enskied,
(albeit such ceremonies lead thereto)
Stands on the yonder side.

Plain, behind oracles it is; and past
all symbols, simple; perfect, heavenly-wild,
The song some loaded poets reach at last�
The kings that found a child.

-Alice Meynell

Posted by John Weidner at 6:17 PM

December 18, 2003

To an older place than Eden, and a taller town than Rome...

THE HOUSE OF CHRISTMAS

To an open house in the evening,
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden,
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be, and that are,
To the place where God was homeless,
And all men are at home.

-- G.K.Chesterton

Posted by John Weidner at 5:15 PM

December 13, 2003

"and the cloud is blown, and the moon again..."

MOONLIT APPLES

At the top of the house the apples are laid in rows,
And the skylight lets the moonlight in, and those
Apples are deep-sea apples of green. There goes
A cloud on the moon in the autumn night.

A mouse in the wainscot scratches, and scratches, and then
There is no sound at the top of the house of men
Or mice; and the cloud is blown, and the moon again
Dapples the apples with deep-sea light.

They are Iying in rows there, under the gloomy beams;
On the sagging floor; they gather the silver streams
Out of the moon, those moonlit apples of dreams,
And quiet is the steep stair under.

In the corridors under there is nothing but sleep.
And stiller than ever on orchard boughs they keep
Tryst with the moon, and deep is the silence, deep
On moon-washed apples of wonder.

-- John Drinkwater

Posted by John Weidner at 9:22 AM

December 6, 2003

More garden pests....

THE CATERPILLAR

He crawleth here, he creepeth there
On lyttle cat-like feet.
He weareth coats of gorgeous fur
and Lyveth but to eat

He gnaweth lettuce into shreddes
And, burrowing with his nose,
He tattereth half the garden beddes
And fretteth e'en the rose.

And yet his metaphysics lend
The creature some renowne.
In him, a super-natural end
is Nature's natural crowne.

For, out of his own mouth at last
He spinneth his cocoon
Wherein he swingeth, slumber-fast,
Beneath the summer moon;

To dram, in silken hammock curled
Of strange translunar things;
And wake, into a finer world,
An emperor, with wings
.

-- Alfred Noyes
You might at first glance imagine that this was written in the 16th Century�but the author is having fun with us. Alfred Noyes lived from1880 to 1958, and is most famous for.....
The wind was a torrent of darkness upon the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight looping the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding--
Riding--riding--
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn door.....

..

Posted by John Weidner at 7:00 PM

November 27, 2003

Children look down upon the morning-grey ...

Children look down upon the morning-grey
Tissue of mist that veils a valley's lap:
Their fingers itch to tear it and unwrap
The flags, the roundabouts, the gala day.
They watch the spring rise inexhaustibly�
A breathing thread out of the eddied sand,
Sufficient to their day: but half their mind
Is on the sailed and glittering estuary.
Fondly we wish their mist might never break,
Knowing it hides so much that best were hidden:
We'd chain them by the spring, lest it should broaden
For them into a quicksand and a wreck.
But they must slip through our fingers like the source,
Like mist, like time that has flagged out their course.
--C. Day Lewis

Posted by John Weidner at 10:27 AM

November 19, 2003

When death was taking the air outside...

IN THE SHELTER
In a shelter one night, when death was taking the air
Outside, I saw her, seated apart�a child
Nursing her doll to one man's vision enisled
With radiance which might have shamed even death to its lair.

Then I thought of our Christmas roses at home�the dark
Lanterns comforting us a winter through
With the same dusky flush, the same bold spark
Of confidence, O sheltering child, as you.

Genius could never paint the maternal pose
More deftly than accident had roughed it there,
Setting amidst our terrors, against the glare
Of unshaded bulbs and whitewashed brick, that rose.

Instinct was hers, and an earthquake hour revealed it
In flesh�the meek-laid lashes, the glint in the eye
Defying wrath and reason, the arms that shielded
A plaster doll from an erupting sky.

No argument for living could long sustain
These ills: it needs a faithful eye, to have seen all
Love in the droop of a lash and tell it eternal
By one pure bead of its dew-dissolving chain.

Dear sheltering child, if again misgivings grieve me
That love is only a respite, an opal bloom
Upon our snow-set fields, come back to revive me
Cradling your spark through blizzard, drift and tomb.

-- C. Day Lewis


The Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger) is an English plant that can bloom in the darkest months of the year...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:30 PM

November 12, 2003

An old friend encountered ...

When I was about 9 or 10, this poem seemed to me like the ultimate in literary achievement...(by Don Blanding, 1929)

VAGABOND'S HOUSE
When I have a house . . . as I sometime may . . .
I'll suit my fancy in every way.
I'll fill it with things that have caught my eye
In drifting from Iceland to Molokai.
It won't be correct, or in period style
But . . . oh, I've thought for a long long while
Of all the corners and all the nooks,
Of all the bookshelves and all the books,
The great big table, the deep soft chairs,
And the Chinese rug at the foot of the stairs,
(it's an old, old rug from far Chow Wan
that a Chinese princess once walked on)....
It's a long poem, listing all the exotic treasures the vagabond has found in "ruined temples in Peru," etc.� I won't bore you with all of it. (You can read it here.) But just a bit more...
The beams of my house will be fragrant wood
that once in a teeming jungle stood
As a proud tall tree where the leopards couched
and the parrot screamed and the black men crouched.
The roof must have a rakish dip
To shadowing caves where the rain can drip
In a damp persistent tuneful way;
It's a cheerful sound on a gloomy day.
And I want a shingle loose somewhere
To wail like a banshee in despair
When the wind is high and the storm gods race
And I am snug by my fireplace....
I could rarely bring myself to read the ending of the poem, where the vagabond, having, in his imagination, built his wondrous house, also imagines himself caught once again by the wanderlust, abandoning his house to the mice and spiders, "...While I follow the sun, while I drift and roam To the ends of the earth like a chip on the stream..."

Posted by John Weidner at 7:51 PM

September 24, 2003

The dusk drew earlier in ...

As imperceptibly as grief
The summer lapsed away,
Too imperceptible at last
To seem like perfidy.

A quietness distilled
As twilight long begun,
Or nature spending with herself
Sequestered afternoon.

The dusk drew earlier in,
The morning foreign shone�
A courteous, yet harrowing grace,
As guest who would be gone.

And thus, without a wing
Or service of a keel,
Our summer made her light escape
Into the beautiful.

-- Emily Dickinson

Posted by John Weidner at 7:56 AM

September 9, 2003

it's raining, just a little...

RAIN ON DRY GROUND

That is rain on dry ground. We heard it:
We saw the little tempest in the grass,
The panic of anticipation: heard
The uneasy leaves flutter, the air pass
In a wave, the fluster of the vegetation;

Heard the first spatter of drops, the outriders
Larruping on the road, hitting against
The gate of the drought, and shattering
On to the lances of the tottering meadow.
It is rain; it is rain on dry ground,

Rain riding suddenly out of the air,
Battering the bare walls of the sun.
It is falling on to the tongue of the blackbird,
Into the heart of the thrush; the dazed valley
Sings it down. Rain, rain on dry ground ! . . .

The rain stops.
The air is sprung with green.
The intercepted drops
Fall at their leisure; and between
The threading runnels on the slopes
The snail drags his caution into the sun.

� Christopher Fry

those snails drive me crazy...

Posted by John Weidner at 1:42 PM

September 5, 2003

THE VIEW FROM THE WINDOW

Like a painting it is set before one,
But less brittle, ageless; these colours
Are renewed daily with variations
Of light and distance that no painter
Achieves or suggests. Then there is movement,
Change, as slowly the cloud bruises
Are healed by sunlight, or snow caps
A black mood; but gold at evening
To cheer the heart. All through history
The great brush has not rested,
Nor the paint dried; yet what eye,
Looking coolly, or, as we now,
Through the tears' lenses, ever saw
This work and it was not finished?

�� R. S. Thomas

Posted by John Weidner at 9:06 PM