Category Archives: poetry

26 September, Season of Creation: Izaak Walton on George Herbert.

rainfall on the river.

Walton, a Staffordshire Man, first published his Compleat Angler in 1653, hence the unfamiliar spellings. An experienced and keen angler ‘Piscator’, walking out of London, falls in with a man who wanted to learn to fish, who by this point in the book is called the Scholer because he’s an enthusiastic learner. Much of their dialogue takes place under trees, sheltering from the rain. And it leads to other thoughts and the contemplation of creation. What would Walton have made of our sewage infested rivers?


“And now, Scholer … it has done raining, and now look about you, and see how pleasantly that Meadow looks, nay and the earth smels as sweetly too. Come let me tell you what holy Mr. Herbert saies of such dayes and Flowers as these, and then we will thank God that we enjoy them, and walk to the River and sit down quietly and try to catch the other brace of Trouts.

Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright, 
The bridal of the earth and skie, 
Sweet dews shal weep thy fall to night, for thou must die. 

Sweet Rose, whose hew angry and brave 
Bids the rash gazer wipe his eye, 
Thy root is ever in its grave, and thou must die. 

Sweet Spring, ful of sweet days & roses, 
A box where sweets compacted lie; 
Musick shewes you have your closes, and all must die. 

Only a sweet and vertuous soul, 
Like seasoned timber never gives, 
But when the whole world turns to cole, then chiefly lives. 

(from “The Complete Angler 1653” by Izaak Walton)

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Laudato si', PLaces, poetry

25 September: Season of Creation, Blood upon the Rose.

Godshill, IoW.

I was looking for posts to mark the Season of Creation – which starts on 1 September, the Day of Prayer for Creation, and ends on 4 October, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology beloved by many Christian denominations. This poem leapt off the page.

I see his blood upon the rose
And in the stars the glory of his eyes,
His body gleams amid eternal snows,
His tears fall from the skies.
I see his face in every flower;
The thunder and the singing of the birds
Are but his voice—and carven by his power
Rocks are his written words. All pathways by his feet are worn,
His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,
His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,
His cross is every tree.

Joseph Plunkett

I learned that Joseph Plunkett was one of those who signed the Proclamation of the Irish Republic and he was executed for his part in the 1916 Easter Rising.

Shortly before his execution on May 4 1916, he married his fiancée, Grace Gifford, in the jail’s chapel. Plunkett was just 28 years old.

There are multiple painful contradictions here. How to reconcile Plunkett the poet of creation with Plunkett the man of violence against other men, created by God?

Meanwhile, when Plunkett was fighting for an Irish Republic, other young Irishmen were signing up to the British Army to fight the Kaiser. Their recruitment was not necessarily an exercise in honesty on the part of the authorities.

When I chose the Godshill Lily Cross to head this post I was forgetting that in the churchyard there is the grave of

THOMAS FRANCIS O’NEILL
A SOLDIER OF THE KINGDOM OF IRELAND
WHO DIED OCTOBER 18TH 1918
AGED 35 YEARS
R.I.P.

DULCE ET DECORUM EST PRO PATRIA MORI

So, not every Irishman agreed with Plunkett. Thomas O’Neill saw things differently as his widow recorded on his memorial (but why did she erect this stone rather than the standard white Portland stone for War Graves?)

The Latin verse is another irony: ‘sweet and fitting it is to die for one’s country’, an irony picked up by another poet, Wilfred Owen, who saw many men endure painful ends before dying himself in the last days of the War. Violence in Ireland continued for many years, and is not yet about to be forgotten or totally set aside.

Let us pray for peace, the peace implied in Plunkett’s words, peace on earth to people of good will, and peace to all creatures that share this world with humanity.

He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. Isaiah 2:4.

Leave a comment

Filed under Autumn, Daily Reflections, Justice and Peace, Laudato si', PLaces, poetry

8 September: Griefs

Emily Dickinson’s verses prepare us for a short series on Grief and Suicide; World Suicide Prevention Day is on 10th September.

GRIEFS.
 I measure every grief I meet
   With analytic eyes;
I wonder if it weighs like mine,
   Or has an easier size.

 I wonder if they bore it long,
   Or did it just begin?
I could not tell the date of mine,
   It feels so old a pain.

 I wonder if it hurts to live,
   And if they have to try,
And whether, could they choose between,
   They would not rather die.

 I wonder if when years have piled —
   Some thousands — on the cause
Of early hurt, if such a lapse
   Could give them any pause;

 Or would they go on aching still
   Through centuries above,
Enlightened to a larger pain
   By contrast with the love.

 The grieved are many, I am told;
   The reason deeper lies, —
Death is but one and comes but once,
   And only nails the eyes.

 There's grief of want, and grief of cold, —
   A sort they call 'despair;'
There's banishment from native eyes,
   In sight of native air.

 And though I may not guess the kind
   Correctly, yet to me
A piercing comfort it affords
   In passing Calvary,

 To note the fashions of the cross,
   Of those that stand alone,
Still fascinated to presume
   That some are like my own.

Emily Dickinson.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Justice and Peace, Mission, poetry

30 August: The Train has come and I’m on my way

Northern Ireland Railways, July 1969.

Here is a recent sermon by Rev Jo Richards of Canterbury, from the texts: Genesis 15:1-6, Hebrews 11.1-3, 8-16. Luke 12:32-40. It makes for another reflection on life, death and what faith means.

Bill’s poem….

The Train has come and I’m on my way, 
I didn’t need a ticket 
And there was nothing to pay. 

My lass will be waiting, on that I am sure 
What a wonderful meeting 
With a future that will endure.

On Thursday I took a funeral of a local man; Bill and he wrote poems; he asked that The Last Poem, be read at his funeral, which was read in full just before the commendation: I have read to you with the family’s permission the opening verses.

I knew Bill, and in his writing, there is such a sense of moving from this mortal life to the next, that is eternal life. For Bill was assured of things hoped, for the conviction of things not seen. Bill had a deep Christian faith

Bill had a sense of the hope, of knowing that one day the train would stop, he would get on board and continue his onward journey to eternal life.

Abraham was also a man of deep faith and also on a journey. Here we have someone in his mid-seventies, who heard a call from God to up sticks with his barren wife Sarah and leave home. Obedient to God’s call they became nomads, setting off from Harran, which is in modern day Iraq, travelling through Syria, down to Egypt, and then up to the land of Canaan, which is in the present-day West Bank, in Palestine.

During this time, directed by God, Abraham gazes at the night sky trying in vain to imagine his descendants as numerous as the stars, whilst Sarah, his wife remains heartbreakingly barren.

I wonder what Abraham and Sarah must have been thinking; surely they must have had doubts along the way, of perhaps being cross with God, who has taken them out of what has been familiar and comfortable and sent them on this journey into the unknown, and then telling them they will have children, but despite this they had faith in what God said and set off and set off.

I want us to think for a moment what does our faith mean to us? Would we have done what Abraham and Sarah did?

Perhaps like Bill and Abraham we are on a journey of faith; assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen; but that is not always easy to describe when asked what your faith means to you.

Some might describe their faith in terms of creeds and as we do when we recite the creed; From a doctrinal or theological perspective. At baptism either the godparents or those who speak for themselves are asked about their faith and what they believe.

How do you describe your faith?

Faith is perhaps turning our heads and looking at the stars that sense of awe and wonder, that sense that there is something far greater than what we can see, feel or hear, yet we are still loved and cherished by God our creator.

Faith is perhaps that sense of knowing deep within ourselves knowing that we are not alone, that there is a greater presence of which we get glimpses of from time to time;

Faith is perhaps that longing for the eternal home – that place of peace, love and joy where there are no more suffering or tears. That place we call heaven, eternal life. That feeling of longing, and desire; for Abraham and Sarah their faith took them on a perilous journey, to take them where God was leading, not that they knew where they were going or how they would get there.

Faith is not a destination, more like a journey, and we often say we are all on a journey of faith, with each of us on a different point of that journey; some are just setting out whilst others more established but we can all sometimes be thrown off course, just as Peter was when he was walking on water. He took his eyes off Jesus and sank in the sea, but Jesus put his arm out and caught him.

But I am sure like Peter and doubting Thomas, our faith may have wobbled, and we may have had doubts. Thomas was with Jesus for three years and yet he doubted that he had been raised from the dead, which perhaps gives us permission to question or even doubt at times.

And perhaps when we do question or doubt then something might happen that reaffirms our faith; just this week I heard of how someone had their faith restored by an act of kindness; it is often the little things that we do or say that can have such a big impact on others. Time and time again we hear of people saying I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have my faith.

Perhaps the opposite of faith is not doubt, but apathy – of not being alert and awake, as our Gospel suggests, of staying put and not willing to journey forth; Faith in a way is a response to an invitation to a journey of adventure; it’s not blind faith. We nurture our faith through worship, scripture, talking to other people, praying and for those small what I call God moments – moments when we sense God’s promptings and act on them.

Twice in this week’s readings we hear the words do not be afraid, by nurturing our faith it gives us the strength to face things that may frighten us or make us anxious. We can draw on these moments of remembering that God is with us in the everyday stuff as well as the ups and downs of life. As did the servants in our gospel reading, who were faithful doing the everyday mundane things, and ended up as the master’s guests at the great celebration.

Faith is perhaps a knowledge of God and a deep rooted heart felt desire to want to know God better – to find out what God is doing and join in, just as Bill did, Abraham and Sarah did, and the master’s slaves did.

So, we venture forward on our journey of faith may we give thanks for what we have already experienced of God’s love for us and what is still to come…and give thanks for the gift of faith, as we reflect upon what our faith means to us.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Easter, Laudato si', Mission, poetry

16 August: Is This What Existentialism Means?

Knowing nothing of physics,
Atoms and such things
As planets - like this one
Are assembled, 
Constructed, 
Designed:
I know therefore, nothing of God,
Designer (a modern term),
Pre-creator
Knowing before creation,
Before, and even before
Existence 
Brought forth thought -
Designer - thought.
But reaching through the mists,
The immateriality of no-thing
Brought forth before thought the loneliness of love,
The culmination of the cross
The existentialism of the cross.

That word slipped in!

Existentialism could be called the philosophy of human existence, of the essence of humanity, which is freedom. While many of the big names were atheists, their ideas were not all hostile to belief in God or the Christian faith; indeed they were critically examined in my seminary course back in the 1960’s. Contrary to popular belief, our teachers who were Catholic Priests, wanted us to think things through, something the existentialists prided themselves on.

Now here is Sheila Billingsley philosophising on creation and suffering and love, the culmination of the cross.

Read it again!

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Laudato si', poetry

12 August: Seeking assurance.

On this day in 1868 the Irish poet William Allingham was visiting Alfred Lord Tennyson on the Isle of Wight.

Luncheon. Then T and I walk into croquet ground, talking of Christianity.

‘What I want’, he said, ‘is an assurance of immortality.’

For my part I believe in God: can say no more.

A butterfly is seen as a symbol of the transition from earthy to eternal life. What would provide the poets with assurance of immortality? How would they recognise it? Is faith the basis of Allingham’s ‘I believe in God: can say no more’?

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, PLaces, poetry

8 August: Emily: I’m Nobody

walking together

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there ‘s a pair of us — don’t tell!
They ‘d banish us, you know.


 How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

Emily Dickinson.

I would guess that Mark’s rich young man that Sister Johanna has been talking about was a ‘somebody’, at least a local somebody, a village celebrity. Then he discovered that he was a nobody. Sister Johanna explored how getting close to Jesus meant giving away the possessions that trip us up. Emily Dickinson suggests what comes next: forming a community, not seeking affirmation from gossip column inches!

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Unity, Daily Reflections, Mission, poetry

21 July: Another view of eternity.

Yesterday we advocated butterfly’s days: no set agenda, no targets, no business, no busy-ness. Today we open the Book of Common Prayer to read a collect that is complementary to Emily Dickinson’s poem ‘The Butterfly’s Day’. It makes explicit that we are passing through this life, and need God’s guidance and rule to survive passing through things temporal, but we can keep a hold on things eternal with Our Father’s mercy.

Our picture from Saint David’s Cathedral invites us to be still – Emily might say ‘idle’. And knowing that Our Father is God will follow; we will be given a hold on things eternal

O God, the protector of all who trust in you,
without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:
increase and multiply upon us your mercy;
that with you as our ruler and guide
we may so pass through things temporal
that we lose not our hold on things eternal;
grant this, heavenly Father,
for our Lord Jesus Christ's sake,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.


			

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Laudato si', poetry

20 July: Butterfly’s days.

Yesterday we looked at eternity and this world; love being the link between the two. Today school holidays are upon us again in England, and grandparents get to join in these days, keeping the third generation safe and occupied.But perhaps they – and we – should be allowed to experience a few butterfly’s days, ‘without design’, going nowhere ‘In purposeless circumference’, till sundown. If we let go of our business for a day, it’s possible that Another might get a word, idea or image in edgeways.

This red admiral was seen at the L’Arche Kent garden as it basked in the summer sun. Get ready to bask in an ‘audience of idleness.’

Enjoy your holidays and be grateful for moments of idleness!

THE BUTTERFLY’S DAY

From cocoon forth a butterfly
As lady from her door
Emerged — a summer afternoon —
Repairing everywhere,

Without design, that I could trace,
Except to stray abroad
On miscellaneous enterprise
The clovers understood.

Her pretty parasol was seen
Contracting in a field
Where men made hay, then struggling hard
With an opposing cloud,

Where parties, phantom as herself,
To Nowhere seemed to go
In purposeless circumference,
As ‘t were a tropic show.

And notwithstanding bee that worked,
And flower that zealous blew,
This audience of idleness
Disdained them, from the sky,

Till sundown crept, a steady tide,
And men that made the hay,
And afternoon, and butterfly,
Extinguished in its sea.

Emily Dickinson.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Laudato si', poetry, Summer

17 July: Calamities in Sussex

The forest can reclaim industrial land.

Here is E.V. Lucas in the Sussex woodlands more than a century ago. The iron trade moved North as iron and coal mining techniques evolved during the Industrial Revolution. But he cites Thomas Fuller’s question as to which use of iron was the more harmful – guns or the printing press? Fuller lived in the XVII Century and witnessed the Civil War. I doubt he would maintain today that fewer lives were lost to guns than the sword. Let us pray for the beating of all weapons into instruments of peace, and for a continuing change of heart towards our sisters and brothers and our earthly home. Archbishop Dunstan of Canterbury was a part-time iron worker.


St. Leonard’s Forest, and all the forests on this the forest ridge of Sussex, were of course maintained to supply wood with which to feed the furnaces of the iron masters—just as the overflow of these ponds was trained to move the machinery of the hammers for the breaking of the iron stone. The enormous consumption of wood in the iron foundries was a calamity seriously viewed by many observers, among them Michael Drayton who was, however, distressed less as a political economist than as the friend of the wood nymphs driven by the encroaching and devastating foundrymen from their native sanctuaries to the inhospitable Downs.

Jove's oak, the warlike ash, veined elm, the softer beech, 
Short hazel, maple plain, light asp, the bending wych, 
Tough holly, and smooth birch, must altogether burn; 
What should the builder serve, supplies the forger's turn, 
When under public good, base private gain takes hold, 
And we, poor woful woods, to ruin lastly sold. 

Under the heading of Sussex manufactures, Thomas Fuller writes, in the Worthies, of great guns:— “It is almost incredible how many are made of the Iron in this County.

A Monke of Mentz (some three hundred years since) is generally reputed the first Founder of them. Surely ingenuity may seem transpos’d, and to have cross’d her hands, when about the same time a Souldier found out Printing; and it is questionable which of the two Inventions hath done more good, or more harm. As for Guns, it cannot be denied, that though most behold them as Instruments of cruelty; partly, because subjecting valour to chance; partly, because Guns give no quarter (which the Sword sometimes doth); yet it will appear that, since their invention, Victory hath not stood so long a Neuter, and hath been determined with the loss of fewer lives.

from Highways and Byways in Sussex by E. V. Lucas

Leave a comment

Filed under Autumn, Justice and Peace, Laudato si', PLaces, poetry