Category Archives: poetry

22 May: The mind has mountains.

“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.”

Gerard Manley Hopkins

So let’s be a little more serious about the sorrow we looked at yesterday. Sorrow and depression are real. Hopkins bids us take comfort, even if we are tossed about by a whirlwind of spinning emotions and thoughts. We know our sorrow will at least have an end in death: life death does end. But does this mean that death brings an end to a frightful life, or that life puts an end to death? I would suggest both arguments hold true. And each day dies with sleep, ‘and another succeeds it’ is the subtext of that word ‘each’. We always have another chance to open our eyes and say with another of Wales’ poets, WH Davies:

Good morning Life, and all things glad and beautiful.

It may feel all wrong at this moment to be uttering such a prayer, but that does not mean that it is actually wrong to make an act of hope.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, poetry

19 May: Easter, by George Herbert

The risen Lord by Saint Dunstan, monk, blacksmith, artist, and Archbishop of Canterbury. Died 988; his feastday is today.

Easter lasts for fifty days – until Pentecost, when the season of the Holy Spirit begins. George Herbert reminds us that we miss-count the days and seasons: there is just the one day that matters and that day, Easter, is not over in 24 hours, but is eternal, or as Herbert says, ‘ever’. Enjoy the physical images, ‘calcined’, resounding wood, strings and sinews; Herbert was a musician.

Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Without delays,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise:
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more, just.

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy art.
The cross taught all wood to resound his name,
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.

Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
Pleasant and long:
Or, since all music is but three parts vied
And multiplied,
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.

I got me flowers to straw thy way;
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.

The Sun arising in the East,
Though he give light, and th’ East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many suns to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we miss:
There is but one, and that one ever.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Easter, poetry

18 May: Easter wings

George Herbert was a different man to George Borrow. It took him some time to find his feet and his vocation as an Anglican parish priest and a poet on avowedly Christian themes. Not all that he wrote is readily accessible, however today and tomorrow we offer two of his Easter poems. The Easter season lasts for fifty days, up to Pentecost! This poem has been crafted by Herbert as a pair of wings. Oh let me rise!

Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
      Though foolishly he lost the same,
            Decaying more and more,
                  Till he became
                        Most poor:
                        With thee
                      O let me rise
            As larks, harmoniously,
      And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.


My tender age in sorrow did begin
      And still with sicknesses and shame.
            Thou didst so punish sin,
                  That I became
                        Most thin.
                        With thee
                  Let me combine,
            And feel thy victory:
         For, if I imp my wing on thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Easter, poetry

Going viral XXXIV: Passion flowers on our doorstep.

Walking around during lockdown, we came to Saint Stephen's church. Many years ago we came here regularly for Roman Catholic Mass. Today the church, like all churches, is closed, but not the churchyard. We found one stone with a passionflower, bottom centre of the disc, amid roses, a morning glory (?) and others that must have meant something to the bereaved husband. There are oak leaves and acorns in the triangular panels below the disc.

This verse is my best reading of the damaged inscription. It speaks of hope.

A happy world, a glorious place
Where all who are forgiven
Shall find their loved and best beloved
And hearts like meeting streams that flow
For everyone in heaven.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Easter, PLaces, poetry

10 May, Little Flowers of Saint Francis LXXV: Run, John, run!

All the thoughts of visions and dreams and crazy, uninhibited rushing about, and along came a poem. Run John, run!

It might have been dancing, like Zorba, or David before the Ark
But with you it was running: mad, measureless marathons of joy;
Crazed careering for Christ’s sake, labyrinthine, loving loping.
Your feet refreshed by the dry old novice-master’s words.


And the darkened day when the glad joy vanished from your veins,
What did you do but run and shout and cry; and run and cry: ‘My
God, why? Why have you forsaken me, oh why God, why?’
For why? To learn true wisdom, to learn how, not knowing God’s grace,


(Though it be quietly working in their thought, deed and word)
So many carry on, living as best they can, loving their fellows,
Stepping aside on the narrow path to let the stranger pass.
No stranger he, the silent one, who smiled as he walked by


Without a word. But not ignoring you, no fear; he wanted you
To follow to the log-bench, warm beneath the crabtree
At the corner: you can see it now, his piercéd feet cradled
In your hands. What then he taught you no dry novice-master
Ever could impart, but kings, bishops, country folk and friars
All received it from your heart. So run John, run! Run John, run!
MMB

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, PLaces, poetry

8 May: VE Day, The Cherry Trees.

The cherry trees bend over and are shedding
On the old road where all that passed are dead,
Their petals, strewing the grass as for a wedding
This early May morn when there is none to wed.

Edward Thomas

This is a war poem. All Edward Thomas’s poems were written with the Great War in the background, here we have loaded words, shedding, dead, followed by the hammer blow, ‘There is none to wed.’ The men were gone to war, as he was going, never to return.

The cherry trees in Thomas’s day would have been like these, with sheep, swine or geese grazing under them. The fruit would have been picked using a wooden ladder, tapering at the top to get between branches, but you could walk between and beneath the trees. The orchard is a fortnight or so before its flowering time, but the ornamental cherry at Saint Mildred’s, Canterbury, was shedding petals this week, strewing the grass.

No weddings this May, due to the corona virus. Edward Thomas could have been writing for us but his wife Helen was an appreciative reader, saying proudly that he found beauty where other people could not see it.

On this VE Day let’s pray for eyes to see the flowers of the field in all their divine glory. Let’s be thankful for all that has been done, these past 75 years, to bring peace to Europe, reconciling former enemies, and over the last 30 years, remedying some of the harm done by the Iron Curtain. Let us pray that peace and understanding will continue growing despite the setbacks of recent times.

Leave a comment

Filed under corona virus, Daily Reflections, poetry, Spring

2 May: Look at Chapter 13

candle

An evening Taizé service, all three readings taken from 1 Corinthians 12 and 13, each one followed by silence.

After the first reading I felt quite let down: for much of my life, there was no praying for the higher gifts, or even any great feeling of having gifts worth mentioning. Day by day seemed a matter of getting through the agenda: getting up, half-hearted morning offering (Good morning life and all things glad and beautiful), breakfast, commuter trains, waiting for students who might or might not attend the lesson, more trains, sit down to eat with whoever’s at home, prep for next day, sleep more or less well, repeat.

That was how it looked on a cold, damp evening, a year and more into retirement. But at the time it was not all gloom, as this old post makes clear. Good morning life and all things glad and beautiful!

What does Paul say? Just look at Chapter 13: whatever gifts I may have count as nothing, without love. And I dare to say that I loved my work, loved the oddball teenagers I worked with, and even loved the commute. Writing this blog has forced me to open my eyes and look into that mirror where we can see the Lord at work, however dimly. I hope a few readers have enjoyed the reflections our writers have shared.

Good morning life and all things glad and beautiful!

MMB

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, PLaces, poetry

May 1. Hopkins: All this Juice and all this Joy

campion.cowparsley.pilgr.2019.sm.jpg
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.”
 “Spring” by Gerard Manley Hopkins
‘Weeds in wheels’: Wheels in Hopkins’ time would have been wooden, with spokes radiating from the central hub, not unlike the petals of flowers such as the red campion above. The white cow parsley’s florets stand at the end of spoke-like stems; perhaps something like these flowers was in his inward eye as he wrote. Pear trees then would have been tall, not the dwarf orchard plantations generally seen today; brushing the blue would have seemed a more natural metaphor. 
Listen to the thrush at this link.
Hopkins straightforwardly links earthly nature with its creator and with human, childish innocence; children of God chosen by Christ, and so ‘worthy the winning.’ A bold assertion for a Victorian! 

Leave a comment

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

30 April: Spring is the last true thing

Easter

There was rapture of spring in the morning
When we told our love in the wood,
For you were the spring in my heart, dear lad.
And I vowed that my life was good.
But there's winter of war in the evening,
And lowering clouds overhead,
There's wailing of wind in the chimney nook,
And I vow that my life lies dead.
For the sun may shine on the meadow lands
And the dog rose bloom in the lanes,
But I've only weeds in my garden, lad,
Wild weeds that are rank with the rains.
One solace there is for me, sweet but faint,
As it floats on the wind of the years,
A whisper that spring is the last true thing
And that triumph is born of tears.
It comes from a garden of other days,
And an echoing voice that cries,
Behold I am alive for evermore, And in Me shall the dead arise.

Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy
(Woodbine Willie).

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Easter, poetry, Spring

29 April: Can there be any day but this?

Easter is not just one day, one event that happened two thousand years ago. George Herbert sees it as the one day, the most high day: read on!

Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Without delays,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise:
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more just.

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy art.
The cross taught all wood to resound his name,
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.

Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
Pleasant and long:
Or since all music is but three parts vied
And multiplied;
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.

I got me flowers to straw thy way:
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many suns to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we miss:
There is but one, and that one ever.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Easter, poetry