Category Archives: poetry

16 November: Spring and Fall.

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We can never have too much poetry, nor too much Hopkins. Here he is writing to a young child, but also to himself, and to those who have ears to hear. Earlier this year young Abel, then aged 2½, was inconsolably grieving for the snow. Echoes of Bottom’s speech in Twelfth Night?

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

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14 November – A Peace Dividend

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I recently visited Northern Ireland for the first time in many years. Belfast looked cleaner and more prosperous, although the murals and the flags on lampposts spoke of tensions that have not disappeared.

The day after my meeting I took a bus to Dublin. A bus from the Republic, running a cross-border service. No halt as we passed from one jurisdiction to the other; if I’d been looking the other way I’d have missed the border altogether.

Most passengers got down at Dublin airport, as it serves more destinations than Belfast; when we reached central Dublin the bus parked at the Busaras (bus station) like those from Sligo or Cork or Galway. And we arrived on time.

That was an example of a poetic timetable!

But we need planners as well as poets, hard heads as well as soft hearts. Such people go unsung, even unfairly criticised for lack of vision, but they have contributed to the changes in Ireland, the Balkans, the Horn of Africa …

God send us more of them!

MMB

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November 13. Remembrance and beyond

southsea

During the Second World War in Britain, while men were fighting and the war effort seemed to be paramount in people’s minds, in the background other politicians and civil servants were drawing up plans for important areas such as housing, health and education. This time it would be a ‘land fit for heroes’. In the event, prefabricated houses and schools were erected with a speed and in numbers never again seen and the National Health Service came into being.

A better housed, better educated and generally healthier population was the result. But planning can only go so far, as the Times Literary Supplement columnist Charles Morgan pointed out.

In all the plans that are made for the life we are to lead, how seldom is there evidence of any wish that life shall be enjoyed: that it shall be safe – yes; that it shall be instructed, equalised, rubbed smooth, supplied with dustless corners and chromium-plated taps; but that there shall be grace or charm or quiet or gaiety or sweetness or light in it, there is among the sterner planners neither hope nor desire. Utility and sameness are their guiding stars … Their ideal is to make of the art of life what a timetable is to a poem.1

He wrote, of course, from a position of privilege, and exaggerates in his last two sentences to make a polemical point. Certainly I have visited prefabs that have lasted nearly three times their planned lifespan, are light and airy, and well loved by those who have made their homes therein. And G.K. Chesterton considered timetables poetic; especially when they work! And what joy, post-war, when such things could be more or less relied on again!

MMB

Portsmouth, largely rebuilt after World War II

1Charles Morgan, Reflections in a Mirror, London, MacMillan, 1944, p.93.

 

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16 October: Perspective

Woman, forest, beautiful woman, woman sitting beneath a tree

I sit beneath the Oak

on a breezy summer day –

cloud-puffed sky,

sun through the leaves,

lichen growing on the rain dark tree –

all beautiful to me.

If I’m sitting in a wheelchair,

is the beauty of the moment less?

…Or is it more?

© 2018 Christina Chase


Photo by Larm Rmah on Unsplash 

Thank you Christina for this challenging poem. Pull no punches! 

Christina has shared the beauty of her moment of personal revelation. The moment of Revelation at Pentecost was shared with the whole Church. ‘

Here is a sentence from good Pope John yesterday, which explains why I’ve put Christina’s post here. ‘May the spirit of Pentecost prevail over your families and may it unite them in that fusion of souls which was seen in the upper room where, together with the Mother of God and the Apostles, several pious women were to be found’ (Acts 1:14).

I count Christina as a modern apostle. her blog is called Divine Incarnate and can be found here. 

 

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23 September: Jesus in the Attic II, Persecution leads to Amsterdam.

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I recently came across a long poem called ‘Our Blessed Lady’s Lullaby’ and then found out about its writer. My research led me to Our Dear Lord in the Attic, an attic in Amsterdam, where we visited him. Here is one verse from the poem: Mary is speaking.

The earth is now a heaven become,
And this base power of mine
A princely palace unto me,
My Son doth make to shine.
   This sight I see, this Child I have,
   This Infant I embrace,
   O endless Comfort of the earth
   And heaven’s eternal Grace.

Richard Rowlands alias Verstegen wrote this hymn around 1600. He was an English Catholic who fled to Amsterdam after escaping from imprisonment for his faith at home. He made a new and prosperous life in Amsterdam, a Protestant city.

All the Catholic churches there were closed down, including the big church at the Beguinage Convent, now a Scottish Presbyterian church. The good beguine ladies there simply carried on after moving their place of worship to ground floor rooms in their main building. I do not know where Rowlands worshipped, but a little after his time people met for Mass at another city centre site, now known as Our Dear Lord in the Attic. its presence was an open secret; the people of Amsterdam were not given to executions for those who worshipped differently to the official norm.

The Attic Church remained open till the mid nineteenth Century when a new Catholic church was erected nearby. It is now a museum, with the Church area all ready for the occasional worship that takes place there.

This statue of the Madonna and Child belongs here.

We will return to Our Dear Lord in the Attic.

There are many links to the poem on the web, some set to music.

MMB.

 

 

 

 

 

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26 August: Behind these doors …

 

On January 23 I shared a picture of a garage door, the entrancing entrance to the Westminster diocesan archive in London. The archive is soon to be renovated, and sadly for the romantic researcher, the deceptive door will be no more. But really it is good news, as the new entrance will be on the flat without thresholds and steps.

Here is an archive that was built from underground up to be accessible. This is the British Library, home to the eighth century Lindisfarne Gospels as well as every book published in Britain in modern times, and much more besides, including hard to find works on Africa and those working there in the first half of last century, my reason for going there.

Under the courtyard are shelves where curators go to find the books readers request. In the courtyard is Sir Isaac Newton, based on a drawing by William Blake by the sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi. Blake was not over impressed by Newton, who he felt turned his back on beauty to measure and record facts, reducing creation to what can be proved and tested. Not altogether fair on Newton, but the statue celebrates both men, and both streams of thought.

In the background can be seen the mid 19th century romantic brickwork of Saint Pancras railway station, my usual arrival point in London. The Library is in the same brick, though in a completely different style. On this site was once the goods (freight) depot for the Midland Railway, built in the same red brick. The crimson on the ventilators evokes the Midland Railway livery.

The goods that leave this spot today are ideas, not physical supplies for shops and trades. This is one of the most important buildings in the world, free to use for research, free to go in and see the displays of rare books. The Harry Potter exhibition was to be paid for and there were at least four parties of school children going in or out as I ate my sandwiches; I think one group had stayed too long eating their lunch as I heard their teacher complaining, ‘And now you’re wasting my time.’ I was off to the Underground, and that deceptive door!

.archivegarage

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6 August: The Transfiguration of Our Lord.

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Transfiguration

Rabbis
Mullahs
Priests and Popes
All have their vesture
Set apart.

Your garment was seamless.

A gift?
Did your mother have it woven for you?
To become a lottery prize.
Where did it go
That day?

You had been dressed in purple,
Regally mocked,
Criminally whipped.

Replaced,
Your garment stained
Chafed the torn flesh.

Was it only yesterday …..
Last week?
More radiant than light
Its whiteness dazzled
Your beloved friends,
Foreseeing the blood as yet to flow,
The lottery drawn.

Would they remember
That time,
That day …… ?

Consecrated
To you
To your father
By your Spirit.

They left you
The glory of that moment fading
Overcome by the shame.
Rabbis,
Mullahs,
Popes and Priests,
Religious of all faiths
Bear your garments,
And I too,
… how can I write this? …
was given a garment,
Rough, coarse, not white.

Grey.

For my company with you,
… how can I write this? …

‘Keep it,’ you said,
For when you come.
Clean,
Fresh.
Grey against your radiance.
Surely it must be white by now …. ?
But grey, bland, indifferent grey
And greyer yet.

How can I come? So.

‘Listen to him’,
Your Son ….. Beloved.

SPB

Today is the feast of the Transfiguration. here is another of Sheila’s meditations. Speak it aloud and listen.

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July 30: Is All Human Suffering The Same Suffering?

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Strasbourg Cathedral: the risen Christ brings Adam and Eve out of Hell to Paradise.

 

Is all human suffering the same suffering

the suffering of God who is a Man?

 

Did he not exist before all of us?

Did he not live in the unfathomable joy

of endless, ceaseless, divine

love, so resplendent that it brought forth galaxies

of stars and blue and green planets

teeming with flowering, fluttering, soaring life?

And when the great joy of his creation, so wondrously beloved,

became the great pain of its falling – just in a moment

slipped

from his grasp of tender love – seeing it, feeling it, sensing it collapse

in the misery of mistakes immeasurable and immutable,

with agony as immense as the ecstasy

that rushed the universe into being, then infinity was cut through

with the loss of its loveliest part,

the part given freely and generously in

hopeful love.

Did he not suffer before all of us?

 

Did he not die before all of us,

any of us,

his beloved creatures, who ever struggled for the last earthly breath?

When he felt his own skin rip and tear with the cruelty

of the fallen, when he watched his own feet stagger in the forced death

march, when he saw his own mother weep and brave

his pain, her pain,

when he sensed the strong beat of his heart weakening

from the failing gasps of air… did we not all die?

The moment that his love sought for the lost

in the garden of his grace, the moment that

he knew that we had left him – that we were gone –

in that incalculable instant as quick and cataclysmic

as the burst of creation, he reached out for us

and fell to his knees in the gravel of Jerusalem,

his heart erupting with the affliction of love’s pain.

 

And didn’t he rise before all of us?

Before any beloved human body turned cold upon the ground,

before any mourning mother laid a wreath upon a weathered grave,

he caught hold of the beloved

and saved his exquisitely loved one from the endless falling away,

stretching out his mercy like the vast stretches of the cosmos

so that every sufferer, every pained, beleaguered,

and bewildered human creature who senses the slip from infinity,

who mourns the divide from love’s heart and home, can look up

and feel his presence within and all around, loving, caring,

carrying the soul of every hopeful home.

 

good shepherd mada3

Christina Chase

DivineIncarnate.com

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July 30. 100 years ago today: Prayer of a Soldier in France.

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Joyce (Alfred Joyce) Kilmer was an American Catholic Poet who died at the front this day 100 years ago. He is buried at the Oise-Aisne cemetery shown above. In this poem he comes to terms with the everyday suffering of the soldier by laying it alongside the passion of Jesus. Our second post today is a response to KIlmer’s verses from a living American poet, our friend Christina Chase.

I have found it difficult to reconcile the link people have made between Christ’s sacrifice and the soldier at war, prepared to be killed but also prepared to kill, for his country. What right does the country have to demand either sacrifice?

But here is one man. One man’s pain and suffering, offered, not to his country, but to the one true Man who was the one true God. A lesson in that for each of us.

Prayer of a Soldier in France

My shoulders ache beneath my pack 

(Lie easier, Cross, upon His back). 

I march with feet that burn and smart 

(Tread, Holy Feet, upon my heart). 

Men shout at me who may not speak 

(They scourged Thy back and smote Thy cheek). 

I may not lift a hand to clear 

My eyes of salty drops that sear. 

(Then shall my fickle soul forget 

Thy agony of Bloody Sweat?) 

My rifle hand is stiff and numb 

(From Thy pierced palm red rivers come). 

Lord, Thou didst suffer more for me 

Than all the hosts of land and sea. 

So let me render back again 

This millionth of Thy gift. Amen. 

Joycekilmersignature

Oise-Aisne Cemetery,  official site.
Signature: Open Access, via Wikipedia  

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28 July: The Beating Heart of Strasbourg

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The Cathedral is a heart

The Cathedral is a heart.

The tower is a bud.

Have you counted the steps

that lead to the platform?

Every night they become more and more numerous.

They grow.

The tower turns turns

and turns about itself.

It turns, it grows,

it dances with its saints

and the saints dance with their hearts.
Will it fly away with the angels,

the tower of Strasbourg Cathedral?

Strasbourg Cathedral is a swallow.

The swallows

believe in the angels amid the clouds.

The swallows don’t believe in ladders

to climb in the air.

They let themselves fall into the air

into the air interwoven

with the blue of infinity.

Strasbourg Cathedral is a swallow.

She lets herself fall into the winged sky

into the air of the angels.

 

I don’t claim to know what the sculptor Jean Arp meant by this poem; it is a poem that he let fly away once written. I did see an interview where he spoke about the saints on Strasbourg Cathedral. ‘We cannot surpass the work of the old masters’, he said of the cathedral dominating his home town. I read it as a love song.

Mediæval Cathedrals are well-loved. One expression of this is the continuing schedules of works to preserve these treasures, Canterbury always has scaffolding somewhere about its sides. We were not tempted to launch into the air from the roof platform at Strasbourg, but to have built the place so high was an act of faith by the architects, a duc in alto, putting out into the depths of space.

We should imitate Our Lord at his temptations in not taking irresponsible risks to impress the devil in us or in other people, but we should also trust him to hold us safe as we fly, ever in danger of falling, ever seeking the infinite blue of heaven.

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