Tag Archives: poetry

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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15 September: Holy Cross, All Coming together.

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It was Maundy Thursday, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper was over, and we awaited our turn to proceed to the Altar of Repose. The man who had caught my eye and smiled at the Sign of Peace came across and shook my hand.

‘Hello Simeon, I was Caiaphas.’

A few years before we had taken those parts in a mystery play in Canterbury Cathedral, put on by the Franciscan Study Centre under Walter Lippi from Florence.

To come together that night! The play had mostly been about the trial and judicial assassination of Jesus, and its effects on Mary.

Caiaphas: It is better for one man to die for the nation.

Simeon: My eyes have seen thy Salvation which you have prepared before all peoples. A sword will pierce your heart.

Which of them had more evidence about Jesus? Simeon saw the Messiah in a little child; Caiaphas could weigh up the political situation caused by Jesus’ ministry, but had no vision, Eyes that did not see.

When I survey the wondrous Cross

On which the Prince of Glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss

And pour contempt on all my pride.

 

Simeon, foreground, with Friar Stefan to our left and Caiaphas to our right.

Yesterday was the feast of the Holy Cross, today of Mary as Queen of Sorrows. Father Anthony Charlton at St Thomas’s Church, Canterbury, has invited us to pray especially at this time for all those affected by abuse of children and vulnerable people in the Church. May we have the vision to survey the Cross on which the Prince of Glory’s brothers and sisters are tortured in our day, and the wisdom to take the first steps to helping them.

 

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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!

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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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20 May: A Pentecost.

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A Pentecost
After Emily Dickinson

Your Deeds, dear Sir, no one can map
With Arithmetic rule –
Yet Dogmatists may call me Quack
For claiming – like a Fool –

To have beheld the Infinite
Whose Longitudes sublime
Marked out one day the Laundromat
That rid my clothes of grime –

Yet – truly – all who washed that day
Were Radiant – were One –
The sweetest of all Songs we sang –
Even as dryers spun –

And Glory fringed each sock and blouse –
I folded, Glory-dazed –
I walked my Glory home – I was
Half stupefied – joy-crazed –

For though the Distance was not great –
Only a mile I trod –
For – Fools – it circumnavigates
The Latitudes of God.

SJC

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15 May: Telling the Truth V: Blame it on the Vicar.

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We met the poet John Betjeman again last month. He was a devout Anglican, if one beset by awareness of his own sinfulness as well as intellectual doubts. In his autobiographical poem Summoned by Bells he wrote:

What seemed to me a greater question then

Tugged and still tugs: Is Christ the Son of God?

Betjeman was also aware of the natural aversion of people to self examination and repentance. We can see it in all sorts of situations of course; he exposes this hypocrisy in a Church community. Let’s take note, not just how we treat our clergy, but also in all our dealings. I’d recommend seeking out the poem as well. I feel I am at times guilty of trying to ‘keep us bright and undismayed’, mea culpa!

Blame the Vicar

When things go wrong it’s rather tame
To find we are ourselves to blame,
It gets the trouble over quicker
To go and blame things on the Vicar.

The Vicar, after all, is paid
To keep us bright and undismayed.

Thomas Becket did not keep King Henry bright and undismayed.

WT.

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23 April: The Holy of Holies.

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The Holy of Holies refers of course to the innermost chamber of the Temple in Jerusalem – and before that in the tent that went through the desert with the Israelites. Blake reminded us that God is present in a grain of sand; here is Chesterton meeting him on a Spring morning. This follows on from yesterday’s posting because these cowslips are growing in pastureland, where sheep will safely graze later in the year. We were told that the farmer seeded the field with wild flowers. Thank you to him! And Chesterton was rather fond of Saint George, whose feast falls today.

‘Elder father, though thine eyes
Shine with hoary mysteries,
Canst thou tell what in the heart
Of a cowslip blossom lies?

‘Smaller than all lives that be,
Secret as the deepest sea,
Stands a little house of seeds,
Like an elfin’s granary,

‘Speller of the stones and weeds,
Skilled in Nature’s crafts and creeds,
Tell me what is in the heart
Of the smallest of the seeds.’

‘God Almighty, and with Him
Cherubim and Seraphim,
Filling all eternity—
Adonai Elohim.’

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20 April: Telling the Truth IV: Poetry.

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A few more thoughts on telling the truth. It is not just setting the facts down – that is always going to be a selective exercise, and an interpretive one, as I am discovering writing my biography of Arthur Hughes. Poetry is truth telling in yet another mode. Here is John Betjeman, sometime Poet Laureate:

What poetry is, I do not quite know. Maybe it is the right words in the right order. For me it requires rhythm and, as an extra flourish, rhyme. It is the shortest and the most memorable way of saying what you want said.

In Lovely bits of Old England. Gavin Fuller, Ed. London, Aurum, 2012.  P96.

Betjeman was building on a previous poet’s definition:

I wish our clever young poets would remember my homely definitions of prose and poetry; that is, prose,—words in their best order; poetry,—the best words in their best order.

 Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Note the link between Fran Horner’s quest for succinctness (see yesterday’s post) and Betjeman’s  ‘shortest and most memorable’ way of saying something!

With that, I’ll hush up!

MMB

Charlottenberg Park, Berlin.

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