April is Poetry Month – April 21, 2014

Another by George Herbert:

 

Easter

 

Rise, heart, thy lord is risen. Sing his praise

Without delays,

Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise

With him may’st rise:

That, as his death calcinèd 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 stretchèd 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

Oh let thy blessèd Spirit bear a part,

And make up our defects with his sweet art.

April is Poetry Month – Easter Sunday

“But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.  And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”

 So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.”  – Matthew 28:5-8

I have had the poem for Easter chosen for some time.  It is by Edmund Spenser, a poet who wrote during the time of Queen Elizabeth I of England.  He is probably most famous for his book, The Fairie Queene (If you haven’t read this, please don’t hesitate to find a copy and read at least some of it.  It is the famous story of the Red Cross Knight who killed the dragon), but he wrote many other poems and this one is particularly fitting for today, Easter Sunday:

Amoretti LXVIII: Most Glorious Lord of Life

BY EDMUND SPENSER

Most glorious Lord of life, that on this day,
Didst make thy triumph over death and sin:
And having harrow’d hell, didst bring away
Captivity thence captive, us to win:
This joyous day, dear Lord, with joy begin,
And grant that we for whom thou diddest die,
Being with thy dear blood clean wash’d from sin,
May live for ever in felicity.
And that thy love we weighing worthily,
May likewise love thee for the same again:
And for thy sake, that all like dear didst buy,
With love may one another entertain.
So let us love, dear love, like as we ought,
Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.

April is Poetry Month – Holy Saturday

holy-saturday.jpg (393×340)

 

Here at the centre everything is still
Before the stir and movement of our grief
Which bears it’s pain with rhythm, ritual,
Beautiful useless gestures of relief.
So they anoint the skin that cannot feel
Soothing his ruined flesh with tender care,
Kissing the wounds they know they cannot heal,
With incense scenting only empty air.
He blesses every love that weeps and grieves
And makes our grief the pangs of a new birth.
The love that’s poured in silence at old graves
Renewing flowers, tending the bare earth,
Is never lost. In him all love is found
And sown with him, a seed in the rich ground.

–Malcolm Guite

April is Poetry Month – Good Friday

Why is this called “Good” Friday when the most holy, righteous, perfect man who ever lived was cruelly killed?  It is “good” because he voluntarily gave His life so that you and I might live.  Hallelujah!  What a Saviour!

I have a poem and a hymn today to help us meditate on His sacrifice:

 

The Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot

East Coker, IV

The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we fell
The sharp compassion of the healer’s art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam’s, curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses and the smoke is briars.

The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food;
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood–
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

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.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ, my God;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all. –Isaac Watts

 

 

April is Poetry Month – Maundy Thursday

 

As this is Holy Week, I wanted to find a poem that remembered some of the main events in the life of Christ.  Maundy Thursday is celebrated throughout the world as the day on which the Last Supper occurred.  “Maundy” comes from the Latin word mandatum, meaning commandment since the Lord gave His disciples (and us) several commands during the Last Supper, especially to remember Him each time we take communion.

Here is a poem that commemorates that last meal:

Here is the source of every sacrament,

The all-transforming presence of the Lord,

Replenishing our every element

Remaking us in his creative Word.

For here the earth herself gives bread and wine,

The air delights to bear his Spirit’s speech,

The fire dances where the candles shine,

The waters cleanse us with His gentle touch.

And here He shows the full extent of love

To us whose love is always incomplete,

In vain we search the heavens high above,

The God of love is kneeling at our feet.

Though we betray Him, though it is the night.

He meets us here and loves us into light.

–Malcolm Guite, Sounding the Seasons

April is Poetry Month – Day 16

 

Although it is spring, the temperatures dropped down into the 20’s overnight and it feels like winter so I’m including a winter poem today.  It comes from my favorite chapter of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.  I love The Wind in the Willows so much and the chapter, Dulce Domum, is one of my favorite chapters in any book I’ve ever read.  I re-read it at least once a year, sometimes more often.  It is comfort reading for the soul.

The time is Christmas Eve and Rat and Mole have just found Mole’s little home when mice carolers come to the door.  Here is their song:

 

CAROL

Villagers all, this frosty tide,

Let your doors swing open wide,

Though wind may follow, and snow beside,

Yet draw us in by your fire to bide;

Joy shall be yours in the morning!

 

Here we stand in the cold and the sleet,

Blowing fingers and stamping feet,

Come from far away you to greet–

You by the fire and we in the street–

Bidding you joy in the morning!

 

For ere one half of the night was gone,

Sudden a star has led us on,

Raining bliss and benison–

Bliss to-morrow and more anon,

Joy for every morning!

 

Goodman Joseph toiled through the snow–

Saw the star o’er a stable low;

Mary she might not further go–

Welcome thatch, and litter below!

Joy was hers in the morning!

 

And then they heard the angels tell

‘Who were the first to cry NOWELL?

Animals all, as it befell,

In the stable where they did dwell!

Joy shall be theirs in the morning!’

 

Our lives were dark with sin and sorrow until Jesus, the light of the world, came at Christmas.  Now joy does come in the morning because of Christ.  Whenever you want to be cheered and remember how wonderful home is, read the chapter, Dulce Domum.

April is Poetry Month – Day 15

Anne Bradstreet is one of America’s finest poets.  She was born in England in the early 1612 and moved to the Massachusetts Bay Colony with her father and husband in 1630.  Although not formally educated in a school, she was taught at home by her father, a well-educated man.  Life in the colonies was not comfortable but despite the lack of luxuries and hard living, Anne was able to find time to write poetry.  Her first book of poems, The Tenth Muse, was published in London in 1650.  A second edition of The Tenth Muse was published in Boston in 1678, after her death, and contained many new poems.  These later poems were better crafted and revealed more of the poet than her previous poems.

From Anne’s poems we learn that she was much attached to her husband, Simon.  He traveled extensively as a magistrate and he was missed by his wife.  Here is one of my favorites:

 

To my Dear and Loving Husband

If ever two were one, then surely we.

If ever man were lov’d by wife, then thee.

If ever wife was happy in a man,

Compare with me, ye women, if you can.

I prize thy love more than whole Mines of gold

Or all the riches that the East doth hold.

My love is such that Rivers cannot quench,

Nor ought but love from thee give recompence.

Thy love is such I can no way repay.

The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.

Then while we live, in love let’s so persever

That when we live no more, we may live ever.

 

Bradstreet, Anne (1612 – 1672)

April is Poetry Month – Day 14

I am a homebody.  There are few things I love more than being at home, puttering about the house, digging in the garden, putting clean linens on the beds and tables, filling a vase with flowers, replacing burnt down candles in the candlesticks, putting away the last of the clean dishes, and generally making my home a welcoming, pleasant place to be.  A few years ago I came across a poet, Grace Noll Crowell, whose poems resonated with me because she, too, liked the simple pleasures of home.  Her sentiments are out of fashion these days so almost no one has heard of her, but she was appointed the Poet Laureate of Texas in the 1930’s and was very popular while she was writing.

Here is the first poem of hers that I read.  It is still my favorite:

I have found such joy in simple things;
A plain, clean room, a nut-brown loaf of bread,
A cup of milk, a kettle as it sings,
The shelter of a roof above my head,
And in a leaf-laced square along the floor,
Where yellow sunlight glimmers through the door.


I have found such joy in things that fill
My quiet days: a curtain’s blowing grace,
A potted plant upon my window sill,
A rose, fresh-cut and placed within a vase;
A table cleared, a lamp beside a chair,
And books I long have loved beside me there.


Oh, I have found such joys I wish I might
Tell every woman who goes seeking far
For some elusive, feverish delight,
That very close to home the great joys are:
The elemental things- old as the race,
Yet never, through the ages, commonplace.


~ Grace Noll Crowell

April is Poetry Month – Second Sunday Edition

George Herbert was a well-loved poet in the seventeenth century.  After his death, his close friend, Nicholas Ferrar, wrote that he  “exchanged the advantages of noble birth and worldly preferment for the strains of serving at “Gods Altar,” one whose “obedience and conformitie to the Church and the discipline thereof was singularly remarkable,” and whose “faithfull discharge” of the holy duties to which he was called “make him justly a companion to the primitive Saints, and a pattern or more for the age he lived in.” “

Here is one of my favorite of his poems:

LOVE (III)
by George Herbert


Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
        Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
        From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
        If I lack’d anything.

“A guest,” I answer’d, “worthy to be here”;
        Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
        I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
        “Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame
        Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
        “My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
        So I did sit and eat. 

April is Poetry Month – Day 12

Since I didn’t post a poem yesterday, I thought I would post an extra long one, today.  When my children are in the fifth grade, they study early American history and the poem of the year is Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.   We read other poems by Longfellow and other American poets that year but all three of my children memorized and recited Paul Revere’s Ride by the end of fifth grade.  All of them still remember large parts of it and can recite it even now.

Paul Revere’s Ride

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,–
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.”Then he said “Good-night!” and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,–
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel’s tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, “All is well!”
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,–
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse’s side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry’s height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer’s dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,—
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
>From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,—
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.