April is Poetry Month – Day 24

We are reading poems by Lord Byron this term.  For years all I knew about Byron was how profligate a life he had led.  I had read only one or two of his poems and never read any more.  After reading many of his poems, I am struck by how beautiful they are, how masterful his use of language and metaphor.  I have especially enjoyed the excerpts from his Hebrew Melodies and am planning on reading through all of them when I have some time.  Here are two of his most famous for your enjoyment:

 

She Walks in Beauty

 

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow’d to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

 

The Destruction of Sennacherib

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!

And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord.

April is Poetry Month – Day 23

In honor of Shakespeare, who died on this day in 1616, I am posting one of his most famous sonnets with a link to a wonderful reading of it:

SONNET 29

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state, 
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate, 
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, 
Featur’d like him, like him with friends possess’d,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope, 
With what I most enjoy contented least; 
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state, 
Like to the lark at break of day arising 
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings. 

 

Matthew Macfadyen reads Sonnet 29

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