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

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