Category Archives: Poetry

Beauty is There

 

Beauty

What does it mean?  Tired, angry, and ill at ease,
No man, woman, or child alive could please
Me now.  And yet I almost dare to laugh
Because I sit and frame an epitaph —
‘Here lies all that no one loved of him
And that loved no one.’  Then in a trice that whim
Has wearied.  But, though I am like a river
At fall of evening while it seems that never
Has the sun lighted it or warmed it, while
Cross breezes cut the surface to a file,
This heart, some fraction of me, happily
Floats through the window even now to a tree
Down in the misting, dim-lit, quiet vale,
Not like a pewit that returns to wail
For something it has lost, but like a dove
That slants unswerving to its home and love.
There I find my rest, and through the dusk air
Flies what yet lives in me.  Beauty is there.

Edward Thomas, The Annotated Collected Poems (edited by Edna Longley) (Bloodaxe Books 2008).

Today I found this poem on a blog I frequent.  The writer talks about not just beauty, but also how the meaning has changed over the years.  He says:

 ….but there was a time when “beauty” was a philosophical or a metaphysical concept, not merely an empty word from the worlds of advertising, movies, television, and music.  For example, early in his life, before he began his political career, Edmund Burke wrote A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful.  (“Sublime”: another word that has lost all meaning in our time.)

He comment about this Edward Thomas poem:

In “Beauty,” Thomas is unsparing in disclosing the despair and misery (melancholy is not a strong enough word) that dogged him throughout his life.  But he makes clear that the despair and misery are not the whole story.  We know this from the beautiful particulars of the World that appear in his poems.

I enjoyed it all, although I’m not sure I understood it all.  You can read it in its entirety  here.

Advertisements

Everything to Look Forward To

Arrival

Not conscious
that you have been seeking
suddenly
you come upon it

the village in the Welsh hills
dust free
with no road out
but the one you came in by.

A bird chimes
from a green tree
the hour that is no hour
you know.  The river dawdles
to hold a mirror for you
where you may see yourself
as you are, a traveller
with the moon’s halo
above him, who has arrived
after long journeying where he
began, catching this
one truth by surprise
that there is everything to look forward to.

R. S. Thomas, Later Poems (Macmillan 1983)

Thanks to Stephen Pentz.

A Black Hole and A Disciplined Mind

This was written by Shirley Wickers when going through chemotherapy and radiation. Many of us can identify with her despair and feelings.

Black Hole: A Prayer for Those Going Through Dark Places

O God, I’m right back in that limbo world again:
      can’t feel You close to me, can’t feel anything.
It seemed as if things were fine, walking in the light.
      Then suddenly, panic: it’s all dark, I’m drowning.
Worries, no more than they were before,
      and yet they are so heavy, so unsolvable, so endless, sucking me down.
 And I am listening to the enemy who is damning me to death with his sly lies.
Doctors tell us that feeling low is just like any other illness:
      brought on by stress, hormones, exhaustion, debility.
Then why do I feel so guilty about it,
      so powerless to drag myself out, so unguarded?
Where is my knowledge of you being there right beside me;
      part of me while my feelings scream that because I’m like this I have failed you,
      therefore I am less than nothing?
Useless rubbish?
Please give me the disciplined mind to refuse to entertain these trespassing thoughts
      which have no right to be there because I am your child;
To wait quietly in faith until my receiving equipment is repaired
      and switched on again and I can feel you filing me with your big heart,
      forgiving me, empowering me, and remobilizing me,
      just where you’ve been all the time.
Quoted by Alistair Begg in the second part of a sermon titled The Ascension.  This is my very unpoetic interpretation of the poem script.

 

Make No Mistake

From Affirmations of God and Man: writings for modern dialogue, edited by Edmund Fuller, 1967:
Seven Stanzas at Easter
Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules reknit, the amino
    acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers, each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the eleven
    apostles;
it was as His flesh:  ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that—pierced—died, withered, paused, and then regathered out of
    enduring Might
new strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded credulity of
    earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not paper-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of time will
    eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.
And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in the dawn
    light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed by the
    miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.
                                                              John Updike

The Flowers Appear on the Earth

Wisteria, my favorite spring flower is again in bloom.

unnamed (2)

 

Behold the winter is past; the rain is gone.  The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.

Song of Solomon 2:11-12

Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –
   When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
   Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
   The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
   The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
What is all this juice and all this joy?
   A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. – Have, get, before it cloy,
   Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
   Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

 

I was introduced to this by a friend a few years ago and I often think of it when I experience or observe suffering.

Screen Shot 2018-03-14 at 6.33.59 AM

Pieter Brueghel, The Fall of Icarus

Musee des Beaux Arts

W. H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.