Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

The Second Coming

September 9th, 2013 No comments

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

W. B. Yeats

Categories: Decline and Fall, Poetry Tags:

On the Anniversary of G. K. Chesterton’s Death

June 14th, 2013 No comments

Lines to a Don

By Hilaire Belloc

Remote and ineffectual Don
That dared attack my Chesterton,
With that poor weapon, half-impelled,
Unlearnt, unsteady, hardly held,
Unworthy for a tilt with men—
Your quavering and corroded pen;
Don poor at Bed and worse at Table,
Don pinched, Don starved, Don miserable;
Don stuttering, Don with roving eyes,
Don nervous, Don of crudities;
Don clerical, Don ordinary,
Don self-absorbed and solitary;
Don here-and-there, Don epileptic;
Don puffed and empty, Don dyspeptic;
Don middle-class, Don sycophantic,
Don dull, Don brutish, Don pedantic;
Don hypocritical, Don bad,
Don furtive, Don three-quarters mad;
Don (since a man must make an end),
Don that shall never be my friend.


*       *       *


Don different from those regal Dons!
With hearts of gold and lungs of bronze,
Who shout and bang and roar and bawl
The Absolute across the hall,
Or sail in amply billowing gown
Enormous through the Sacred Town,
Bearing from College to their homes
Deep cargoes of gigantic tomes;
Dons admirable! Dons of Might!
Uprising on my inward sight
Compact of ancient tales, and port
And sleep—and learning of a sort.
Dons English, worthy of the land;
Dons rooted; Dons that understand.
Good Dons perpetual that remain
A landmark, walling in the plain—
The horizon of my memories—
Like large and comfortable trees.


*       *       *


Don very much apart from these,
Thou scapegoat Don, thou Don devoted,
Don to thine own damnation quoted,
Perplexed to find thy trivial name
Reared in my verse to lasting shame.
Don dreadful, rasping Don and wearing,
Repulsive Don—Don past all bearing.
Don of the cold and doubtful breath,
Don despicable, Don of death;
Don nasty, skimpy, silent, level;
Don evil; Don that serves the devil.
Don ugly—that makes fifty lines.
There is a Canon which confines
A Rhymed Octosyllabic Curse
If written in Iambic Verse
To fifty lines. I never cut;
I far prefer to end it—but
Believe me I shall soon return.
My fires are banked, but still they burn
To write some more about the Don
That dared attack my Chesterton.
Categories: ChesterBelloc, Poetry Tags:

Cult, Culture, and Cultivation

November 21st, 2012 2 comments

Irish Scholars

When the Irish scholars
decided to lay the
of medieval Europe,
they established:
Centers of Thought
in all the cities of Europe
as far as Constantinople,
where people
could look for thought
so they could have light.
Houses of Hospitality
where Christian charity
was exemplified.
Agricultural Centers
where they combined
(a) Cult—
that is to say Liturgy
(b) with Culture—
that is to say Literature
(c) with Cultivation—
that is to say Agriculture.

— Peter Maurin, Catholic Radicalism: Phrased Essays for the Green Revolution

A Standing Ground

October 30th, 2012 No comments

Flee fro the prees, and dwelle with sothfastnesse;
Suffyce unto thy thyng, though hit be smal…

However just and anxious I have been,
I will stop and step back
from the crowd of those who may agree
with what I say, and be apart.
There is no earthly promise of life or peace
but where the roots branch and weave
their patient silent passages in the dark;
uprooted, I have been furious without an aim.
I am not bound for any public place,
but for ground of my own
where I have planted vines and orchard trees,
and in the heat of the day climbed up
into the healing shadow of the woods.
Better than any argument is to rise at dawn
and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup

— Wendell Berry

Standing By Words

August 19th, 2011 No comments

Contemporaneity, in the sense of being “up with the times,” is of no value. Wakefulness to experience — as well as to instruction and example — is another matter. But what we call the modern world is not necessarily, and not often, the real world, and there is no virtue in being up-to-date with it. It is a false world, based upon economics and values and desires that are fantastical — a world in which millions of people have lost any idea of the materials, the disciplines, the restraints, and the work necessary to support human life, and have thus become dangerous to their own lives and to the possibility of life. The job now is to get back to the perennial and substantial world in which we really do live, in which the foundations of our life will be visible to us, and in which we can accept our responsibilities again within the conditions of necessity and mystery. In that world all wakeful and responsible people, dead, living, and unborn, are contemporaries. And that is the only contemporaneity worth having.


Wendell Berry, “The Specialization of Poetry,” in Standing by Words: Essays

Categories: Poetry Tags:

Elegy in a Country Churchyard

August 12th, 2010 No comments

Elegy in a Country Churchyard

The men that worked for England
They have their graves at home:
And bees and birds of England
About the cross can roam.

But they that fought for England,
Following a falling star,
Alas, alas for England
They have their graves afar.

And they that rule in England,
In stately conclave met,
Alas, alas for England,
They have no graves as yet.

G.K. Chesterton

Everyday Poem

July 27th, 2004 No comments

(Hat tip: Destination: Order)

Let nothing disturb thee;
Let nothing dismay thee;
All thing pass;
God never changes
Patience attains
All that it strives for.
He who has God
Finds he lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.

— St. Teresa of Avila.

Categories: Poetry Tags:

Sabbath Poem

July 26th, 2004 No comments

From A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997 by Wendell Berry:

1979: II

Another Sunday morning comes
And I resume the standing Sabbath
Of the woods, where the finest blooms
Of time return, and where no path

Is worn but wears its makers out
At last, and dissappears in leaves
Of fallen seasons. The tracked rut
Fills and levels; here nothing grieves

In the risen season. Past life
Lives in the living. Resurrection
Is in the way each maple leaf
Commemorates its kind, by connection

Outreaching understanding. What rises
Rises into comprehension
And beyond. Even falling raises
In praise of light. What is begun

Is unfinished. And so the mind
That comes to rest among the bluebells
Comes to rest in motion, refined
By alteration. The bud swells,

Opens, makes seed, falls, is well,
Being becoming what it is:
Miracle and parable
Exceeding thought, because it is

Immeasurable; the understander
Encloses understanding, thus
Darkens the light. We can stand under
No ray that is not dimmed by us.

The mind that comes to rest is tended
In ways that it cannot intend:
Is borne, preserved, and comprehended
By what it cannot comprehend.

Your Sabbath, Lord, thus keeps us by
Your will, not ours. And it is fit
Our only choice should be to die
Into that rest, or out of it.

Categories: Poetry Tags:

Sabbath Poem

July 18th, 2004 No comments

From A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997 by Wendell Berry:

1997: I

Best of any song
is bird song
in the quiet, but first
you must have the quiet.

Categories: Poetry Tags:

9/11 Remembered

September 12th, 2002 No comments

Here is something I wrote in the immediate aftermath:

An Ordinary Week

(looking back on September 11, 2001)

Thank you, God, for an ordinary week.

While there were reports of terror and death
  all around me, you have given me the gift
  of an ordinary week.

I went to work and did my job.  There was satisfaction
  and frustration and politics and camaraderie.

I came home to my family.  Some joy, some tedium,
  some being driven crazy by each other.  You know
  how families can be.

I helped with the dishes, did some work around
  the house, folded the laundry.

The kids, in between being wonderful, challenged
  and frustrated us.  They even needed
  some disciplining.

I wondered how I was going to get all the bills
  taken care of.

My wife smiled at me.

We fought a little bit, but nothing that didn't
  pass and leave the love behind.

I went to church on Sunday and worshiped,
  distracted by the squirming and questioning
  of lively children.

It was an ordinary week.

We had a little bit out of the ordinary.  Josh
  was upset because we didn't get a newspaper.
  He likes the weather maps.

But the front page wouldn't have been ordinary,
  and he's such a sensitive child.

He won't even pray his "special prayers" at night,
  because he didn't want to speak what he'd heard
  about New York and Washington, D.C.
  even to God.

David will pray about it.  He prays every night
  for the airplanes and the buildings and the firefighters
  and that the planes will get down safely.
  I never have the heart to tell him
  that they won't.

My wife and I are in disbelief, and a little shock,
  that a building where we spent a week together
  is now a pile of rubble.

We hold each other a little tighter.

And we were relieved to find that our friend
  who lives and works around the Beltway
  had his flight on the ground a few hours
  before the terror began.

So it was not entirely ordinary.

But I am only an ordinary man
  with the ordinary responsibilities of life.

I had no terror of waiting for the awful call
  (or worse, no call at all)
  regarding loved ones in the wrong building.

I had no responsibility for coworkers in flight
  or where they might be stranded
  if the planes were still in the air at all.

I had no position of ministry
  where the grieving and questioning would come
  and ask the unanswerable.

I had no position of public office
  where more wisdom than can be humanly borne
  is demanded.

I am only an ordinary man
  experiencing an ordinary week.

Thank you, Lord, for this most precious treasure
  of an ordinary week.
Categories: Decline and Fall, Poetry Tags: