Poetry

POETRY: O Taste And See by Denise Levertov

June 27, 2017

O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. (Psalm 34:8) The world is not with us enough. O taste and see the subway Bible poster said, meaning The Lord, meaning if anything all that lives to the imagination’s tongue, grief, mercy, language, tangerine, weather, to breathe them, bite savor, chew, swallow, transform into our flesh our deaths, crossing the street, plum, quince, living in the orchard and being hungry, and plucking the [...]

POETRY: The Slip by Wendell Berry

June 25, 2017

The river takes the land, and leaves nothing. Where the great slip gave way in the bank and an acre disappeared, all human plans dissolve. An aweful clarification occurs where a place was. Its memory breaks from what is known now, and begins to drift. Where cattle grazed and trees stood, emptiness widens the air for birdflight, wind, and rain. As before the beginning, nothing is there. Human wrong is in the cause, human ruin in the effect—but no matter; all will be lost, no matter the reason. Nothing, having arrived, will stay. The earth, even, is like a flower, so soon passeth it away. And yet this nothing is the seed of all—heaven’s clear eye, where all the worlds appear. Where the imperfect has departed, the perfect begins its [...]

POETRY: Evening Prayer by Louis Glück

June 24, 2017

I believe my sin to be entirely common: the request for help Masking request for favor and the plea for pity thinly veiling complaint. So little at peace in the spring evening, I pray for strength, for direction, but I also ask to survive my illness (the immediate one)—never mind anything in the future. I make this a special point, this unconcern for the future, also the courage I will have acquired by then to meet my suffering alone but with heightened fortitude. Tonight, in my unhappiness, I wonder what qualities this presumes in the one who listens. And as the breeze stirs the leaves of the little birch tree, I construct a presence wholly skeptical and wholly tender, thus incapable of surprise. I believe my sin is common, therefore [...]

POETRY: Church-Monuments by George Herbert

June 23, 2017

While that my soul repairs to her devotion, Here I entomb my flesh, that it betimes May take acquaintance of this heap of dust; To which the blast of death’s incessant motion, Fed with the exhalation of our crimes, Drives all at last. Therefore I gladly trust My body to this school, that it may learn To spell its elements, and find its birth Written in dusty heraldry and lines; Which dissolution sure doth best discern, Comparing dust with dust, and earth with earth. These laugh at Jet and Marble put for signs To sever the good fellowship of dust, And spoil the meeting. What shall point out them, When they shall bow, and kneel, and fall down flat To kiss those heaps which now they have in trust? Dear flesh, while I do pray, learn here [...]

POETRY: Hadewijch Of Antwerp—Five Poems on Love

June 21, 2017

Love’s Maturity In the beginning Love satisfies us. When Love first spoke to me of love— How I laughed at her in return! But then she made me like the hazel trees, Which blossom early in the season of darkness, And bear fruit slowly. Knowing Love In Herself I do not complain of suffering for Love, It is right that I should always obey her, For I can know her only as she is in herself, Whether she commands in storm or in stillness. This is a marvel beyond my understanding, Which fills my whole heart And makes me stray in a wild desert. Love’s Constancy Anyone who has waded Through Love’s turbulent waters, Now feeling hunger and now satiety, Is untouched by the season Of withering or blooming, For in the deepest And most [...]

POETRY: Rochester Extempore by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

June 20, 2017

Help, Lord; for the Godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.  They speak vanity every one with his neighbor: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.  The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things:  Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?  For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.  The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of Earth, purified seven times.  Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation forever.  The wicked walk on [...]

POETRY: Moonbeam by Louise Glück

June 18, 2017

The mist rose with a little sound. Like a thud. Which was the heart beating. And the sun rose, briefly diluted. And after what seemed years, it sank again and twilight washed over the shore and deepened there. And from out of nowhere lovers came, people who still had bodies and hearts. Who still had arms, legs, mouths, although by day they might be housewives and businessmen. The same night also produced people like ourselves. You are like me, whether or not you admit it. Unsatisfied, meticulous. And your hunger is not for experience but for understanding, as though it could be had in the abstract. Then it’s daylight again and the world goes back to normal. The lovers smooth their hair; the moon resumes its hollow existence. And the [...]

POETRY: Clasping Of Hands by George Herbert

June 17, 2017

Lord, Thou art mine, and I am Thine, If mine I am; and Thine much more Then I or ought or can be mine. Yet to be Thine doth me restore, So that again I now am mine, And with advantage mine the more, Since this being mine brings with it Thine, And Thou with me dost Thee restore: If I without Thee would be mine, I neither should be mine nor Thine. Lord, I am Thine, and Thou art mine; So mine Thou art, that something more I may presume Thee mine then Thine, For Thou didst suffer to restore Not Thee, but me, and to be mine: And with advantage mine the more, Since Thou in death wast none of Thine, Yet then as mine didst me restore: O, be mine still; still make me Thine; Or rather make no Thine and [...]

POETRY: The Quickening Of St. John The Baptist by Thomas Merton

June 16, 2017

On the Contemplative Vocation Why do you fly from the drowned shores of Galilee, From the sands and the lavender water? Why do you leave the ordinary world, Virgin of Nazareth, The yellow fishing boats, the farms, The winesmelling yards and low cellars Or the oilpress, and the women by the well? Why do you fly those markets, Those suburban gardens, The trumpets of the jealous lilies, Leaving them all, lovely among the lemon trees? You have trusted no town With the news behind your eyes. You have drowned Gabriel’s word in thoughts like seas And turned toward the stone mountain To the treeless places. Virgin of God, why are your clothes like sails? The day Our Lady, full of Christ, Entered the dooryard of her relative Did not her steps, [...]

POETRY: A Letter, by Wendell Berry

June 14, 2017

(to Ed McClanahan) Dear Ed, I dreamed that you and I were sent to Hell. The place we went to was not fiery or cold, was not Dante’s Hell or Milton’s, but was, even so, as true a Hell as any. It was a place unalterably public in which crowds of people were rushing in weary frenzy this way and that, as when classes change in a university or at quitting time in a city street, except that this place was wider far than we could see, and the crowd as large as the place. In that crowd every one was alone. Every one was hurrying. Nobody was sitting down. Nobody was standing around. All were rushing so uniformly in every direction, so uniformly frantic, that to average them would have stood them still. It was a place deeply disturbed. [...]

POETRY: Mustard Seed by Meister Eckhart

June 14, 2017

I. In the Beginning High above understanding Is ever the Word. O rich treasure, There the Beginning always bore the Beginning. O Father’s Breast, From thy delight The Word ever flows! Yet the bosom Retains the Word, truly. II. From the two as one source, The fire of love. The bond of both, Known to both, Flows the All-Sweet Spirit Co-equal, Undivided The Three are One. Do you understand why? No. It best understands itself. III. The bond of three Causes deep fear. Of this circle There is no understanding. Here is a depth without ground. Check and mate To time, forms, place! The wondrous circle Is the Principle, Its point never moves. IV. The mountain of this point Ascend without activity. O intellect! The road leads you Into a [...]

POETRY: A Romance On The Psalm “By The Waters Of Babylon” by John Of The Cross

June 13, 2017

(Psalm 137) By the rivers of Babylon I sat down weeping, there on the ground. And remembering you, O Zion, whom I loved, in that sweet memory I wept even more. I took off my feastday clothes and put on my working ones; I hung on the green willows all the joy I had in song, putting it aside for that which I hoped for in you. There love wounded me and took away my heart. I begged love to kill me since it had so wounded me; I threw myself in its fire knowing it burned, excusing now the young bird that would die in the fire. I was dying in myself, breathing in you alone. I died within myself for you and for you I revived, because the memory of you gave life and took it away. The strangers among whom I was captive rejoiced; they asked me to [...]

POETRY: Trinitie Sunday by George Herbert

June 11, 2017

Lord, who hast form’d me out of mud And hast redeem’d me through thy bloud, And sanctifi’d me to do good; Purge all my sinnes done heretofore: For I confesse my heavie score, And I will strive to sinne no more. Enrich my heart, mouth, hands in me, With faith, with hope, with charitie; That I may runne, rise, rest with [...]

POETRY: Look It Over by Wendell Berry

June 10, 2017

I leave behind even my walking stick. My knife is in my pocket, but that I have forgot. I bring no car, no cell phone, no computer, no camera, no CD player, no fax, no TV, not even a book. I go into the woods. I sit on a log provided at no cost. It is the earth I’ve come to, the earth itself, sadly abused by the stupidity only humans are capable of but, as ever, itself. Free. A bargain! Get it while it [...]

POETRY: Echoes, by Louise Glück

June 7, 2017

1. Once I could imagine my soul I could imagine my death. When I imagined my death my soul died. This I remember clearly. My body persisted. Not thrived, but persisted. Why I do not know. 2. When I was still very young my parents moved to a small valley surrounded by mountains in what was called the lake country. From our kitchen garden you could see the mountains, snow covered, even in summer. I remember peace of a kind I never knew again. Somewhat later, I took it upon myself to become an artist, to give voice to these impressions. 3. The rest I have told you already. A few years of fluency, and then the long silence, like the silence in the valley before the mountains send back your own voice changed to the voice of nature. This silence [...]

POETRY: Descend From Your Head Into Your Heart, by Theophan the Recluse

June 7, 2017

You must descend from your head into your heart. At present your thoughts of God are in your head. And God himself is, as it were, outside you, and so your prayer and other spiritual exercises remain exterior. Whilst you are still in your head, thoughts will not easily be subdued but will always be whirling about, like snow in winter or clouds of mosquitoes in [...]

POETRY: Blessed Is The Man, by Marianne Moore

June 6, 2017

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2) who does not sit in the seat of the scoffer— the man who does not denigrate, depreciate, denunciate; who is not “characteristically intemperate,” who does not “excuse, retreat, equivocate; and will be heard.” (Ah, Giorgione! there are those who mongrelize and those who heighten anything they touch; although it may well be that if Giorgione’s self-portrait were not said to be he, it might not take my fancy. Blessed the geniuses who know that egomania is not a [...]

POETRY: Ascension, by Denis Devlin

May 31, 2017

It happens through the blond window, the trees With diverse leaves divide the light, light birds; Aengus, the god of Love, my shoulders brushed With birds, you could say lark or thrush or thieves And not be right yet—or ever right— For it was God’s Son foreign to our moor: When I looked out the window, all was white, And what’s beloved in the heart was sure, With such a certainty ascended He, The Son of Man who deigned Himself to be: That when we lifted out of sleep, there was Life with its dark, and love above the [...]

POETRY: Sunday After Ascension, by John Keble

May 28, 2017

As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (Peter 4:10) The Earth that in her genial breast Makes for the down a kindly nest, Where wafted by the warm south-west It floats at pleasure, Yields, thankful, of her very best, To nurse her treasure: True to her trust, tree, herb, or reed, She renders for each scatter’d seed, And to her Lord with duteous heed Gives large increase: Thus year by year she works unfeed, And will not cease. Woe worth these barren hearts of ours, Where Thou hast set celestial flowers, And water’d with more balmy showers, Than e’er distill’d In Eden, on th’ ambrosial bowers— Yet nought we yield. Largely Thou givest, gracious [...]

POETRY: Ascension, by Malcolm Guite

May 27, 2017

We saw his light break through the cloud of glory Whilst we were rooted still in time and place As Earth became a part of Heaven’s story And Heaven opened to his human face. We saw him go and yet we were not parted He took us with him to the heart of things The heart that broke for all the broken-hearted Is whole and Heaven-centered now, and sings, Sings in the strength that rises out of weakness, Sings through the clouds that veil him from our sight, Whilst we ourselves become his clouds of witness And sing the waning darkness into light, His light in us, and ours in him concealed, Which all creation waits to see revealed [...]

POETRY: Ascension, by John Donne

May 25, 2017

Salute the last, and everlasting day, Joy at the uprising of this Sun, and Son, Ye whose true tears, or tribulation Have purely wash’d, or burnt your drossy clay. Behold, the Highest, parting hence away, Lightens the dark clouds, which He treads upon; Nor doth He by ascending show alone, But first He, and He first enters the way. O strong Ram, which hast batter’d Heaven for me! Mild lamb, which with Thy Blood hast mark’d the path! Bright Torch, which shinest, that I the way may see! O, with Thy own Blood quench Thy own just wrath; And if Thy Holy Spirit my Muse did raise, Deign at my hands this crown of prayer and [...]

POETRY: Stanzas On The Psalms, by Thomas Warton the Elder

May 24, 2017

Not the songs that nobly tell, How Troy was sacked, and Rome began, Not the numbers that reveal The wars of Heaven to falling man; Can boast that true celestial fire, That equal strength and ease, Or with such various charms conspire, To move, to teach, to please. Those complaints how sadly sweet, White weeping seraphim repeat; Those prayers how happily preferred, Which God himself inspired and heard. Ye partial wits no longer boast Of Pindar’s fire in David’s lost! Who to the Hebrew harp must yield, As Jove by great Jehovah is [...]

POETRY: My Silence Is The Lord, by Paul Quenon

May 24, 2017

My silence is the Lord, I listen, his silence speaks at all time. When I listen not, my hearing is filled with words and my tongue takes to rambling. My resting place is the Lord a hideaway on a mountain height. The lonely seek and find him. My resting place is the Lord, a low valley by the runlet. All humble steps lead there. “Turn in to my place and sit quietly. Drink from my stream and my vintage. Cast off your shoes, discard your hardships and listen to my evening song: “I seek a heart that is simple. With the peaceful I spread my tent. I will wash your feet and dry them, my silence will be their perfume. “In your quiet steps I will follow. None will know whence we come and where we go. To the world you will be my [...]

POETRY: I Wake And Feel The Fell Of Dark, by Gerard Manley Hopkins

May 21, 2017

I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day. What hours, O what black hours we have spent This night! what sights you, heart, saw; ways you went! And more must, in yet longer light’s delay. With witness I speak this. But where I say Hours I mean years, mean life. And my lament Is cries countless, cries like dead letters sent To dearest him that lives alas! away. I am gall, I am heartburn. God’s most deep decree Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me; Bones build in me, flesh filled, blood brimmed the curse. Selfyeast of spirit a dull dough sours. I see The lost are like this, and their scourge to be As I am mine, their sweating selves; but [...]

POETRY: Nothing Is Too Small Not To Be Wondered About, by Mary Oliver

May 20, 2017

The cricket doesn’t wonder if there’s a heaven or, if there is, if there’s room for him. It’s fall. Romance is over. Still, he sings. If he can, he enters a house through the tiniest crack under the door. Then the house grows colder. He sings slower and slower. Then, nothing. This must mean something, I don’t know what. But certainly it doesn’t mean he hasn’t been an excellent cricket all his [...]

POETRY: St. Peter, by Christina Rossetti

May 17, 2017

St. Peter once: “Lord, doest Thou wash my feet?”— Much more I say: Lord, dost Thou stand and knock At my closed heart more rugged than a rock, Bolted and barred, for Thy soft touch unmet, Nor garnished in any wise made sweet? Owls roost within and dancing satyrs mock. Lord, I have heard the crowing of the cock And have not wept: ah, Lord, thou knowest it. Yet still I hear Thee knocking, still I hear: “Open to Me, look on Me eye to eye, That I may wring thy heart and make it whole; And teach thee love because I hold thee dear And sup with thee in gladness soul with soul, And sup with thee in glory by and [...]

POETRY: The Airy Christ, by Stevie Smith

May 17, 2017

(After reading Dr. Rieu’s translation of St. Mark’s Gospel.) Who is this that comes in splendour, coming from the blazing East? This is he we had not thought of, this is he the airy Christ. Airy, in an airy manner in an airy parkland walking. Others take him by the hand, lead him, do the talking. But the Form, the airy One, frowns an airy frown, What they say he knows must be, but he looks aloofly down, Looks aloofly at his feet, looks aloofly at his hands, Knows they must, as prophets say, nailed be to wooden bands. As he knows the words he sings, that he sings so happily Must be changed to working laws, yet sings he ceaselessly. Those who truly hear the voice, the words, the happy song, Never shall need working laws to keep [...]

POETRY: How The Grass And The Flowers Came To Exist, A God-Tale, by Mary Oliver

May 14, 2017

I suppose the Lord said: Let there be fur upon the earth, and let there be hair upon the earth, and so the seeds stuttered forward into ripeness and the roots twirled in the dark to accomplish His desire, and so there is clover, and the reeds of the marshes, and the eelgrass of the sea shallows upon which the dainty sea brant live, and there is the green and sturdy grass, and the goldenrod and the spurge and the yarrow and the ivies and the bramble and the blue iris covering the earth, thanking the Lord with their [...]

POETRY: What Good Shall My Life Do Me?, by Christina Rossetti

May 13, 2017

Have dead men long to wait?— There is a certain term For their bodies to the worm And their souls at Heaven gate. Dust to dust, clod to clod, These precious things of God, Trampled underfoot by man And beast the appointed years.— Their longest life was but a span For change and smiles and tears. Is it worth while to live, Rejoice and grieve, Hope, fear, and die? Man with man, truth with lie, The slow show dwindles by: At last what shall we have Besides a grave?— Lies and shows no more, No fear, no pain, But after hope and sleep Dear joys again. Those who sowed shall reap: Those who bore The Cross shall wear the Crown: Those who clomb the steep There shall sit down. The Shepherd of the sheep Feeds His flock there, In watered pastures [...]

POETRY: O Deus Ego Amo Te, by Gerard Manley Hopkins

May 10, 2017

O God, I love thee, I love thee— Not out of hope of Heaven for me Nor fearing not to love and be In the everlasting burning. Thou, thou, my Jesus, after me Didst reach thine arms out dying, For my sake sufferedst nails, and lance, Mocked and marred countenance, Sorrows passing number, Sweat and care and cumber, Yea and death, and this for me, And thou couldst see me sinning: Then I, why should not I love thee, Jesu, so much in love with me? Not for Heaven’s sake; not to be Out of hell by loving thee; Not for any gains I see; But just the way that thou didst me I do love and I will love thee: What must I love thee, Lord, for then?— For being my king and God. [...]