Thomas Merton

POETRY: O Sweet Irrational Worship by Thomas Merton

August 15, 2014

Wind and a bobwhite And the afternoon sun. By ceasing to question the sun I have become light, Bird and wind. My leaves sing. I am earth, earth All these lighted things Grow from my heart. A tall, spare pine Stands like the initial of my first Name when I had one. When I had a spirit, When I was on fire When this valley was Made out of fresh air You spoke my name In naming Your silence: O sweet, irrational worship! I am earth, earth My heart’s love Bursts with hay and flowers. I am a lake of blue air In which my own appointed place Field and valley Stand reflected. I am earth, earth Out of my grass heart Rises the bobwhite Out of my nameless weeds His foolish [...]

POETRY: I Believe In Love by Thomas Merton

May 9, 2014

Translated from the French by William Davis Je Crois en L’Amour Je crois en l’Amour Qui dort et vit, cache dans les semences, Et lorsque je respire mon printemps Dans la fraicheur des sommets liturgiques En voyant tous les arbres et les blés verts, L’émoi s’éveille au plus profound De mon être mortel: et l’adoration Sonne comme les cloches légendaires Qui entonnent leurs chants sourds au sein de l’océan. Et quand le soleil géant de mon été A frappe l’or de toutes mes gerbes Je fais fortune: c’est là mon chant, mon capital, Ma lousange de Notre Dame! O frères, venez me rejoinder, Buvez le vin de Melchisédec Tandis que tous ces mont régenérés Chantent la paid, vêtus des vignes d’Isaïe: Car c’est ainsi que [...]

POETRY: Thomas Merton — An Array Of Saints

February 7, 2014

St. Agnes: A Responsory Cujur pulchritudinem Sol et luna mirantur. . . Hear with joy this child of God Plays in the perfect garden of her martyrdom, Ipsi soli servo fidem. Spending the silver of her little life To bring her Bridegroom these bright flowers Of which her arms are full. Cujus pulchritudinem. . . With what white smiles She buys the Popes their palliums, And lavishes upon our souls the lambs of her confession! Sol et luna mirantur, Ipsi soli servo fidem. Her virtues, with their simple strings, Play to the Lover hidden in the universe, Cujus pulchritudinem. . . Who smiles into the sun His looking-glass, And fills it with his glorious face: Who utters the round moon’s recurring O And drowns our dusks in peace. Ipsi soli [...]

POETRY: Thomas Merton Sings Of Angels

December 20, 2013

Song for Our Lady of Cobre The white girls lift their heads like trees, The black girls go Reflected like flamingoes in the street. The white girls sing as shrill as water, The black girls talk as quiet as clay. The white girls open their arms like clouds, The black girls close their eyes like wings: Angels bow down like bells, Angels look up like toys, Because the heavenly stars Stand in a ring: And all the pieces of the mosaic, earth, Get up and fly away like birds. The Messenger There is some sentry at the rim of winter Fed with the speech the wind makes In the grand belfries of the sleepless timber. He understands the lasting strife of tears, And the way the world is strung; He waits to warn all life with the tongue of [...]

POETRY: Paper Cranes: (The Hibakusha Come To Gethsemani), by Thomas Merton

November 22, 2013

How can we tell a paper bird Is stronger than a hawk When it has no metal for talons? It needs no power to kill Because it is not hungry. Wilder and wiser than eagles It ranges round the world Without enemies And free of cravings. The child’s hand Folding these wings Wins no wars and ends them all. Thoughts of a child’s heart Without care, without weapons! So, the child’s eye Gives life to what it loves Kind as the innocent sun And lovelier than all [...]

POETRY: Canticle For The Blessed Virgin, by Thomas Merton

November 1, 2013

I Die, Boreas, And drown your ruins in the gaudy sea, December, clash your cymbals once again And put them away. The crops come thronging from the ground. The land is green with strength. The harvests sing like confidence In the ascetic earth. Let there be no more patience With your iron music, death: Stand, continents, and wear the spring your crown! The ox-eyed land, The muted lakes, The cloudy groves that praise you, Lady, with their blooms, Fuse and destroy their lights And burn them into gold for you, great Virgin, Coining your honor in the glorious sun. The skies speed up to meet you, and the seas Swim you the silver of their crests. If you delay to come, we’ll see the meteors, by night, Skimming before your way, Lighting the [...]

POETRY: Original Child Bomb, by Thomas Merton

September 27, 2013

Points for meditation to be scratched on the walls of a cave 1: In the year 1945 an Original Child was born. The name Original Child was given to it by the Japanese people, who recognized that it was the first of its kind. 2: On April 12th, 1945, Mr. Harry Truman became the President of the United States, which was then fighting the Second World War. Mr. Truman was a vice president who became President by accident when his predecessor died of a cerebral hemorrhage. He did not know as much about the war as the president before him did. He knew a lot less about the war than many people did. About one hour after Mr. Truman became president, his aides told him about a new bomb which was being developed by atomic scientists. They called it the [...]

POETRY: Hagia Sophia, by Thomas Merton

August 16, 2013

I. Dawn.  The Hour of Lauds. There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness.  This mysterious Unity and Integrity is Wisdom, the Mother of all, Natura naturans.  There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence that is a fount of action and joy.  It rises up in wordless gentleness and flows out to me from the unseen roots of all created being, welcoming me tenderly, saluting me with indescribable humility.  This is at once my own being, my own nature, and the Gift of my Creator’s Thought and Art within me, speaking as Hagia Sophia, speaking as my sister, Wisdom. I am awakened, I am born again at the voice of this my Sister, sent to me from the [...]

POETRY: Freedom As Experience, by Thomas Merton

July 5, 2013

When, as the captive of Your own invincible consent, You love the image of Your endless Love, Three-Personed God, what intellect Shall take the measure of that liberty? Compared with Love, Your Triune Law, All the inexorable stars are anarchists: Yet they are bound by Love and Love is infinitely free. Minds cannot understand, nor systems imitate The scope of such simplicity. All the desires and hungers that defy Your Law Wither to fears, and perish in imprisonment: And all the hopes that seem to founder in the shadows of a cross Wake from a momentary sepulchre, and they are blinded by their freedom! Because our natures poise and point towards You Our loves revolve about You as the planets swing upon the sun And all suns sing together in [...]

POETRY: From The Second Chapter Of A Verse History Of The World, by Thomas Merton

June 21, 2013

Minotaur There was a time when the young girls of this city had to put on their pink dresses and take arms full of flowers and go up the gangplank on to a ship, and that ship carried them away to an island from which they never returned. For at that time we were ruled from the throne where Aegean Minos sat in- extricate in the midst of his house. He was the king of the monsters. Your shoes untie, your mantle you untwitch Your stocking is all runs, you gaudy bitch Sang to his muse some poet, but I don’t know which. And thus begin upon the precious page To spread the holiday feast of grief once more, To shed the policy vest of life, and wear, Unweft, unbuckled and unstrung, Starspeckled sweaters in the sun so brave Their flap flap [...]

POETRY: The Biography, by Thomas Merton

June 14, 2013

Oh read the verses of the leaded scourges, And what is written in their terrible remarks: “The Blood runs down the walls of Cambridge town, As useless as the waters of the narrow river— While pub and alley gamble for His vesture.” Although my life is written on Christ’s Body like a map, The nails have printed in those open hands More than the abstract names of sins, More than the countries and the towns, The names of streets, the numbers of the houses, The record of the days and nights, When I have murdered Him in every square and street. Lance and thorn, and scourge and nail Have more than made His Flesh my chronicle. My journeys more than bite His bleeding feet. Christ, from my cradle, I had known You everywhere, And [...]

POETRY: A Practical Program For Monks, by Thomas Merton

June 7, 2013

1 Each one shall sit at table with his own cup and spoon, and with his own repentance. Each one’s own business shall be his most important affair, and provide his own remedies. They have neglected bowl and plate. Have you a wooden fork? Yes, each monk has a wooden fork as well as a potato. 2 Each one shall wipe away tears with his own saint, when three bells hold in store a hot afternoon. Each one is supposed to mind his own heart, with its conscience, night and morning. Another turn on the wheel: ho hum! And observe the Abbot! Time to go to bed in a straw blanket. 3 Plenty of bread for everyone between prayers and the psalter: will you recite another? Merci, and Miserere. Always mind both the clock and the Abbot until eternity. [...]

POETRY: The Trappist Abbey — Matins, by Thomas Merton

May 31, 2013

(Our Lady of Gethsemani, Kentucky) When the full fields begin to smell of sunrise And the valleys sing in their sleep, The pilgrim moon pours over the solemn darkness Her waterfalls of silence, And then departs, up the long avenue of trees. The stars hide, in the glade, their light, like tears, And tremble where some train runs, lost, Baying in eastward mysteries of distance, Where fire flares, somewhere, over a sink of cities. Now kindle in the windows of this ladyhouse, my soul, Your childish, clear awakeness: Burn in the country night Your wise and sleepless lamp. For, from the frowning tower, the windy belfry, Sudden the bells come, bridegrooms, And fill the echoing dark with love and fear. Wake in the windows of Gethsemani, my soul, [...]

POETRY: The Trappist Cemetery — Gethsemani, by Thomas Merton

May 24, 2013

Brothers, the curving grasses and their daughters Will never print your praises: The trees our sisters, in their summer dresses, Guard your fame in these green cradles: The simple crosses are content to hide your characters. Oh do not fear The birds that bicker in the lonely belfry Will ever give away your legends. Yet when the sun, exulting like a dying martyr, Canonizes, with his splendid fire, the somber hills, Your graves all smile like little children, And your wise crosses trust the mothering night That folds them in the Sanctuary’s wings. You need not hear the momentary rumors of the road Where cities pass and vanish in a single car Filling the cut beside the mill With roar and radio, Hurling the air into the wayside branches [...]

POETRY: Trappists, Working, by Thomas Merton

May 17, 2013

Now all our saws sing holy sonnets in this world of timber Where oaks go off like guns, and fall like cataracts, Pouring their roar into the wood’s green well. Walk to us, Jesus, through the wall of trees, And find us still adorers in these airy churches, Singing our other Office with our saws and axes. Still teach Your children in the busy forest, And let some little sunlight reach us, in our mental shades, and leafy studies. When time has turned the country white with grain And filled our regions with the thrashing sun, Walk to us, Jesus, through the walls of wheat When our two tractors come to cut them down: Sow some light winds upon the acres of our spirit, And cool the regions where our prayers are reapers, And slake us, Heaven, [...]

POETRY: The Reader, by Thomas Merton

April 26, 2013

Lord, when the clock strikes Telling the time with cold tin And I sit hooded in this lectern Waiting for the monks to come, I see the red cheeses, and bowls All smile with milk in ranks upon their tables. Light fills my proper globe (I have won light to read by With a little, tinkling chain) And the monks come down the cloister With robes as voluble as water. I do not see them but I hear their waves. It is winter, and my hands prepare To turn the pages of the saints: And to the trees Thy moon has frozen on the windows My tongue shall sing Thy Scripture. Then the monks pause upon the step (With me here is this lectern And Thee there on Thy crucifix) And gather little pearls of water on their fingers’ ends Smaller than this my [...]

POETRY: Gethsemani, KY (selections), by Thomas Merton

March 1, 2013

1 Spring has come with its smell of Nicaragua: Smell of earth recently rained on, and smell of heat, Of flowers, of disinterred roots, wet leaves, (And I have heard the lowing of distant cattle. . .) Or is it the smell of love? But this love Is not yours. Love of country, is the Dictator’s love The fat Dictator with his sports clothes and panama hat: He was the one who loved the country, stole it, And possessed it. In the earth he lies embalmed: While love has taken you away to a strange land. 2 Like the flights of ducks That go over calling That in the autumn nights go over calling To lagoons in the south they never saw, And do not know who takes them, nor where they go, So we are carried to Thee not knowing where. Just like the flights [...]

POETRY: The Holy Child’s Song by Thomas Merton

January 4, 2013

When midnight occupied the porches of the Poet’s reason Sweeter than any bird He heard the Holy Child. Song “When My kind Father, kinder than the sun, With looks and smiles bends down And utters My bodily life, My flesh, obeying, praises Heaven like a smiling cloud. Then I become the laughter of the watercourses. I am the gay wheat fields, the serious hills: I fill the sky with words of light, and My incarnate songs Fly in and out the branches of My childish voice Like thrushes in a tree. “And when My Mother, pretty as a church, Takes Me upon her lap, I laugh with love, Loving to live in her flesh, which is My house and full of light! (Because the sky My Spirit enters in at all the windows) O, then what songs and what [...]

POETRY: Carol by Thomas Merton

December 28, 2012

Flocks feed by darkness with a noise of whispers, In the dry grass of pastures, And lull the solemn night with their weak bells. The little towns upon the rocky hills Look down as meek as children: Because they have seen come this holy time. God’s glory, now, is kindled gentler than low candlelight Under the rafters of a barn: Eternal Peace is sleeping in the hay, And Wisdom’s born in secret in a straw-roofed stable. And O! Make holy music in the stars, you happy angels. You shepherds, gather on the hill. Look up, you timid flocks, where the three kings Are coming through the wintry trees; While we unnumbered children of the wicked centuries Come after with our penances and prayers, And lay them down in the sweet-smelling hay [...]

POETRY: A Christmas Card by Thomas Merton

December 21, 2012

When the white stars talk together like sisters And when the winter hills Raise their grand semblance in the freezing night, Somewhere one window Bleeds like the brown eye of an open force. Hills, stars, White stars that stand above the eastern stable. Look down and offer Him. The dim adoring light of your belief. Whose small Heart bleeds with infinite fire. Shall not this Child (When we shall hear the bells of His amazing voice) Conquer the winter of our hateful century? And when His Lady Mother leans upon the crib, Lo, with what rapiers Those two loves fence and flame their brilliancy! Here in this straw lie planned the fires That will melt all our sufferings: He is our Lamb, our holocaust! And one by one the shepherds, with their snowy [...]

POETRY: The Blessed Virgin Mary Compared To A Window by Thomas Merton

December 14, 2012

Because my will is simple as a window And knows no pride of original birth, It is my life to die, like glass, by light: Slain in the strong rays of the bridegroom sun. Because my love is simple as a window And knows no shame of original dust, I longed all night, (when I was visible) for dawn my death: When I would marry day, my Holy Spirit: And die by transubstantiation into light. For light, my lover, steals my life in secret. I vanish into day, and leave no shadow But the geometry of my cross, Whose frame and structure are the strength By which I die, but only to the earth, And am uplifted to the sky my life. When I became the substance of my lover, (Being obedient, sinless glass) I love all things that need my lover’s life, And [...]

POETRY: Death, by Thomas Merton

December 11, 2012

In honor of the death of Thomas Merton. Where are the merchants and the money-lenders Whose love sang in the wires between the seaports and the inland granaries? Is the old trader any safer than the sailor sent to drown Crossing the world’s end in a wooden schooner? Where are the generals who sacked the sunny cities And burned the cattle and the grain? Or is the politician any safer in his offices Than a soldier shot in the eye? Take time to tremble lest you come without reflection To feel the furious mercies of my friendship, (Says death) because I come as quick as intuition. Cliffs of your hangovers were never half so dizzy as my infinite abyss: Flesh cannot wrestle with the waters that ire in the earth, Nor spirit rest in icy [...]

POETRY: Advent by Thomas Merton

December 7, 2012

Charm with your stainlessness these winter nights, Skies, and be perfect! Fly vivider in the fiery dark, you quiet meteors, And disappear. You moon, be low to go down, This is your full! The four white roads make off in silence Towards the four parts of the starry universe. Time falls like manna at the corners of the wintry earth. We have become more humble than the rocks, More wakeful than the patient hills. Charm with your stainlessness these nights in Advent, holy spheres, While minds, as meek as beasts, Stay close at home in the sweet hay; And intellects are quieter than the flocks that feed by starlight. Oh pour your darkness and your brightness over all our solemn valleys, You skies: and travel like the gentle Virgin, Toward the [...]

POETRY: The Victory, by Thomas Merton

November 23, 2012

Sing your new song in the winepress where these bloody pence Weep from the skin of our Gethsemani, Knowing that we must die to break the seed our prison And spring like wheat from the wet earth Of who knows what arena: Sing when the grinding locks Break up our little cages, Casting our exultation in those mills of teeth To praise God with the great Ignatius Martyr. Smile in the white eyes of the angry mist For we have heard the thunder of the thousand harpers Outside a blinded window, There on the silent cobblestones, Ring from the hobnails of a firing-squad Hard by the russet, russet wall. Shall we not love You, Christ, Best in a shuttered house, Although the silver windows sweat with dread? Shall we not praise You, Savior, Now at the [...]

POETRY: Early Mass, by Thomas Merton

November 16, 2012

(Saint Joseph Infirmary — Louisville) There is a Bread which You and I propose. It is Your truth. And more: it is ourselves. There is a wickedness whose end is blessing. Come, people, to the Cross and Wedding! His are the mysteries which I expound And mine the children whom His stars befriend. Our Christ has cleanly built His sacred town. What do the windows of His city say? His innocence is written on your sky! Because we think His Latin we are part of one another, Together when I am away. Come to the ark and stone Come to the Holies where His work is done, Dear hasty doves, transparent in His sun! Gather us God in honeycombs, My Israel, in the Ohio valley! For brightness falls upon our dark. Death owns a wasted kingdom. Bless and [...]

POETRY: Duns Scotus, by Thomas Merton

November 9, 2012

Striking like lightning to the quick of the real world Scotus has mined all ranges to their deepest veins: But where, oh, on what blazing mountain of theology And in what Sinai’s furnace Did God refine the gold? Who ruled those arguments in their triumphant order And armed them with their strict celestial light? See the lance-lightning, blade-gliter, banner-progress As love advances, company by company In sunlit teams his clean embattled reasons, Until the firmament, with high heavenly marvel Views in our crystal souls her blue embodiment, Unfurls a thousand flags above our heads— It is the music of Our Lady’s army! For Scotus is her theologian, Nor has there ever been a braver chivalry than his precision. His thoughts are [...]

POETRY: The Dark Encounter, by Thomas Merton

November 2, 2012

O night of admiration, full of choirs, O night of deepest praise, And darkness full of triumph: What secret and intrepid Visitor Has come to crack our sepulcher? He softly springs the locks of death In the foretold encounter! O silence with no syllable for weapon, Drunk with valor, Whose speechless wonder solves the knots of flesh our captor: Dower desires with your eloquence! O darkness full of warning and abandon, (Disarming every enemy, Slaying the meaning of the mind’s alarms) Why do our steps still hesitate Upon the threshold of incredible possession, The sill of the tremendous rest, Reading the riddle of His unexpected question? O silence full of exclamation! It is the time of the attack. Our eyes are wider than the word: [...]

POETRY: Atlas And The Fatman, by Thomas Merton

October 26, 2012

On the last day of a rough but fortunate voyage, near the farthest end of the known world, I found my way to the shores of a sentient mountain. There stood the high African rock in the shadow of lucky rain: a serious black crag, at the tip of the land mass, with a cloud balanced on its shoulder. O high silent man of lava, with feet in the green surf, watching the stream of days and years! We saw the clouds drift by the face of that tame god, and held our peace.  We placed our feet on the hot sands as the ship ran aground on the edge of night and of summer. This was Atlas at his lonely work!  I never thought I would have seen his face! His head was hidden in cloud and night.  His eyes were staring darkness.  His thoughts were full of [...]

POETRY: The Communion, by Thomas Merton

October 19, 2012

O sweet escape! O smiling flight! O what bright secret breaks our jails of flesh? For we are fled, among the shining vineyards, And ride in praises in the hills of wheat, To find our hero, in His tents of light! O sweet escape! O smiling flight! O sweet escape! O smiling flight! The vineyards break our fetters with their laughter! Our souls walk home as quiet as skies. The snares that death, our subtle hunter, set, Are all undone by beams of light! O sweet escape! O smiling flight! O sweet escape! O smiling flight! Unlock our dark! And let us out of night! And set us free to go to prison in this vineyard, (Where, in the vines, the sweet and secret sun Works our eternal rescue into wine) O sweet escape! O smiling flight! We’ll rob [...]

POETRY: The Evening Of The Visitation, by Thomas Merton

October 12, 2012

Go, roads, to the four quarters of our quiet distance, While you, full moon, wise queen, Begin your evening journey to the hills of heaven, And travel no less stately in the summer sky Than Mary, going to the house of Zachary. The woods are silent with the sleep of doves, The valleys with the sleep of streams, And all our barns are happy with peace of cattle gone to rest. Still wakeful, in the fields, the shocks of wheat Preach and say prayers: You sheaves, make all your evensongs as sweet as ours, Whose summer world, all ready for the granary and barn, Seems to have seen, this day, Into the secret of the Lord’s Nativity. Now at the fall of night, you shocks Still bend your heads like kind and humble kings The way you did this golden [...]