Monday, September 16, 2019

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow*

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807—1882) is one of New England’s Fireside Poets, and the most popular poet of his day. He wrote many long narrative pieces, telling stories from mythology and history, such as “Paul Revere’s Ride” and Evangeline, in tightly structured rhyming poetic form. Much of his verse was produced for the entertainment of a wide range of people — an aspect of poetry that has been overtaken by less literary forms of writing today — which may explain his bent toward sentimentality.

Although, like most of his friends he was a member of the Unitarian Church, he was fascinated by Jesus and his claims to divinity, which was more in keeping with the beliefs of orthodox Christian denominations. Perhaps it was translating Dante’s Divine Comedy that had particularly influenced him. In 1872 his great work Christus: A Mystery appeared, which includes the Apostles Creed as placed in the mouths of various disciples after the resurrection. This would have been a surprising declaration to those in the Unitarian Church.

My Cathedral

Like two cathedral towers these stately pines
---Uplift their fretted summits tipped with cones;
---The arch beneath them is not built with stones,
---Not Art but Nature traced these lovely lines,
And carved this graceful arabesque of vines;
---No organ but the wind here sighs and moans,
---No sepulchre conceals a martyr's bones.
---No marble bishop on his tomb reclines.
Enter! the pavement, carpeted with leaves,
---Gives back a softened echo to thy tread!
---Listen! the choir is singing; all the birds,
In leafy galleries beneath the eaves,
---Are singing! listen, ere the sound be fled,
---And learn there may be worship without words.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Olav H. Hauge

Olav H. Hauge (1908—1994) is a poet of Norway who also learned to speak English, German and French. He translated many foreign poets into Norwegian, including Tennyson, Yeats, Robert Browning, and Bertolt Brecht. Hauge translated into Norweigian the poetry of Robert Bly, who also translated Hauge’s work into English.

Hauge’s early poetry is quite traditional, but his later work demonstrates the influence of modernism, and Chinese poetry. He lived all his life in the western Norwegian village of Ulvik.

The following poem is from Luminous Spaces which was translated by Olav Grinde.

Always I Expect to Find

Always I expect to find
something that makes life worthwhile,
something worth winning,
which shall lift me up, strengthen
my will and brace my back.

Free me from this curse of doubt
so humbly I may bend my knee
to life’s eternal truth, let it
guide me right, give me goals
to reach for, faith and peace.

Blessed is the man who, drawn onward,
sees what is writ in the Lord’s hand.
Serpent becomes staff, the burning
bush is green again. Find your path
before your severed day is here!

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Elizabeth Barrett Browning*

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806—1861) is one of the greatest poets of the nineteenth century. She suffered from ill health from her teens onward, beginning with a lung ailment when she was 14, and a spinal injury at 15. The prescribed laudanum and morphine she became reliant upon may have also contributed to her frail health.

Her family was very supportive of her writing — collecting one of the largest collections of juvenilia relating to any English writer — but was later so over-protective of her that she and Robert Browning had to elope to become married.

She dedicated herself to an educated expression of Christian faith, learning Hebrew while still in her teens, and later turning to Greek. She also read Milton's Paradise Lost, and Dante's Inferno while still young. Barrett Browning passionately believed that Christianity was naturally suited to being explored through poetry — that the highest poetry was essentially religious. She said in an 1842 letter to her friend Mary Russell Mitford, “The failure of religious poets turns less upon their being religious, than on their not being poets. Christ’s religion is essentially poetry — poetry glorified.”

A Thought For A Lonely Death-Bed

If God compel thee to this destiny,
To die alone, with none beside thy bed
To ruffle round with sobs thy last word said
And mark with tears the pulses ebb from thee,—
Pray then alone, ' O Christ, come tenderly!
By thy forsaken Sonship in the red
Drear wine-press,—by the wilderness out-spread,—
And the lone garden where thine agony
Fell bloody from thy brow, —by all of those
Permitted desolations, comfort mine!
No earthly friend being near me, interpose
No deathly angel 'twixt my face and thine,
But stoop Thyself to gather my life's rose,
And smile away my mortal to Divine!'

Sonnet 22

When our two souls stand up erect and strong,
Face to face, silent, drawing nigh and nigher,
Until the lengthening wings break into fire
At either curvèd point,—what bitter wrong
Can the earth do to us, that we should not long
Be here contented? Think. In mounting higher,
The angels would press on us and aspire
To drop some golden orb of perfect song
Into our deep, dear silence. Let us stay
Rather on earth, Belovèd,—where the unfit
Contrarious moods of men recoil away
And isolate pure spirits, and permit
A place to stand and love in for a day,
With darkness and the death-hour rounding it.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Elizabeth Barrett Browning: first post, second post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Joseph Hart

Joseph Hart (1712—1768) is a London writer and Congregationalist minister, who was quite opposed to evangelical Christianity in his young adulthood. At that time he made his living teaching Latin, Hebrew and Greek, and had translated Greek poetry by Herodian and Phycolides. Hart wrote a pamphlet against John Wesley in 1741, entitled The Unreasonableness of Religion, which he later denounced after his conversion.

Like many other Christian poets of this period, hymns became his form of choice. In 1759 a first book of his collected hymns appeared, later to become known as Hart’s Hymns, which along with later supplements was reprinted every two or three years for more than a century. A biography of Hart was written by Thomas Wright, and published in 1910. His best-known hymn — included here — had seven stanzas in its original form, and underwent numerous revisions, including a chorus added by another writer. The following three verses are those most commonly found in hymnbooks.

Joseph Hart was buried at Bunhill Fields — a nondenominal graveyard in London commonly used for nonconformists. Others interred there include William Blake, John Bunyan, and Isaac Watts.

Come Ye Sinners

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love, and power:
He is able, He is able,
He is willing: doubt no more.

Come, ye thirsty, come and welcome,
God's free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance,
Every grace that brings us nigh,
Without money, without money,
Come to Jesus Christ and buy.

Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Bruised and broken, full of sin;
If you tarry till you're better,
You may never enter in:
Not the righteous, not the righteous;
Sinners Jesus came to win.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Paul Mariani*

Paul Mariani is an emeritus professor of English at Boston College. He holds a unique place as a biographer of poets — including having written books about Wallace Stevens, John Berryman, Gerard Manley Hopkins, William Carlos Williams, and Robert Lowell. His biography of Hart Crane, The Broken Tower, is the basis for the James Franco biopic of the same name, which was released in 2012.

He has had seven volumes of poetry published, including Epitaphs for the Journey: New, Selected, and Revised Poems (Poiema Poetry Series/Cascade Books) — on which I served as Paul’s editor. In September, he is to receive the inaugural Flannery O'Connor Lifetime Achievement Award at Loyola University in Chicago.

Mariani has published other significant books as well, including the spiritual memoir Thirty Days: on Retreat with the Exercises of St. Ignatius (2003, Penguin). His most recent book, The Mystery of It All: The Vocation of Poetry in the Twilight of Modernism, is newly published by Paraclete Press.

The following poem recently appeared in America.

What Happened Then

Do we understand what happened then?
The few of us in that shuttered room,
lamps dimmed, afraid of what would happen
when they found us? The women back
this morning to tell Peter what they’d seen.
Then these two back from Emmaus.
And now here he was. Here in the room with us.
Strange meeting this, the holes there
in his hands and feet and heart.
And who could have guessed a calm like this
could touch us. But that was what we felt.
The deep relief you feel when the one
you’ve searched for in a crowd appears,
and your unbelieving eyes dissolve in tears.
For this is what love looks like and is
and what it does. “Peace” was what he said,
as a peace like no other pierced the gloom
and descended on the room.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Paul Mariani: first post, second post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Thomas of Celano

Thomas of Celano (c.1185—c.1265) is famous for his biographies of Francis of Assisi, the first of which was written at the request of Pope Gregory IX. He joined the Franciscans around 1215, and was acquainted with Francis personally. He is considered a likely author for a life of Clare of Assisi as well.

Thomas is also believed to be the author of the following Latin hymn — Dies Irae — which has been set to music for the Requiem Mass by many including Mozart and Verdi. It is unusual in that it was written in rhyme, which was not common for Latin in the classical period.

I have taken the liberty of slightly modernizing the following English version, which was translated by William J. Irons.

Day of Wrath (Dies Irae)

Day of wrath, O day of mourning!
See fulfilled the prophet's warning:
Heaven and earth in ashes burning.
Wondrous sound the trumpet flings,
Through earth's sepulchers it rings,
All before the throne it brings.
O what fear man's bosom rends
When from heaven the Judge descends
On whose sentence all depends.

Death is struck and nature quaking;
All creation is awaking,
To its Judge an answer making.
Lo, the book, exactly worded,
Wherein all has been recorded;
So shall judgment be awarded.
When the Judge His seat attains,
And each hidden deed arraigns,
Nothing unavenged remains.

What shall I, frail man, be pleading,
Who for me be interceding
When the just are mercy needing?
King of Majesty tremendous,
Who does free salvation send us,
Fount of pity, then befriend us!
Righteous Judge, for sin's pollution
Grant your gift of absolution
Ere the Day of Retribution.

Faint and weary you have sought me,
On the cross of suffering bought me;
Shall such grace be vainly brought me?
Think, good Jesus, my salvation
Caused your wondrous incarnation;
Leave me not to sin's damnation!
Guilty now I pour my moaning,
All my shame with anguish owning:
Hear, O Christ, your servant's groaning!

Bows my heart in meek submission,
Strewn with ashes of contrition;
Help me in my last condition!
Worthless are my prayers and sighing;
Yet, Good Lord, in grace complying,
Rescue me from fires undying.
You the sinful woman saved;
You the dying thief forgave;
And to me true hope vouchsaved!

With your favored sheep then place me,
Nor among the goats abase me,
But to your right hand upraise me.
While the wicked are confounded,
Doomed to flames of woe unbounded,
Call me, with your saints surrounded.
To the rest you did prepare me
On your cross; O Christ, upbear me!
Spare, O God, in mercy spare me.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, August 5, 2019

William Blake*

William Blake (1759—1827) is a London poet, and artist — often categorized with the English romantic poets, even though he was such a unique figure. During his lifetime he did not receive the recognition of Wordsworth and Coleridge, and he spent most of his life in London rather than the idyllic Lake District.

He spoke out against injustice. In such poems as “London” and “The Chimney Sweeper” from his Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794) he shone a light on the plight of the poor climbing boys. He was critical of both church and state whose self-interest encouraged this exploitation. A Christian politician, Lord Shaftesbury, did much to end this practice through laws limiting child labour (1833) and finally the Chimney Sweepers Act (1875). Blake’s poetry was a voice crying in this wilderness.

Blake was very clearly a Christian, as expressed in his own writing, but he also believed he received visions right from the time he was a child. He said that many of his poems and images were inspired by angelic messengers.

You Don’t Believe

You don't believe — I won't attempt to make ye, and that
You are asleep — I won't attempt to wake ye.
Sleep on! sleep on! while in your pleasant dreams
Of Reason you may drink of Life's clear streams.
Reason and Newton, they are quite two things;
For so the swallow and the sparrow sings.

Reason says `Miracle': Newton says `Doubt.'
Aye! that's the way to make all Nature out.
`Doubt, doubt, and don't believe without experiment':
That is the very thing that Jesus meant,
When He said `Only believe! believe and try!
Try, try, and never mind the reason why!'

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about William Blake: first post, second post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.