Monday, December 29, 2014

Isaac Watts

Isaac Watts (1674—1748) is an English hymnist who was influential in developing the tradition of writing new lyrics to be sung in worship services, rather than remaining limited to versifications of the Psalms. He and his family were Dissenters or Non-Conformists, and so he was not eligible to attend Oxford or Cambridge. It is said that when he complained about the poor writing in the metrical Psalter, his father challenged him to do better. Although he wrote about 600 hymns, he is best known for those he wrote over a two year period, beginning when he was just 20.

Some of his best known hymns include, "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross", "Jesus Shall Reign Where're the Sun", "O God Our Help in Ages Past", and the Christmas carol "Joy To The World". Since these hymns are so well known, I have opted to share a lesser-known carol.

Shepherds Rejoice

'Shepherds, rejoice! lift up your eyes
And send your fears away;
News from the region of the skies:
Salvation's born today!
Jesus, the God whom angels fear,
Comes down to dwell with you;
Today he makes his entrance here,
But not as monarchs do.

'No gold, nor purple swaddling bands,
Nor royal shining things;
A manger for his cradle stands,
And holds the King of kings.
Go, shepherds, where the Infant lies,
And see his humble throne;
With tears of joy in all your eyes,
Go, shepherds, kiss the Son.'

Thus Gabriel sang, and straight around
The heavenly armies throng;
They tune their harps to lofty sound
And thus conclude the song:
'Glory to God that reigns above,
Let peace surround the earth;
Mortals shall know their Maker's love
At their Redeemer's birth.'

Lord! and shall angels have their songs
And men no tunes to raise?
O may we lose these useless tongues
When they forget to praise!
'Glory to God that reigns above,
That pitied us forlorn!'
We join to sing our Maker's love,
For there's a Saviour born.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Rowland Watkyns

Rowland Watkyns (c.1614—1665) is a Welsh poet who, in 1635, was instituted as vicar of Llanfrynach, Breconshire. However, he was one of five clergyman in the area who were ejected, around 1649, from their parishes by their puritan overseers. Around the time of the restoration (1660) it is believed he was reinstated. Some of the poems in his collection, Flumma Sine Fumo (which means Flummox Without Smoke) (1662) "appear to express his gratitude to local benefactors".

One of the three sections in Flumma Sine Fumo is made up of 73 proverbs, written in the form of rhyming couplets. The following mourns the death of Charles I in 1649, who was king of England, Scotland and Ireland:

----By his beheading it may well be said,
----Three kingdoms by injustice lost their head.

Although Watkyns was a contemporary, and close neighbour of Henry Vaughan, and their political and religious views were compatible, neither is found to have mentioned the other by name. Both wrote about Christ's Nativity, which was disapproved of as a feast day by the puritans. This has led to speculation that they may have disliked the other's approach to poetry; what may be more likely, is that they practiced medicine, from opposing schools of practice.

Upon Christ's Nativity

From three dark places Christ came forth this day;
From first His Father's bosom, where He lay,
Concealed till now; then from the typic law,
Where we His manhood but by figures saw;
And lastly from His mother's womb He came
To us, a perfect God and perfect Man.
---- Now in a manger lies the eternal Word:
The Word He is, yet can no speech afford;
He is the Bread of Life, yet hungry lies;
The Living Fountain, yet for drink He cries;
He cannot help or clothe Himself at need
Who did the lilies clothe and ravens feed;
He is the Light of Lights, yet now doth shroud
His glory with our nature as a cloud.
He came to us a Little One, that we
Like little children might in malice be;
Little He is, and wrapped in clouts, lest He
Might strike us dead if clothed with majesty.
----Christ had four beds and those not soft nor brave:
The Virgin's womb, the manger, cross, and grave.
The angels sing this day, and so will I
That have more reason to be glad than they.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Barbara Crooker*

Barbara Crooker's latest poetry collection Gold (2013) is part of the Poiema Poetry Series from Cascade Books. Many journals, such as The Cresset and Green Mountains Review, and many anthologies including Good Poems for Hard Times (Viking Penguin), have published her work. She has been honoured with several awards, including the 2003 Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, and she has been nominated thirty-two times for the Pushcart Prize.

Every year, I send out a selected poem for Advent to friends. These are among a series that Barbara Crooker sent to me, in return, last December.

Solstice

These are dark times. Rumors of war
rise like smoke in the east. Drought
widens its misery. In the west, glittering towers
collapse in a pillar of ash and dust. Peace,
a small white bird, flies off in the clouds.

And this is the shortest day of the year.
Still, in almost every window,
a single candle burns,
there are tiny white lights
on evergreens and pines,
and the darkness is not complete.

Nativity

In the dark divide of mid-December
when the skies are heavy, when the wind comes down
from the north, feathers of snow on its white breath,
when the days are short and the nights are cold,
we reach the solstice, nothing outside moving.
It’s hard to believe in the resurrection
of the sun, its lemony light, hard to remember
humidity, wet armpits, frizzy hair.
Though the wick burns black and the candle flickers,
love is born in the world again, in the damp
straw, in some old barn.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Barbara Crooker: first post

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, December 8, 2014

John Betjeman*

Sir John Betjeman (1906—1984) was Britain's Poet Laureate from 1972 until his death. He was also known as a broadcaster, and for his other writings, such as guidebooks to the English counties. His first poetry collection Mount Zion was privately published with the assistance of a friend in 1931. His Collected Poems (John Murray, 1958) has sold more than two million copies to date. His wide popularity. may be attributed to his nostalgia for the recent past—amid the ever-changing post-war years—and his accessible, conservative style. In 2005 the anthology Faith and Doubt of John Betjeman gathered more than seventy of his religious poems into one volume.

Betjeman appreciated Victorian architecture and was active in seeking to preserve several of London's historic railway stations. A statue of Sir John Betjeman stands in the international terminus for Eurostar at St. Pancras Station, which was reopened in 2007.

Christmas

The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
'The church looks nice' on Christmas Day.

Provincial Public Houses blaze,
Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze,
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says 'Merry Christmas to you all'.

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children's hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say 'Come!'
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?

And is it true ? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare —
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about John Betjeman: first post

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Mary Szybist

Mary Szybist is the author of two poetry collections, Granted (2003) and Incarnadine (2013), which won the National Book Award. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares and The Kenyon Review.

Her recent book gives many and varying images of the angel Gabriel addressing the virgin Mary.The poet has said: "The scene to which Incarnadine continually returns—the Annunciation—has long been a site of ‘fine invention,’ especially in the hands of artists like Simone Martini and Sandro Botticelli; it portrays a human encountering something not human...That is part of what I find most moving about the scene: how it plays out the faith, the belief that that can happen—and can change us."

Although she says the idea for Incarnadine came while spending time in the art galleries of Italy, she has also said, "I grew up attending Annunciation Church. It is an especially pretty church, as it was built in the mid-19th century in central Pennsylvania when the lumber industry was booming. I spent many hours looking up at the Annunciation scene. I may not have had regular access to great museums growing up, but each week I did sit and look up at real Tiffany windows of religious icons that changed, continually, with the light..."

Mary Szybist now teaches at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon.

Insertion of Meadow with Flowers

In 1371, beneath the angel’s feet,

Veneziano added a meadow—
a green expanse with white
and yellow broom flowers, the kind
that—until the sun warms them—
have no scent—

God could have chosen other means than flesh.

Imagine he did
and the girl on her knees in this meadow,
open, expectant, dreamily rocking,
and the girl’s mouth open, quiet,—

is only important because we recognize

the wish. For look, the flowers
do not spin, not even

the threads of their shadows—
and they are infused
with what they did not
reach for.

Out of nothing does not mean

into nothing.

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Edith Södergran

Edith Södergran (1892—1923) is one of the first modernist poets to have written in Swedish. She was born in St. Petersburg, but lived most of her life just across the border in Finland. After her first book, Dikter (Poems) appeared in 1916 she attempted to connect with the literary community in Helsinki, but found the reaction to her work ranged from "puzzled admiration to ridicule." Her early poems reflect an interest in Nietzschean philosophy, which later gave way to a deep Christian faith. She published five poetry collections, the most critically-acclaimed being Shadow of the Future (1920).

She suffered from tuberculosis, which in combination with her poverty eventually took her life. She received little attention for her work in her lifetime, but is now considered Finland's greatest modern poet. The following poems are from David McDuff's translation of her Complete Poems published by Bloodaxe Books.

Two Ways

You must give up your old way,
your way is dirty:
there men go with greedy glances
and the word “happiness” you hear from every lip
and further along the way lies the body of a woman
and the vultures are tearing it to pieces.

You have found your new way,
your way is pure:
there motherless children go playing with poppies,
there women in black go talking of sorrow
and further along the way stands a pale saint
with his foot on a dead dragon’s neck.

Christian Confession

Happiness is not what we dream of,
happiness is not the night we remember,
happiness is not in our yearning’s song.

Happiness is something we never wanted,
happiness is something we find it hard to understand,
happiness is the cross that was raised for everyone.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Peter Levi

Peter Levi (1931—2000) is a British poet whose father was Jewish and Mother was Roman Catholic. He became a Jesuit novice when he was just 17, and became a priest. He left the priesthood in 1977 to get married. In 1984 he became Oxford Professor of Poetry. He wrote more than twenty volumes of poetry including: The Gravel Ponds (1960), Death Is A Pulpit (1971) and Reed Music (2007). He also edited The Penguin Book of English Christian Verse (1984).

When The Paris Review asked for his advice to young writers, part of what he said was, "Steer clear of the writing departments of universities..." and then he added, "Writing is like breathing or it ought to be. One’s got to write poems. Like one has to go to church. Not out of social duty, or because there’s any pressure on one to do so. Not even out of reaction to people who say one shouldn’t do so. But just because of some decent, natural good behavior. One might as well go on with it."

The following poem was included in the anthology British Poetry Since 1945 by Edward Lucie-Smith (Penguin).

"To speak about the soul"

To speak about the soul.
I wake early. You don't sleep in summer.
In the morning a dead-eyed nightingale is still awake in you.
What has been done and suffered
with whatever is left to be suffered
is in the soul.
Oracles are given elsewhere. Their speech is announced with
------bronze.

In the early morning
you see women walking to the sanctuaries:
a light touch of sun on the whitewash:
a light touch of fire burning the oil.
You tell me nothing.
This is the desert I will write about.
The desert is not an island: the island is not enchanted: and the
------desert is no habitation for men.
The bird with the burnt eyes sang sweetest.
A desert further off
One small simple cloud. Heat at midday. A little constellated
------handwriting. Heat at midnight.
You never say.
To be woken by hearing
the voices of the enchanted birds
and the voices of the disenchanted birds.

Say what is like a tree, like a river, like a mountain, a cloud over
------the sun?
My memory has been overshadowed
by that live light and by that dying light.

The soul is no more than human.

The rising sky is as wide as the desert.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, November 10, 2014

John Suckling

Sir John Suckling (1609—1642) is a poet, playwright, ambassador, parliamentarian, and military man. When his father died in 1626, he inherited extensive estates. He was very popular at court, and is credited with having invented the game of cribbage. In 1630 he was knighted.

His prose work Account of Religion by Reason appeared in 1637. His play Aglaura in 1638 was performed twice for Charles I—the same year The Goblins was published, which is said to have been influenced by Shakespeare's The Tempest

In 1640 he was involved in a plot to restore to the king control over parliament. He was forced to flee to Paris, where he died. It is believed he was murdered, although rumour of his death being a suicide was also circulated.

Upon Stephen Stoned

Under this heap of stones interred lies
No holocaust, but stoned sacrifice
Burnt not by altar-coals, but by the fire
Of Jewish ire,
Whose softest words in their hard hearts alone
Congealed to stone,
Not piercing them recoiled in him again,
Who being slain
As not forgetful, whence they once did come,

Now being stones he found them in a tomb.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, 
Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Jenny Robertson

Jenny Robertson is a Scottish writer who I first discovered through her 1989 anthology of Christian poetry, A Touch of Flame (Lion Publishing). She has written many books which fit in intertwining ways into her areas of interest: Children's books, adult novels, poetry, books about eastern European peoples (particularly victims of totalitarianism), the Holocaust, Christianity, and mental health. She and her husband have lived in England, St. Petersburg, Warsaw, and Scotland.

Her poetry books include Beyond The Border, Loss And Language (both from Chapman) Ghetto (Lion Publishing) and Clarissa, or Arrested Development. George Mackay Brown has written, “Jenny Robertson’s verse has its beginnings in a deep well of compassion; and drawn up into sun and wind, each word falls bright and singing upon the stones of our world.”

Corn King

Corn King
---------spring!
leap, leap, Lord of life,
dance, dance, dear delight.

Grain buried deep
today, tomorrow, sleep
---------then
---------lightward,
---------larkward,
---------skyward,
---------Godward
------------------leap
---------bright to death.

Broken Corn King, harvested,
thrashed, ground, milled for bread,
---------at daylight leap
---------from your dark sleep.

Harvester, begin
the dance, the dear delight.
Yielded sheaves, golden bright,
---------a garnered hoard,
welcome their harvest lord;
while corn-fat valleys shout and sing,
---------honouring
the Harvest King,
---------feasting
the harvest home
with broken bread and one cry: Come!

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Todd Davis

Todd Davis is the author of four poetry collections, the most recent of which are In the Kingdom of the Ditch (2013) and The Least of These (2010), both from Michigan State University Press. He taught from 1996 to 2002 at Goshen College, but is now Professor of English at Altoona College, Penn State University.

Eric Pankey has said, "Todd Davis, in his new collection of stunning poems, In the Kingdom of the Ditch, marries the ordinary names of things to their extraordinary enigma. His acts of taxonomy lead not only to knowledge of this world but as well to gnosis of that other ineffable realm we might call the sacred. His poems see into the mystical and their song reaches toward the visionary, which is to say he is a lyric poet of breathtaking brilliance."

In the Kingdom of the Ditch

where Queen Anne’s lace holds
its saucer and raspberry its black

thimble, the shrew and the rat snake
seek after the same God

who mercifully fills the belly
of one, then offers it to the other.

Veil

In this low place between mountains
fog settles with the dark of evening.
Every year it takes some of those
we love—a car full of teenagers
on the way home from a dance, or
a father on his way to the paper mill,
nightshift the only opening.
Each morning, up on the ridge,
the sun lifts this veil, sees what night
has accomplished. The water on our window—
screens disappears slowly, gradually,
like grief. The heat of the day carries water
from the river back up into the sky,
and where the fog is heaviest and stays
longest, you’ll see the lines it leaves
on trees, the flowers that grow
the fullest.

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Kevin Hart

Kevin Hart is an Australian poet, philosopher and theologian. He has published thirteen books of poetry, beginning with The Departure (1978). His poetry has received numerous awards such as the NSW Premier's Award, and the Greybeal-Gowen Prize. His most-recent collection is Morning Knowledge (2011). His earliest poetry influence was Percy Bysshe Shelley—particularly the poem "Ozymandius".

Hart is the Edwin B. Kyle Professor of Christian Studies and Chair of the Religious Studies Department at the University of Virginia.

The Room

It is my house, and yet one room is locked.
The dark has taken root on all four walls.
It is a room where knots stare out from wood,
A room that turns its back on the whole house.

At night I hear the crickets list their griefs
And let an ancient peace come into me.
Sleep intercepts my prayer, and in the dark
The house turns slowly round its one closed room.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Simeon the New Theologian

Simeon the New Theologian (9491022) is a Byzantine monk, poet and mystic. He was born at Galatia, and educated at Constantinople.  In about 980, he became Abbott of the monastery at St. Mamas. He is one of three saints of the Orthodox church given the title theologianthe others being John the Apostle (John the Revelator), and Gregory of Nazianus.

Simeon's Hymns of Divine Loves describe his spiritual experiences.

We Awaken in Christ's Body

We awaken in Christ’s body
 as Christ awakens our bodies,
and my poor hand is Christ. He enters
my foot and is infinitely me.

I move my hand, and wonderfully
my hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him
(for God is indivisibly
whole, seamless in his Godhood).

I move my foot, and at once
He appears in a flash of lightning.
Do my words seem blasphemous? – Then
open your heart to Him.

And let yourself receive the one
who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him,
We wake up inside Christ’s body

Where all our body, all over,
every most hidden part of it,
is realized in joy as Him.
And he makes us utterly real.

And everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is in him transformed

and recognized as whole, lovely,
radiant in his light.
We awaken as the Beloved
in every last part of our body.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Jeanne Murray Walker*

Jeanne Murray Walker is a poet who writes of the everyday, and yet is able to make it all brand new. Her new poetry collection is Helping the Morning: New and Selected Poems (2014, WordFarm), which draws on her previous seven poetry books. Luci Shaw has written of it, "What a world this is, that arouses a poet to write ordinary things into gifts for the spirit!" Mark Jarman has similarly said of her new book, "I have always admired Jeanne Murray Walker's gift for finding the poetry in the everyday, the song in the mundane, the epiphany in the moment..."

Walker has also recently had The Geography of Memory: A Pilgrimage through Alzheimer's appear from Center Street Books (2013). This memoir is primarily about the decade she and her sister spent, caring for their aging mother. It encourages caregivers to connect with Alzheimer's patients by knowing and recounting their past.

The following is one of the new poems in Helping the Morning.

Miniature Psalm of Complaint

You claim you've weighed the mountains
in your scales. But have you noticed smaller

chunks of the world are flaking off?
I sweep leaves from the walk. The oak,

like the mainmast of a warship, towers
above me, sending down its brown hands,

which hardly weigh a thing. So many friends
sick now. As for me? A bit of bone and hair.

My arteries ordinary as the pipes and spigots
that bring us water. Your thunder shakes my teeth.

On our hillside, your fingers of drizzle pick the final
chrysanthemums to pieces. I don't bear a grudge,

mind you, only wonder if you would step closer,
say something smaller. Back in the house,

wiping my feet, I hear a scratching. A dentist
with his pick. Or maybe a mouse. Two brilliant eyes,

cowlicky fur, in her genetic coding, years
of wiles. As she helps herself to our birdseed,

I hear her tiny breathing. Okay, I think,
okay. What she is, can't help, didn't ask for,

and is doomed to love—herself. I flick on
the porch light to keep her safe from owls.

I can almost see us from the road, our tiny house,
hanging like one last gold leaf in the oak tree.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Jeanne Murray Walker: first post

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Dunstan Thompson

Dunstan Thompson (1918—1975) is an American poet who settled in England after WWII. At Harvard he gained much towards his goal of being a writer, but not through academic pursuits. He was befriended by Conrad Aiken, who introduced him to T.S. Eliot. Another early mentor was Oscar Williams. Early in his career Thompson published Poems (1943, Simon & Schuster) followed by Lament for the Sleepwalker (1947, Dodd Mead).

In New York before the war, and later in London, Thompson lived a life of promiscuous homosexuality. After converting to Christian faith he completely transformed his lifestyle. It has been suggested that his subsequent inability to attract the attention of publishers may be in part due to his inclusion of religious poems in his manuscripts, and because his new work lacked the incoherence some "avant-garde" publishers were looking for.

Despite this discrepancy between the publishing success of his earlier and later work, Dunstan Thompson wished to be remembered for the poetry he wrote after 1950—even giving instructions for his earlier books to not be reprinted. Posthumously, his final three poetry collections were published as Dunstan Thompson, Poems, 1950—1974. The way he saw his early verse is expressed well in the following poem.

Early Poems

These are the ruins of a desperate day.
Among cold jagged stones
The serpents used to sway;
But now their empty skins, dull diamond tones,
Litter the lifeless towers.
The secret grief-enveloped complex rooms
A moment gleam with truth;
For, while the spinning spider winds
His way among the poisoned blooms
That loiter through the arches,
The dank deceitful foliage still reminds
The curious traveller: ‘Here is sadness
And the waste of youth.’

Jesu

However alone
There is always One
Who cares.
Hence, prayers.
At the end time
Will seem
As dreamily done
As this rhyme.
Not alone
But forever with Him.
Happy, I suppose
It is not too much to say.
So for all those
Also alone
Let us pray.
Jesu,
By Thy agony
Remember me,
Alone,
Longing to belong
To You.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, September 22, 2014

George Whipple*

George Whipple (1927—2014), a well-respected Canadian poet, has died at age 87. His most-recent book is the third and final installment in a series of New and Selected Poems published by Penumbra Press: The Language Tree in Winter (2013). His first poetry collection Life Cycle appeared in 1984.

Whipple was born in St. John, New Brunswick, grew up in Toronto, and lived for the past 29 years in Burnaby, British Columbia. According to the Globe & Mail his papers and other works are archived in the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto.

He sent me a hand-written card in 2009—never one to use e-mail—where he wrote, "Art is long, life is short." (God bless you, George.) The following poem is from his book The Colour of Memory.

Churches

One of my favourite churches
is Strathcona Gardens
with its long grape arbour nave,
its baptismal font an oval cistern where
water undulates the sky's
wind-rippled dome supported by
four stoic evergreens;
the censers a few lilac blooms
scenting the warm air with cool perfumes;
the lulling homily the buzz of bees,
my heart the altar, and my eyes
two shining windows gathering the light
reflected from rose bushes everywhere;
and in the choir loft of apple boughs
the last light evensonged of orisons of birds.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about George Whipple: first post

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, September 15, 2014

James McAuley

James McAuley (1917—1976) is an Australian poet, who was also known as a right-wing intellectual. Before he became known as a poet in his own right, he jointly concocted "The Ern Malley Hoax" (1944) with his friend Harold Stewart. Their idea was to expose what they considered to be shallowness in modernist poetry. McAuley and Stewart prepared poems in the modernist style "using partly random composition methods", and submitted them to the journal Angry Penguins, which quickly accepted and published them. Although the influence of modernism in Australian verse slowed in the aftermath of the hoax, ironically, interest in the Ern Malley poems continues to this day and even overshadows McAuley's own critical legacy.

McAuley's first collection Under Aldebaren appeared in 1946. By 1955 he was selected to be editor of the influential Australian journal Quadrant, and in 1961 he became Chair of English at the University of Tasmania. His Collected Poems (1971) was joint winner of the Grace Leven Prize.

Credo

That each thing is a word
Requiring us to speak it;
From the ant to the quasar,
From clouds to ocean floor—

The meaning not ours, but found
In the mind deeply submissive
To the grammar of existence,
The syntax of the real;

So that alien is changed
To human, thing into thinking:
For the world's bare tokens
We pay golden coin,

Stamped with the king's image;
And poems are prophecy
Of a new heaven and earth,
A rumour of resurrection.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Edwin Thumboo

Edwin Thumboo is a pioneer of English language poetry in Singapore. His poetry books include: Rib of Earth (1956) Gods Can Die (1977) and A Third Map (1993). He has edited many anthologies, promoting the poetry of Singapore and Malaysia. From 1970 to 1993 he taught at the National University of Singapore, heading the Department of English Language and Literature for 16 years.

Another Singapore poet, Aaron Lee, calls Thumboo, "our unofficial poet laureate"—a title others have used as well due to the nationalism in his writing. W.B. Yeats is a significant influence on Thumboo's poetry, such as in his well-known poem "Ulysses by the Merlion", concerning Singapore's break from colonialism, which he sees as mirroring Ireland's nationalistic struggles.

The Poetry Reader

Bring life and living, untidiness and order,
Carbuncles and pearls, dark half-closed doors,
To image, metaphor; lingual calm; a grammar’s
Entity, whose first act lifts the id into super self.

Let burnished, blazing power renew dim faces;
Fire those memories that keep you standing. Nerves
Power roots tingling sap, as discourse smoothes
Its rough moments into damask; filigree syllables.

You know, afresh, why in the very beginning there
Was the Word. So move in the flow, the curving tide,
The drift and wash. So primed for another verbal icon,
While by the waters of the Seine, more poems gather.

--------------I read them; they read me.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Scott Cairns*

Scott Cairns is the 2014 winner of the Denise Levertov Prize. Earlier this year his seventh poetry book, Idiot Psalms, was published by Paraclete Press. He is the Catherine Paine Middlebush Chair in English at the University of Missouri. Every June, on the Greek island of Thasos he directs an annual 4-week writing workshop. Newly available is Parable—a CD of Scott Cairns reading his poetry—recorded by Roy Salmond in Vancouver.

B.H. Fairchild has said that Cairns "is steadily making himself indispensable to the richness and breadth of contemporary poetry, an ascent confirmed both beautifully and movingly in Idiot Psalms."

The following poem first appeared in Poetry.

Idiot Psalm 3
—a psalm of Isaak, whispered mid the Philistines, beneath the breath

Master both invisible and notoriously
---------slow to act, should You incline to fix
---------Your generous attentions for the moment
---------to the narrow scent of this our appointed
---------tedium, should you—once our kindly
---------secretary has duly noted which of us
---------is feigning presence, and which excused, which unexcused,
---------You may be entertained to hear how much we find to say
---------about so little. Among these other mediocrities,
---------Your mediocre servant gets a glimpse of how
---------his slow and meager worship might appear
---------from where you endlessly attend our dreariness.
Holy One, forgive, forgo and, if You will, fend off
---------from this my heart the sense that I am drowning here
---------amid the motions, the discussions, the several
---------questions endlessly recast, our paper ballots.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Scott Cairns: first post

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Aemilia Lanyer

Aemilia Lanyer (1569—1645) is the first woman writing in English to have sought patronage to publish a substantial volume of poetry. Her father was a court musician who died when she was just seven. She was eighteen when her mother died, and she attracted the attention of Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon, who was Queen Elizabeth's lord chamberlain. She became his mistress, for several years, but when she became pregnant by him, she was forced to marry one of the court musicians. This doesn't seem to be a promising start for a woman who eventually wrote important Christian verse. Another puzzling chapter in her life sees her visiting an astrologer, Simon Forman, several times in 1597.

Her book, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum (1611), begins with several dedicatory poems; all are written to women, one of which is Mary Sidney Herbert—famous for her verse translations of the Psalms. She gives credit for her conversion to the countess dowager of Cumberland, to whom the book is primarily dedicated. The section known as "Eve's Apology", which is written from the perspective of Pilate's wife, is seeking to divert blame from Eve for the fall of mankind, in part by pointing out Adam's responsibility:
-----But surely Adam cannot be excused,
-----Her fault though great, yet he was most too blame;
-----What Weakness offered, Strength might have refused,
-----Being Lord of all, the greater was his shame:
-----Although the Serpent's craft had her abused,
-----God's holy word ought all his actions frame,
-----For he was Lord and King of all the earth,
-----Before poor Eve had either life or breath.

The central focus of the title poem, "Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum" ("Hail God King of the Jews"), is Christ's passion. The entire poem is 1,840 lines. The poem is particularly interesting because of it's particularly female perspective—showing her to be an early voice of Christian feminism.

from Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum

Therefore I humbly for his Grace will pray,
That he will give me Power and Strength to Write,
That what I have begun, so end I may,
As his great Glory may appear more bright;
Yea in these Lines I may no further stray,
Than his most holy Spirit shall give me Light:
That blindest Weakness be not over-bold,
The manner of his Passion to unfold.
In other Phrases than may well agree
With his pure Doctrine, and most holy Writ,
That Heaven's clear eye, and all the World may see,
I seek his Glory, rather than to get
The Vulgars breath, the seed of Vanity,
Nor Fames loud Trumpet care I to admit;
But rather strive in plainest Words to show,
The Matter which I seek to undergo.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Gordon Johnston

Gordon Johnston taught poetry at Trent University, in Peterborough, Ontario, for over 40 years, where he organized the university's Writers Reading Series. His books include the poetic fiction of Inscription Rock (1981), his first poetry book, Small Wonder (2006) and his new poetry collection But For Now (2013) which is published by McGill-Queen's University Press. In retirement, he volunteers in Pastoral Care at a local hospital.

In March, 2014, I shared the stage with Gordon Johnston at The Art Bar in Toronto. The following poem is from his new collection.

A New Psalm, Of The Oboist

God's orchestra is encouraging,
---the music blooms and mounts,
------we are lifted up with it, we are improved.

The orchestra of God is capacious,
---the harmonies are rich, complex,
------the melodies soar, we're a little overwhelmed.

I am an oboist in the orchestra of God;
---I colour the sound around me,
------or disappear into the noise.

Occasionally I have a solo to play,
---a minor cry from the heart before the strings
------sweep in again and carry us away.

I do what I can, I play the notes
---with all the feeling my skill allows.
------We hope for the best; we try to watch your baton.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Evangeline Paterson

Evangeline Paterson (1928—2000) is the founding editor of the journal Other Voices. She grew up in Dublin, married an Englishman, and lived for many years in St. Andrews, Scotland, then in Leicester, England.

She is the author of several poetry collections including, A Game of Soldiers, Lucifer at the Fair and What To Do With Your Poems. Her New and Selected poems, entitled Lucifer, with Angels (Dedalus) appeared in 1994. I first encountered her work in The Lion Book of Christian Poetry (1981) which was reproduced by Eerdmans in the United States.

Death on a Crossing


What he never thought to consider was whether
the thing was true. What bewildered him, mostly,
was the way that the rumours had of reaching him
from such improbable sources — illiterate pamphlets
pressed in his hand, the brash or the floundering stranger
who came to his door, the proclamations, among
so many others, on hoardings

--------------------------------------though sometimes waking
a brief dismay, that never quite prodded him
to the analyst’s couch.

-----------------------------But annunciations, he thought,
should come to a rational man in a rational way.
He walked between a skyful of midnight angels
and a patch on somebody’s jeans, both saying
the same things to his stopped ears

----------------------------------------------till the day
when he stepped on a crossing with not enough conviction
to get him safe to the other side, and he lay
among strangers’ feet, and the angels lowered their trumpets
and no sweet chariot swung, to carry him home.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Beowulf Poet

Beowulf is an Old English epic poem which was written between the eighth and eleventh century. In the 3182-line poem, the Scandinavian hero, Beowulf, defeats the monster Grendel, Grendel's mother and later a dragon.

J.R.R. Tolkien, whose translation of the poem was only published this year, believed it contained too-genuine a memory of paganism to have been written more than a few generations after the completion of the Christianization of England (around 700 AD). The earliest-surviving complete manuscript dates from the late 10th or early 11th century.

The following is from Seamus Heaney's excellent 2000 translation, which I highly recommend.

from Beowulf (lines 170-188)

These were hard times, heart-breaking
for the prince of the Shieldings; powerful counsellors,
the highest in the land, would lend advice,
plotting how best the bold defenders
might resist and beat off sudden attacks.
Sometimes at pagan shrines they vowed
offerings to idols, swore oaths
that the killer of souls might come to their aid
and save the people. That was their way,
their heathenish hope; deep in their hearts
they remembered hell. The Almighty Judge
of good deeds and bad, The Lord God,
Head of the Heavens and High King of the World,
was unknown to them. Oh, cursed is he
who in time of trouble has to thrust his soul
in the fire's embrace, forfeiting help;
he has nowhere to turn. But blessed is he
who after death can approach the Lord
and find friendship in the Father's embrace.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Anya Krugovoy Silver

Anya Krugovoy Silver is the author of two poetry collections The Ninety-Third Name of God (2010), and I Watched You Disappear (2014), both from Louisiana State University Press. She teaches English at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia.

In 2004, when pregnant with her son, Noah, she was diagnosed with a rare, incurable form of inflammatory breast cancer. After years in remission, the cancer returned in 2010. “Although I loathe cancer and wish that I didn’t have it," she has said, "I think it’s made me a better poet because it’s given me a subject matter that I feel compelled to write about,” Even so, living with cancer is only one of the subjects in her new collection. At last report, her cancer was relatively stable.

The following poem first appeared in Image.

Ya-Quddus

-------One of the ninety-nine names of God

Yours is the name of God that comes most easily to me
God holy, pure, perfect as geometry, that which is set apart.
God to whom I pray, though I deserve no favors.
And would you, Ya-Quaddus, whom I simply call God, Lord,
bargain with my heart for life? As other from human as ether,
would you turn your non-self, whole self, toward my voice?
I stand in a circle of women chanting your name.
No, begging your name. Swimming in your strange indigo.
Our voices ring out like copper prayer bowls.
Refined one, breathe yourself into my spoiled body,
my body bitter as rind, which I am trying so hard to love.
Like steam, draw out the stains in my bones and lungs.
Let me feel whatever it is you are (since I can never know),
---------heal me.

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, July 21, 2014

F.W. Pitt

F.W. Pitt (1859-1943) was a pastor in London, who wrote poetry, and books relating to the Christian faith. He was born in Bristol, as one of nine children. His poetry book The Human Touch (Pickering and Inglis) was published in London in 1933. Other books include: Coming Events Cast Their Shadows In The Air (1936), Wonder-Working Prayer (1938), Morning Meditations (1940) which included 31 of his poems, and The Romance of Women Hymn Writers (1949).

The following poem, is by far the best-known thing Pitt ever wrote. Guitarist Phil Keaggy, put the poem to music, and in 1986 released it on his album Way Back Home.

The Maker of the Universe

The Maker of the Universe
As Man, for man was made a curse.
The claims of Law which He had made
Unto the uttermost He paid.

His holy fingers made the bough
Which grew the thorns that crowned His brow.
The nails that pierced His hands were mined
In secret places He designed.

He made the forest whence there sprung
The tree on which His body hung.
He died upon a cross of wood,
Yet made the hill on which it stood.

The sky that darkened o’er His head
By Him above the earth was spread.
The sun that hid from Him its face
By His decree was hung in space.

The spear which spilled His precious blood
Was tempered in the fires of God.
The grave in which His form was laid
Was hewn in rocks His hands had made.

The throne on which He now appears
Was His from everlasting years.
But a new glory crowns His brow
And every knee to Him shall bow.

Follow this link to watch a Phil Keaggy video of : Maker of the Universe.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dorothy L. Sayers

Dorothy L. Sayers (1893—1957) always saw herself as a poet who wrote fiction. She was born in Oxford, the daughter of an Anglican chaplain. She is best known for her aristocratic detective Lord Peter Wimsey, who appeared in eleven novels and many short stories. The first of these novels, Whose Body appeared in 1923. Others from the series include: The Five Red Herrings, Murder Must Advertise and Gaudy Night.

Her first two published books were poetry collections. She also wrote non-fiction books, such as The Mind of the Maker, many plays, including, The Man Born to be King—twelve radio dramas about the life of Christ, which were first broadcast on the BBC Home Service during WWII—and what she considered to be her crowning achievement, her translation of Dante's Divine Comedy, which was not quite completed at the time of her death.

Sayers was friends with Charles Williams, C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot. She expressed her personal philosophy as: "The only Christian work is good work, well done."

Hymn in Contemplation of Sudden Death

LORD, if this night my journey end,
I thank Thee first for many a friend,
The sturdy and unquestioned piers
That run beneath my bridge of years.

And next, for all the love I gave
To things and men this side the grave,
Wisely or not, since I can prove
There always is much good in love.

Next, for the power thou gavest me
To view the whole world mirthfully,
For laughter, paraclete of pain,
Like April suns across the rain.

Also that, being not too wise
To do things foolish in men's eyes,
I gained experience by this,
And saw life somewhat as it is.

Next, for the joy of labour done
And burdens shouldered in the sun;
Nor less, for shame of labour lost,
And meekness born of a barren boast.

For every fair and useless thing
That bids men pause from labouring
To look and find the larkspur blue
And marigolds of a different hue;

For eyes to see and ears to hear,
For tongue to speak and thews to bear,
For hands to handle, feet to go,
For life, I give Thee thanks also.

For all things merry, quaint and strange,
For sound and silence, strength, and change,
And last, for death, which only gives
Value to every thing that lives;

For these, good Lord that madest me,
I praise Thy name; since, verily,
I of my joy have had no dearth
Though this night were my last on earth.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Susan McCaslin

Susan McCaslin is a British Columbia poet, who taught at Douglas College from 1984 to 2007. She is the author of eleven poetry collections, most recently, Demeter Goes Skydiving (University of Alberta Press), and this year's The Disarmed Heart (St. Thomas Poetry Series) which features poems about peace and war.

The following poem first appeared in Christianity & Literature. Susan also included it in Poetry And Spiritual Practice, an anthology she edited, which includes poems by such fine Canadian poets as Richard Greene, John Terpstra, Margo Swiss, Hannah Main-van der Kamp and George Whipple.

A Midrash on the Kingdom Prayer

better known as the Lord's Prayer
or the Our Father. It obviously addresses

someone more affectionate than a storm god,
someone more like the parent who listened.

The Kingdom Prayer is not about a kingdom.
It is about a presence on a lawn.

It is a prayer about the balancing of rhythms,
what we hear and what we don't hear.

Heaven is within, invisible while
the Name is expressed, pressed out.

These are both true, as if to say,
Holy what we see, holy what we don't see.

Then we get to forgiveness or reciprocity.
Everything forgiving everything is the kingdom.

It has no head of state.
Lead us not into temptation and deliver us are one.

There are always the holes to step into.
the scrabble and the helpers.

The delivering is active, like birth.
The kingdom is a child's kite winding in.

All you have to do is imagine it
and here it is. The presence now.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, June 30, 2014

George Herbert*

George Herbert (1593—1633) had not published a book of poetry in his own lifetime, but his book The Temple did appear shortly after his death in 1633. He and John Donne are the most influential of what we today call the Metaphysical Poets —a group that also includes, Henry Vaughan, Andrew Marvel and Thomas Traherne.

It seems that Herbert's ambition had nothing to do with fame, but with looking deeply into his own soul and seeking to be honest before God. Even so, his fame outstrips that of many who were seekers of a reputation. His influence is felt, not only in the poetry of the seventeenth century, but also in such writers as Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, T.S. Eliot and W.H. Auden.

Herbert's poetry is suitable for spiritual meditation—helpful as we seek to reflect on God's faithfulness, and on our own fickleness.

Love III

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
-----------Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
-----------From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
-----------If I lacked anything.

“A guest," I answered, “worthy to be here”:
-----------Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
-----------I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
-----------“Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord; but I have marred them; let my shame
-----------Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not," says Love, “who bore the blame?”
-----------“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down," says Love, “and taste my meat.”
-----------So I did sit and eat.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about George Herbert: first post. You can also find a George Herbert poem that grew out of Isaiah 55 at: The 55 Project.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Michael Symmons Roberts

Michael Symmons Roberts is a British poet who has six full-length poetry books, all published by Jonathan Cape. His fourth, Corpus (2004) was awarded the Whitbread Prize, and was also short-listed for both the Griffin and the T.S. Eliot Prize. His latest collection, Drysalter (2013) recently received the Forward Prize and the Costa Prize. In 2006, in connection with a BBC television series, he published The Miracles of Jesus (Lion-Hudson). He has also published two novels.

When Symmons Roberts arrived as a student at Oxford, as a confident atheist, he intentionally changed his course to Theology and Philosophy, and selected a Christian college so he could talk believers out of their faith. "As university went on I got deeply into philosophy — and the philosophy completely undermined my atheism, by making me realize that there was no overarching objectivity, no Dawkinsian bedrock of common sense if you strip everything away. I realized that atheism was just as culturally conditioned as being a Catholic."

Novelist Jeanette Winterson has described him as “a religious poet in a secular age. His work is about the connection between the things of the spirit and the things of the world. And his work is about transcendence.”

Jairus

So, God takes your child by the hand
and pulls her from her deathbed.
He says: ‘Feed her, she is ravenous.’

You give her fruits with thick hides
– pomegranate, cantaloupe –
food with weight, to keep her here.

You hope that if she eats enough
the light and dust and love
which weave the matrix of her body

will not fray, nor wear so thin
that morning sun breaks through her,
shadowless, complete.

Somehow this reanimation
has cut sharp the fear of death,
the shock of presence. Feed her

roast lamb, egg, unleavened bread:
forget the herbs, she has an aching
fast to break. Sit by her side,

split skins for her so she can gorge,
and notice how the dawn
draws colour to her just-kissed face.

This is the first Kingdom Poets post about Michael Symmons Roberts: second post

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Gregory of Nazianus

Gregory of Nazianus (circa 325—389) was Archbishop of Constantinople. He is known today as a significant theologian for his emphasis on the Trinity. He was a prolific writer—composing, some have said, as many as 30,000 verses; if this is true most of them have been lost.

Earlier this year, when I asked Scott Cairns, who were the significant poets among the early church fathers— which he had alluded to during a question period at the Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids, Michigan— he wrote on a slip of paper the names of Ephrem of Edessa (who I blogged about last December), Gregory of Nazianus, and Simeon the New Theologian.

It's been said, "St Gregory is one of the most open and self-revealing of the Fathers of the Church, and his poetry is remarkable for its personal character..."

Christ The Creator

Friends and fellow-workers they!
Day with night, and night with day!
Night descendeth, and the while
Thou dost call a halt to toil;
Bidding labour pause and rest,
Lulling care in weary breast.
When from rest again set free,
Sweet our work if done for Thee;
And we haste from night away,
All to hail the endless day,—
Day, most happy and most bright,
Ne'er to end in darksome night.

So bid sleep with gentle wing
O'er mine eyes her shadow fling;
Nor let dumb repose too long
Seal my tongue, nor hush my song;
Which, responsive I would raise,
To the angels' song of praise.

Thus, with holy thoughts of Thee,
Let my bed familiar be,
Lest ignoble dreams betray
The misdoings of the day ;
Lest my brain with phantoms teem,
Breeding trouble in my dream.
Rather let my soul take wing,
Free from thrall of sense, and sing:
To the Father and the Son,
And the Holy Spirit, One ;
Glory, honour, power to Thee!
Be to all eternity. Amen.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, June 9, 2014

King David

King David (c. 1040—970 BC) was described by God himself as a man after his own heart, and so he was selected to replace Saul as king over Israel. As a young man he had taken on the great Philistine warrior Goliath. He was also renown as a harp player, and had been called upon to play music to soothe the madness that tormented King Saul.

His passion for praising Yahweh is demonstrated by the story of David dancing before the Ark of the Covenant as it was brought into Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6). He is credited with having written the majority of poems in the biblical book of Psalms. Most significantly, it was prophesized that the Messiah—through whom the whole world would be blessed—would be a descendant of David. That prophesy was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ.

In his book Reflections on the Psalms, C.S. Lewis said of the following poem (Psalm 19), "I take this to be the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world." Here it is presented in the New International Version.

Psalm 19

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
---the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
---night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
---no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
---their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
---It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
---like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
---and makes its circuit to the other;
---nothing is deprived of its warmth.

The law of the LORD is perfect,
---refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
---making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
---giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
---giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
---enduring forever.
The decrees of the LORD are firm,
---and all of them are righteous.

They are more precious than gold,
---than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
---than honey from the honeycomb.
By them your servant is warned;
---in keeping them there is great reward.
But who can discern their own errors?
---Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins;
---may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
---innocent of great transgression.
May these words of my mouth
---and this meditation of my heart
---be pleasing in your sight,
---LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.