Monday, March 26, 2018

Christina Rossetti*

Christina Rossetti (1830—1894) is one of the greatest Victorian female poets — perhaps only second to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Her first poetic triumph was the book Goblin Market and Other Poems (1862). She is also known for her children’s poems in Sing-Song (1872). She wrote six devotional studies, the last of which The Face of the Deep: A Devotional Commentary on the Apocalypse (1892) featured Rossetti’s verse-by-verse reflections on the Book of Revelation, and includes more than two hundred poems.

In the early 1870s she became seriously ill with Graves’ Disease. After her recovery she dedicated much of her attention to writing devotional prose. These writings reveal much of how she viewed the world as symbolic of spiritual truths; they also demonstrate her Christocentric view of scripture.

When asked about her poetic influences she wrote, “If any one thing schooled me in the direction of poetry, it was perhaps the delightful idle liberty to prowl all alone about my grandfather’s cottage-grounds some thirty miles from London.” Despite her love of nature, she lived most of her adult life in London.

Good Friday

Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy blood’s slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon —
I, only I.

Yet give not o’er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Christina Rossetti: 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, March 19, 2018

James A. Zoller

James Zoller is the author of three poetry collections, including Living on the Flood Plain (2008, WordFarm), and his brand-new collection Ash & Embers. He is Professor of Writing and Literature at Houghton College in New York State. Previously, he has taught at SUNY-Albany and at the University of New Hampshire. In 2011 he was Fulbright Professor of American Studies at Pusan National University in South Korea.

I am pleased to have served Jim, and his fine poetry, as the editor of this new book — which is part of the Poiema Poetry Series from Cascade Books. The following poem is from Ash & Embers.

Kaleidoscope

One eyed, yes. And one eye
sees the visual organ music
in that rose of nine petals,
nine-point celestial compass, a fine
odd number though not seven, not perfection.

Random, the number of luck,
nine is another math entirely —
a trinity of trinities, three squared,
an image shaped illuminated leveraged,
the mandala, tool of spectral navigation.

So I pulled off its smiling head
its single-eyed smiley-face its life-filter its rose-
colored glasses, only to discover
a petri dish with random shapes and shards
vivid, odd, and polished glass

the kind one might mistake for trash
— the kind one might liken
to chaos of the human soul,
the hit-or-miss of the universe,
the cluttered proofs for God.

Posted with permission of the poet.

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, March 12, 2018

Pierre Corneille

Pierre Corneille (1606—1684) is one of France’s three great seventeenth-century dramatists — alongside Racine and Moliere. He wrote a very popular French verse translation of Thomas a Kempis' Imitation of Christ. His most-celebrated plays include Le Cid (1637), Polyeuct (1642) and Cinna (1643). American poet Richard Wilbur is one of the many translators of his works.

Corneille’s play Polyeuct is based on the life of Polyeuctus (a Saint according to the Greek Orthodox Church). He was an Armenian officer in Rome’s army who converted to Christianity even though it was likely to mean his death.

In the play, the following section is spoken by Nearchus, trying to convince his friend Polyeuct to not postpone his baptism. Polyeuct’s wife Pauline, whom he loves dearly, is afraid that if his conversion is public, he will be martyred. Later in the play, after Polyeuct’s death, both Pauline, and her father become Christians.

The following translation is by Noel Clark.

From Polyeuct (Act One)

But how can you be sure you’ll live that long,
Or guarantee resolve will prove that strong?
Has God, in whose hands your soul and lifespan rest,
Promised to grant you a delayed request?
God is all-good, all-just but, still, His grace
Is varied in effect by time and place.
Those shafts can lose their powers of penetration,
If hearts repel them by procrastination.
The soul grows callous and God’s grace, deflected,
Less freely is bestowed, when once rejected.
That holy gift, designed to save the soul,
Descends more rarely and can find no role.
The grace inspiring you to be baptised,
Already languishes, its aim revised —
Despite the sighs of love that reached your ear,
The flames are dying and will disappear.

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, March 5, 2018

Wu Li

Wu Li (1632—1718) is best known as a painter — one of the six orthodox artistic masters in the early Ch’ing period. He remained loyal to the Chinese landscape tradition, despite having seen prints of European paintings.

His poetry is noteworthy for his boldness in seeking to establish a Chinese Christian poetry.

He converted to Christianity and joined the Jesuits in 1682, later becoming one of the first Chinese to be ordained as a priest (1688). He could have been well paid as a court painter, but instead he chose the life of an evangelist — often disguising himself as a peasant or fisherman — travelling from village to village in Jiangsu.

The following poem was translated by Jonathan Chaves.

Singing of the Source of Holy Church


Before the firmament was ever formed,
------------------or any foundation laid,
high there hovered the Judge of the World,
------------------prepared for the last days!
This single Man from his five wounds
------------------poured every drop of blood;
a myriad nations gave their hearts
------------------to the wonder of the Cross!
The heavenly gates now have a ladder
------------------leading to their peace;
demonic spirits lack any art
------------------to insinuate deception.
Take up the burden joyfully
------------------fall in behind Jesus,
look up with reverence towards the top of that mountain,
------------------follow His every step.

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.