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.