F.R. Scott (1899–1985) was a “first mover of Canadian poetry,” according to Louis Dudek. He was born in Quebec City, and went to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. Scott studied law, and later became Dean of Law at McGill University. During the depression he became leftist in his political views, and became influential within the Canadian socialist movement. In 1970 he was offered a seat in the Canadian Senate, which he declined.
His credentials as a poet are equally impressive. F.R. Scott was the editor of such publications as McGill Fortnightly Review, The Canadian Mercury, and Preview — which helped him to initiate new poetry in Canada. He won the Governor General’s Award for poetry in 1981 for his Collected Poems. (In 1977 he’d already won the GG for nonfiction for his Essays on the Constitution.) Leonard Cohen recorded Scott’s poem “A Villanelle For Our Times” for his CD Dear Heather (2004) with musical accompaniment.
What is it makes a church so like a poem?
The inner silence – spaces between words?
The ancient pews set out in rhyming rows
Where old men sit and lovers are so still?
Or something just beyond that can’t be seen,
Yet seems to move if we should look away?
It is not in the choir and the priest.
It is the empty church has most to say.
It cannot be the structure of the stone.
Sometimes mute buildings rise above a church.
Nor is it just the reason it was built.
Often it does not speak to us at all.
Men have done murders here as in a street,
And blinded men have smashed a holy place.
Men will walk by a church and never know
What lies within, as men will scorn a book.
Then surely it is not the church itself
That makes a church so very like a poem,
But only that unfolding of the heart
That lifts us upward in a blaze of light
And turns a nave of stone or page of words
To Holy, Holy, Holy without end.
Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca