Monday, March 6, 2017

Charles Péguy

Charles Péguy (1873—1914) is a French poet and philosopher. He championed socialism and nationalism, and lived much of his life in an uneasy relationship with the Catholic Church. A priest at the end of Graham Greene's novel Brighton Rock, speaking of a Frenchman who never took the sacraments but is considered by some to be a saint—is a reference to Péguy.

"Truth's pedagogue" is what Geoffrey Hill calls Péguy in his long poem "The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy" (1983).

Péguy ran a bookstore, and in 1900 began publishing the influential journal Cahiers de la Quinzaine. He volunteered for military service in World War I, and was one of its earliest casualties, as the Battle of the Marne was about to commence. Interestingly, he had written:

------Blessèd are those whom a great battle leaves
------Stretched out on the ground in front of God's face,
------Blessèd the lives that just wars erase,
------Blessèd the ripe wheat, the wheat gathered in sheaves.

The following selection is from the collection God Speaks which was translated by Julian Green.

from Innocence And Experience

God Speaks:
It is innocence that is full and experience that is empty.
It is innocence that wins and experience that loses.
It is innocence that is young and experience that is old.
It is innocence that grows and experience that wanes.

It is innocence that is born and experience that dies.
It is innocence that knows and experience that does not know.
It is the child who is full and the man who is empty,
Empty as an empty gourd and as an empty barrel:

That is what I do with that experience of yours.

Now then, children, go to school.
And you men, go to the school of life.
Go and learn
How to unlearn.
Nothing is so beautiful as a child going to sleep
while he is saying his prayers, says God.
I tell you nothing is so beautiful in the world.—
And yet I have seen beautiful sights in the world.
And I know something about it. My creation is
overflowing with beauty.
My creation overflows with marvels.
There are so many that you don't know where to put them.
I have seen millions and millions of stars rolling
under my feet like the sands of the sea.
I have seen days as scorching as flames,
Summer days of June and July and August.
I have seen winter evenings spread out like a cloak....

Thanks to Burl Horniachek for suggesting this, and many other poets.

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.