Thursday Verse — E.E. Cummings

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pity this busy monster, manunkind,

not. Progress is a comfortable disease:
your victim (death and life safely beyond)

plays with the bigness of his littleness
—- electrons deify one razorblade
into a mountainrange; lenses extend
unwish through curving wherewhen till unwish
returns on its unself.
                          A world of made
is not a world of born —- pity poor flesh

and trees, poor stars and stones, but never this
fine specimen of hypermagical

ultraomnipotence. We doctors know

a hopeless case if —- listen: there’s a hell
of a good universe next door; let’s go

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Top Ten Influential Poems — Part I

I’ve been tagged by the inimitable Catherine Addington to name my Top Ten Influential Poems. I find that category too intimidating, so I’m going to list ten poems I love — not even a favorite ten, but ten I love — and give a short explanation of why. (Backtrack: It’s taking me a long time to do this, so I’m going to break this into two posts.)

10. The Highwayman — Alfred Noyes

This was one of my favorite poems to teach. The kids love the gothic tragedy, and the poem is rich with teachable elements (imagery! simile! metaphor!). The story reads like a macabre “Gift of the Magi.”

9. Hymn before Sun-rise, in the Vale of Chamouni — Samuel Taylor Coleridge

In the summer of 1997, I went to Europe with some friends. For some reason, we decided to scrap our itinerary to spend a few days in Chamonix, France. Aside from seeing relatives in Ireland, it was my favorite part of the trip. We hiked and took a gondola up Mont Blanc. I remember being overwhelmed with awe in looking at the mountain. I had never really experienced awe before. It is to feel utterly inconsequential and at the same time brimming with vitality.

In the fall after I returned, I was leafing through a volume of poetry and found this one by Coleridge. It recalls, palpably, that awe. And then it moves effortlessly from the sublime to the divine. The grandeur of Mont Blanc drives Coleridge to praise for it Creator. (Not to go off on too lengthy a tangent, but this reminds me of an episode of “On Being,” in which Marilynne Robinson talks about her grandparents’ home at the foot of the Rocky Mountains and how the mountains allowed her to experience the presence of God.)

The “Hymn” is a beautiful poem, and memory makes it dear to me.

8. Last Supper — Alan Sullivan

I discovered this poem while rooting around for my Thursday Verse series. I know nothing about the poet; I suspect he’s obscure. But the more I read this poem, the greater I admire it. Speaking simply, it has beautiful rhythm and rhymes. And beyond the end rhymes, it is rich with linked sounds: the “ur” in “nurses” and, in the next line, “murmurs.”

And then the family’s loss in the death of “the keeper of mores and manners.” Grace departs with him: “where grandchildren hanker to tear at unblessed bread.” A heartbreaking and lonely image.

7. Worked Late on a Tuesday Night — Deborah Garrison

I am grateful to Garrison Keillor for introducing me to Deborah Garrison, who writes aching and evocative poetry. This is the first of hers that I ever read, and it stings. Like Sullivan, Garrison links sounds to great lyrical effect: “trample the scraps” and “to and fro / in front.”

I don’t need to say anything about the sad beauty of this poem. It’s not subtle. But at my weakest moments, this line makes me almost lose my breath with terror and remorse: “I’m not half / of what I meant to be.”

6. pity this busy monster, manunkind — E.E. Cummings

This is a waggish poem that a natural declinist cannot help but love. “Progress is a comfortable disease” is a grand zinger. And the lengthy (relatively!) stanza captures so originally the loss of humanity that results from a slavery to technological progress. Then it’s capped with an offer to play truant to the universe. A delightful poem that mixes caprice with a incendiary attack on the modern world.

johns-musings:

You cannot be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of him who gives and kindles joy in the heart of him who receives. All condemnation is from the devil. Never condemn each other. We condemn others only because we shun knowing ourselves. When we gaze at our own failings, we see such a swamp that nothing in another can equal it. That is why we turn away, and make much of the faults of others. Instead of condemning others, strive to reach inner peace. Keep silent, refrain from judgement. This will raise you above the deadly arrows of slander, insult and outrage and will shield your glowing hearts against all evil.— St Seraphim of Sarov

johns-musings:

You cannot be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of him who gives and kindles joy in the heart of him who receives. All condemnation is from the devil. Never condemn each other. We condemn others only because we shun knowing ourselves. When we gaze at our own failings, we see such a swamp that nothing in another can equal it. That is why we turn away, and make much of the faults of others. Instead of condemning others, strive to reach inner peace. Keep silent, refrain from judgement. This will raise you above the deadly arrows of slander, insult and outrage and will shield your glowing hearts against all evil.

— St Seraphim of Sarov

(via onancientpaths)

102 notes

"

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

"

e.e. Cummings (via littlewicketgate)

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A Lonely Hearts Church

[Love Is Our Mission] also presents a model of ethics which is not so much about rules as about vocation. Everyone has a calling from God to give and receive sacrificial love from others. Whether you do that in marriage, in parenting, in vowed religious life, in friendship, in hospitality and love for the stranger, or in several of these at once, you were made to love, to be loved, and to give selflessly. “[I]f our parishes really were places where ‘single’ did not mean ‘lonely,’ where extended networks of friends and families really did share one another’s joys and sorrows, then perhaps at least some of the world’s objections to Catholic teaching might be disarmed.” The family is a church—the “domestic church,” a phrase which recurs throughout the volume—and the local parish needs to act more like a family.

"The emphasis on hospitality is not something I’ve seen from other church documents. Families are challenged to serve and welcome others, rather than retreating into cul-de-sacs. Families and married adults can feel incredibly isolated, and the isolation of single laypeople is even more obvious. LIOM suggests that mutual hospitality, focused on serving one another rather than meeting one’s own needs (even when those needs are for inherently good things like companionship and love), can fit the scattered puzzle-pieces of the parish back together. This is a form of solidarity which can be practiced at any level of society.”

pagewoman:

Cumbrian Landscape by ~YorkshireSam

pagewoman:

Cumbrian Landscape by ~YorkshireSam

(via onancientpaths)

497 notes

Thursday Verse — Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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Hymn before Sun-rise, in the Vale of Chamouni

Hast thou a charm to stay the morning-star
In his steep course? So long he seems to pause
On thy bald awful head, O sovran BLANC,
The Arve and Arveiron at thy base
Rave ceaselessly; but thou, most awful Form!
Risest from forth thy silent sea of pines,
How silently! Around thee and above
Deep is the air and dark, substantial, black,
An ebon mass: methinks thou piercest it,
As with a wedge! But when I look again,
It is thine own calm home, thy crystal shrine,
Thy habitation from eternity!
O dread and silent Mount! I gazed upon thee,
Till thou, still present to the bodily sense,
Didst vanish from my thought: entranced in prayer
I worshipped the Invisible alone.

         Yet, like some sweet beguiling melody,
So sweet, we know not we are listening to it,
Thou, the meanwhile, wast blending with my Thought,
Yea, with my Life and Life’s own secret joy:
Till the dilating Soul, enrapt, transfused,
Into the mighty vision passing—there
As in her natural form, swelled vast to Heaven!

         Awake, my soul! not only passive praise
Thou owest! not alone these swelling tears,
Mute thanks and secret ecstasy! Awake,
Voice of sweet song! Awake, my heart, awake!
Green vales and icy cliffs, all join my Hymn.

         Thou first and chief, sole sovereign of the Vale!
O struggling with the darkness all the night,
And visited all night by troops of stars,
Or when they climb the sky or when they sink:
Companion of the morning-star at dawn,
Thyself Earth’s rosy star, and of the dawn
Co-herald: wake, O wake, and utter praise!
Who sank thy sunless pillars deep in Earth?
Who filled thy countenance with rosy light?
Who made thee parent of perpetual streams?

         And you, ye five wild torrents fiercely glad!
Who called you forth from night and utter death,
From dark and icy caverns called you forth,
Down those precipitous, black, jagged rocks,
For ever shattered and the same for ever?
Who gave you your invulnerable life,
Your strength, your speed, your fury, and your joy,
Unceasing thunder and eternal foam?
And who commanded (and the silence came),
Here let the billows stiffen, and have rest?

         Ye Ice-falls! ye that from the mountain’s brow
Adown enormous ravines slope amain—
Torrents, methinks, that heard a mighty voice,
And stopped at once amid their maddest plunge!
Motionless torrents! silent cataracts!
Who made you glorious as the Gates of Heaven
Beneath the keen full moon? Who bade the sun
Clothe you with rainbows? Who, with living flowers
Of loveliest blue, spread garlands at your feet?—
God! let the torrents, like a shout of nations,
Answer! and let the ice-plains echo, God!
God! sing ye meadow-streams with gladsome voice!
Ye pine-groves, with your soft and soul-like sounds!
And they too have a voice, yon piles of snow,
And in their perilous fall shall thunder, God!

         Ye living flowers that skirt the eternal frost!
Ye wild goats sporting round the eagle’s nest!
Yet eagles, play-mates of the mountain-storm!
Ye lightnings, the dread arrows of the clouds!
Ye signs and wonders of the element!
Utter forth God, and fill the hills with praise!

         Thou too, hoar Mount! with thy sky-pointing peaks,
Oft from whose feet the avalanche, unheard,
Shoots downward, glittering through the pure serene
Into the depth of clouds, that veil thy breast—
Thou too again, stupendous Mountain! thou
That as I raise my head, awhile bowed low
In adoration, upward from thy base
Slow travelling with dim eyes suffused with tears,
Solemnly seemest, like a vapoury cloud,
To rise before me—Rise, O ever rise,
Rise like a cloud of incense from the Earth!
Thou kingly Spirit throned among the hills,
Thou dread ambassador from Earth to Heaven,
Great Hierarch! tell thou the silent sky,
And tell the stars, and tell yon rising sun
Earth, with her thousand voices, praises God.

Duty and Delight

"One of the heaviest condemnations of Mansfield Park’s Mary Crawford comes from Fanny’s lips: “She can feel nothing as she ought.” The theme of feeling as you ought crops up again and again in Austen, and has always struck me in its variance from the usual script about emotion and righteousness. We can’t control our emotions, the narrative goes, but we can control what we choose to do about them. Depending on who you ask, we should either follow their untamable whims or discipline ourselves to virtuous action regardless of their promptings. Either way, feelings are posited as something rigidly distinct from and probably inimical to the moral life.

"In Austen’s world, what you feel is a morally actionable question. Moral discipline tends not to the indulgence, nor suppression of, nor detachment from subjective feelings, but their conformity and habituation to goodness. To do right without desiring and delighting in it is obviously superior to doing wrong, but it’s still a moral penury—often a blamable or correctable one."

"Whatever else traditional religious views may entail, they involve a belief that existence comes pre-defined. Purpose is discovered, not exerted. And scripture and institutions — a community of believers extended back in time — are essential to that discovery. This is not, to put it mildly, the spirit of the age."

Michael Gerson, “Introspection Time for Evangelicals
The Washington Post
25 September 2014

"I want you to tell me just one thing more. Why do you hate the South?"
"I don’t hate it," Quentin said quickly, at once, immediately: "I don’t hate it," he said. I don’t hate it he thought panting in the cold air, the iron New England dark; I don’t. I don’t! I don’t hate it! I don’t hate it!

"I want you to tell me just one thing more. Why do you hate the South?"

"I don’t hate it," Quentin said quickly, at once, immediately: "I don’t hate it," he said. I don’t hate it he thought panting in the cold air, the iron New England dark; I don’t. I don’t! I don’t hate it! I don’t hate it!

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