Saturday, November 29, 2008

Like Every Newborn

Madeleine L'Engle is most known for her brilliant series of five novels that begins with A Wrinkle in Time and proceeds through An Acceptable Time. If you haven't read them yet, do yourself a favor. Her poems are as yet not nearly as well known as her novels, nor as well known as they should be.

Had she not died last year, today would have been her 90th birthday. Yep, she was born on CS Lewis's 20th birthday. In honor of the day, I will post three of her poems, including one on the birth of a warrior who came unarmed to do battle with death. It seems fitting to use it to commemorate her birth, life, death and the deathless life which that warrior won for her.


"The Lord is King, and hath put on glorious
apparel; the Lord hath put on his apparel,
and girded himself with strength:"

Happy Birthday to Two!

Today would be the 110th birthday of CS Lewis and the 90th birthday of Madelein L'Engle, both among the ten best Christian writers of fiction in the 20th century.

In THE LAST BATTLE, after the true Narnians all enter the stable and find it bigger on the inside than it was on the outside, they move off to discover this new and surprising land. They meet up with Susan and Peter, who had not been with them when they entered but had come here directly from another world.

Friday, November 28, 2008

How Can The Gods Meet Us?

I am in actual physical pain, wanting to quote sections out of Till We Have Faces. But to make any quotes from it makes no sense unless one reads them in the context of the book as a whole. They make sense in their rightful place in the story. Not out here in the cold airless space of the blogosphere.

It is the story of Orual; to be exact it is the story of the complaint that she prepared to bring before the gods, to accuse the gods.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thick and Dark Like Blood

Rosa recently had an interesting post in which she talked a little about Hildegard von Bingen. I have never read Hildegard's writings, but I have listened to some of her music. It is lovely and enchanting, but also somewhat disorienting and unnerving. It does not calm my fears; it does not comfort me; it does not say, "I'm OK, you're OK." In a word it is holy music in exactly the same way that most of the Christian music we hear on the radio is not holy music.

Her music reminds me of CS Lewis's TILL WE HAVE FACES.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Old Time Is Still A-Flying

One tenacious rose in my yard has decided to flower now, late in the season, with the snow falling on top of the deep yellow-gold flower. It reminded me of Robert Herrick's poem, largely because it seems to argue against Herrick's urgency. Just as flowers can sometimes surprise us with beauty out of season, so can life!

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Who Rouses Us From Sleep

Then he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.'
"Then the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked,

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Take Words

"At certain hours we recall our minds from other cares and business--in which somehow or other desire itself grows cool--to the business of prayer, admonishing ourselves by the words of our prayer to fix attention upon that which we desire, for fear that what had begun to lose heat might become altogether cold, and be finally extinguished if the flame were not more frequently fanned."

"When you pray you need piety, not verbosity. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My Own Good, Profit and Pleasure

"Every man, whatsoever his condition, desires to be happy. There is no man who does not desire this, and each one desires it with such earnestness that he prefers it to all other things; whoever, in fact desires other things, desires them for this end alone."

"He who is good is therefore good that he may be happy; and he who is evil would not be so, if he despaired of the possibility of being happy by that means."

"But to know where to find this thing desired of all; that is disputed among them, that divides them."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Who Is It That Prays To Christ?

Once there was a boy named Aurelius. He was a pamperred and somewhat rotten boy. But he was bright. The trouble was, he knew it.

His mother, Monica, worried continually about him. She was proud of his remarkable brain-power, but she knew there were more important things in life than brains.

She was a devoted servant of Jesus, the Christ. But her husband, the father of Aurelius, was not. They lived in an age when the mothers and servants (of the wealthy, which they were) had the most time with the children. Yet the fathers' influence overshadowed the bulk of time that the women had. Aurelius did not follow his mother.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Best, Certain'st Thing On Earth

Anne Killigrew lived in a very wealthy family, and was a familiar face among the friends and associates of the Stuart court. Her father and uncles held high appointments and she herself became an attendant of the Duchess of York.

In both of these settings, both at home and in society, she was surrounded by literary figures. Her father and his brothers published poetry, plays, sermons, etc. She grew up in a home full of literary work and play, and her poetry is filled with both biblical and mythological imagery.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Church Lock and Key

George Herbert served three years as the rector of a small Anglican church in a small out of the way village near the southern coast of England. During that three years he worked to renew the church both through his preaching and through the physical work of laying stones and putting in windows. This work of the physical building was, to him, a vital part of the ministry of Christ to his people. The building did not take precedence over teaching the word, but nor did it get set aside as merely a transitory distraction from the eternal work of saving souls. The two were linked, inseparable, and Herbert could see the one in the other.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thou Art Not Earth

To The Soul
John Collop

Dull soul aspire;
Thou art not earth. Mount higher!
Heaven gave the spark; to it return the fire.

Let sin ne'er quench

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Such Structure As The Sonnet

That the sonnet is still a fitting vehicle for people's poetic urges is well demonstrated by the following. And what variety of poetic urges we find here! The rules and structure of the sonnet did not hamper any of these voices. The whole goal of this experiment is perfectly summed up in a comment that Teri made when she sent me her sonnet.

"Such structure as the sonnet is...well...freeing."

A Transplant's Sonnet
by Teri Field

For what bright cause did I from you depart,
Whose people are pacific, strands are fair?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Me Finds It Funny

Although I'm in the midst of a series of posts on sonnets, and although that series culminates tomorrow with the posting of some sonnets sent in by you readers, today I am going to break out of the series.

I admit that I've got ants-in-my-pants about tomorrow's post, so (to stop myself from posting it early and to distract myself) I will post a slightly tongue-in-cheek poem by Ogden Nash. I've posted from him before so I won't introduce him. If you are interested, just click on his name in the list of labels.


How many gifted pens have penned
That Mother is a boy's best friend!
How many more with like afflatus
Award the dog that honored status!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mine Eye Is In My Mind

Very, very little is actually known about William Shakespeare the man. For a man who wrote so much and had such a great influence on his own day as well as ours, he himself is hidden in the mist. But the mysteries surrounding him are not for lack of autobiographers and scholars who would like to pen the final and authoritative work on him.

And when people are seeking to get to know the real William Shakespeare, they turn primarily not to his 33 plays, but to his sonnets. These are by far the most personal of his writings that have survived.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Challenge Revisited

Hello my friends in the world out there. Today is the sixth. On the twelfth I will post the sonnets sent in from the challenge that I posted a week or so back. So far only one has been sent to me. It is really an impressive sonnet, so I am somewhat nervous. I want more sonnets to post on the twelfth so that there will be something to distract us all from how weak my sonnet is going to be.

So, if you all could each write a sonnet, please email them to me at my address which is on my profile page. I've posted plenty of examples that can give you some ideas.

Thanks so much.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Fire-Featuring Heaven

Here is part (slightly revised for this blog) of an article I wrote a few years ago for CHRISTIANITY AND SOCIETY JOURNAL. I wanted to include it here in part because it has to do with a sonnet written by Gerard Manley Hopkins: Spelt From Sibyl's Leaves. This sonnet does not conform to the standard of five stressed syllables per line; it goes for eight. Yet he wrote it as a sonnet and it has been generally so accepted. There is room, even in so strict a form as the sonnet, for some deviation.

Reading Difficult Poetry as a Christian Endeavor
Tears began welling up in my oldest daughter's eyes.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Each Time I Love I Find It Still My Own

Dorothy Parker was an American extreme. Her loves gave the tabloids something to write about. She shocked the middle class morality of her time. She, by turns, failed to stay with her man, or failed to keep him with her. Desperately sad as some episodes of her life were, she was able to mock her own folly in them and turned them into stories and poems that had America laughing with her. She walked a very fine line between being seen as an outrageously clever - though baudy - character and becoming an object of pity and scorn.

But, in public at least, she kept to the profitable side of that line.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Wanton As Unfledged Cupids

Aphra Behn was the first woman that any English people knew of to earn her living through her literature. Of course that ignores the Hebrew and pagan Sybyls who lived on their words, as well as many other prophetess poets from a variety of religions around the world. Ah, so we are, we so easily assume that our own small circle represents the whole of vast creation. So Aphra Behn was hailed and hated as the first woman in the history of the world to earn her living with her writing.

During her time, the later 1600's, she had to struggle to be accepted as a legitimate author

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Two Half-Fast Sonnets

Two early sonnets that each strike an unusual chord.

The pun in line four of the first is not accident. The first gains much of its satiric effect from the fact that sonnets were much in vogue at court at the time for praising the glories of one or another woman.

Satan, No Woman
Fulke Greville

Satan, no woman, yet a wandering spirit,
When he saw ships sail two ways with one wind,

When Passion Speechless Lies

Just because it's lovely. . .

Since There's No Help
Michael Drayton

Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part.
Nay, I have done: you get no more of me,
And I am glad, yea glad with all my heart
That thus so cleanly I myself can free.
Shake hands for ever, cancel all our vows,