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:"

Like every newborn, he has come from very far.
His eyes are closed against the brilliance of the star.
So glorious is he, he goes to this immoderate length
To show his love for us, discarding power and strength.
Girded for war, humility his mighty dress,
He moves into battle wholly weaponless.


This is the irrational season
when love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
There'd have been no room for the child.


In what, love, does fidelity consist?
I will be true to you, of course.
My body's needs I can resist,
Come back to you without remorse;

And you, behind the footlight's lure,
Kissing an actress on the stage,
Will leave her presence there, I'm sure,
As I my people on the page.

And yet--I love you, darling, yet
I sat with someone at a table
And gloried in our minds that met
As sometimes strangers' minds are able

To leap the bounds of times and spaces'
And find, in sharing wine and bread
And light in one another's faces
And in the words that each has said

An intercourse so intimate
It shook me deeply, to the core.
I said good-night, for it was late;
We parted at my hotel door

And I went in, turned down the bed
And took my bath and thought of you
Leaving the theatre with light tread
And going off, as you should do,

To rest, relax, and eat and talk--
And I lie there and wonder who
Will wander with you as you walk
And what you both will say and do. . .

We may not love in emptiness;
We married in a peopled place;
The vows we made enrich and bless
The smile on every stranger's face,

And all the years that we have spent
Give me the joy that makes me able
To love and laugh with sacrament
Across a strange and distant table.

No matter where I am, you are,
We two are one and bread is broken
And laughter shared both near and far
Deepens the promises once spoken

And strengthens our fidelity
Although I cannot tell you how,
But I rejoice in mystery
And rest upon our marriage vow.


Rosa said...

I wasn't aware that Madeline L'Engle was a poet, as well as a novelist. I'm going to check into more of her poetry!

Doug P. Baker said...

Rosa, you won't be disappointed.

Devika said...

She is definitely interesting...

and seems to strike a chord

Thank you for the introduction Doug..i doubt I missed a few earlier..will come again later..Sunday means a hell lot of work :)


J. Andrew Lockhart said...

so much to think about. wonderful work.

beth said...

I wanted to thank you for commenting on my blog--and add that I am loving your posts! I did my master's thesis on Till We Have Faces, and Lewis and L'Engle are among my favorite writers of all time. Thanks for sharing the poetry!

Doug P. Baker said...


Isn't it funny how a day of rest isn't? I find that too.


Thanks so much. Great to see you.


Where did you do that Master's thesis? What aspect of Till We Have Faces did you deal with? I'm interested. Did you use Tom Howard? He had some very interesting things to say about it, especially in regard to Christianity having much more in common with the old pagan religions than it does with modern bloodless atheism.

Devika said...

Came for a new one Doug...
Hope all fine,

will come again later...


Devika said...

Oh yeah..Sunday they say is sabaath...but to me it is somuch :)


Doug P. Baker said...

All is quite fine, Devika. I'm just caught up at the moment working on things I can't post. I keep thinking about Kate Chopin. I need to get a copy of her complete works from the library. I'm glad you made me think of it.