Thursday, December 24, 2009

That's How I Believe

Here is a snippet from BRIDESHEAD REVISITED, by Evelyn Waugh. Charles Ryder, the atheist, and Sebastian Flyte, the Catholic, are discussing religion.

"Oh dear, it's very difficult being Catholic."

"Does it make much difference to you?"

"Of course. All the time."

"Well, I can't say I've noticed it. Are you struggling against temptation? You don't seem much more virtuous than me."

"I'm very, very much wickeder," said Sebastion indignantly.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

As I Bent Beneath The Rod

Rather than introducing this poem, today I will let Robert Service introduce it. Here is his poem The Quest along with his own preface to it.

"Calvert tries to paint more than the thing he sees; he tries to paint behind it, to express its spirit. He believes the Beauty is God made manifest, and that when we discover Him in Nature we discover Him in ourselves.

But Calvert did not always see thus. At one time he was a Pagan,

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I Am The Beauty That I See


I wish that I could understand
The moving marvel of my Hand;
I watch my fingers turn and twist,
The supple bending of my wrist,
the dainty touch of finger-tip,
The steel intensity of grip;
A tool of exquisite design,
With pride I thnk: "It's mine! It's mine!"

Monday, December 21, 2009

My Hour Divinely Closes

Robert Service, in a voice that hardly will recall to mind his older Cheechako ballads. In this one do you hear just a little bat-squeak echo of James Thurber's "Secret Life of Walter Mitty."


Day after day behold me plying
My pen within an office drear;
The dullest dog, till homeward bound hieing,
Then lo! I reign a king of cheer.
A throne have I of padded leather,
A little court of kiddies three,

Sunday, December 20, 2009

If The Worst Had Been The Best

I have posted poems from Robert Service before, so I won't introduce him. If you are interested, just find his name in the list on the left and see my other posts on him.

This poem allows for at least two widely divergent readings. I find them both intriguing and can't quite decide which to allow precedence in my mind.

When I read it I think of a painting by Dante Rossetti, but I am not quite sure that Service had the same painting in mind

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Goodest Man Ever You Saw

Yesterday we saw a snippet from the life of the real and original Raggedy Ann. Today we have a picture (a word picture) of the real and original Raggedy Andy. Written by the Raggedy Man's good friend, Bud (aka James Whitcomb Riley).


O The Raggedy Man! He works fer Pa;
An' he's the goodest man ever you saw!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

An' Dry the Orphant's Tear

Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy were real people! Who knew? Not me!
Their original names were Mary Alice Smith Gray and Wesley Gray. I highly recommend reading the history of these two.

Or you can take the version I will post here (Annie today, Andy tomorrow) written by a man who knew them well decades before they became dolls and one of the most instantly recognizable images in the modern age.

Incidentally it was Mary Alice (or Raggedy Ann, or Annie) who first prompted the young Bud to begin writing. And it was his writing that turned her into a worldwide sensation that now includes poems, songs, dolls, Broadway and movies.


To all the little children: - The happy ones; and sad ones;

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Old Aunt Mary's

James Whitcomb Riley would have been my neighbor, almost. Just a few short miles between our homes. A few short miles and about a hundred years. But, had our times coincided, we might have met. And he would have been glad to meet me! He was just that kind of person, the kind of person who when he meets you he really meets you. When he sees you, he really sees you. When you talk, he actually listens. He was a truly unusual person in this regard.

He has few if any rivals to the title of America's humblest poet. Nearly as popular in America as Mark Twain for their humorous lectures, in personality and biography the two could hardly be more different. The one arrogant and self promoting, the other intentionally introspective and self effacing. The one ostentatious to the point that he bankrupted his own millions, the other frugal and generous and simple in his habits.

Don't get me wrong, I love Mark Twain also, but for a neighbor or a friend I'd always choose James Whitcomb Riley!


Wasn't it pleasant. O brother mine,
In those old days of the lost sunshine

Monday, December 7, 2009

We Got Talking

From the man who gave us The House At Pooh Corner:

Puppy and I

I met a Man as I went walking;
We got talking,
Man and I.
"Where are you going to, Man?" I said

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

If Men Were Angels

"If men were angels, no government would be necessary." -- James Madison

In other words, we deserve what we get.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Survival of a Hundred Defeats

Hot salt tears burned my cheeks as I read the following:

"If the world becomes pagan and perishes, the last man left alive would do well to quote the Iliad and die.

But in this one great human revelation of antiquity there is another element of great historical importance; which has hardly

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Royal Puns

My young daughter Hope and I were writing messages to each other in picture writing earlier today. She would draw an eye (meaning "I") then put an "m" (meaning "am") then draw a hat (meaning "at") etc. It was great fun making the messages and trying to figure them out. We shared a great laugh, not so much over the messages as over our ability to make and to decode them. So I was rather intrigued when in my evening reading I came across the following wisdom on the origins of written language.

GK Chesterton, writing about the invention of writing by the folk living on the banks of the Nile:

Monday, November 9, 2009

Scissors, Pants and Glasses

I've noticed that some funny words only exist in English in the plural. We can hold a pair of scissors, but there is no such thing as a single scissor. And we put on our pants, one leg at a time, but still that one leg is in our pants, not our pant.

Of course, there can be scissor marks on a piece of paper,

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Weight of an Apple

David Bazan is making a production of losing his faith. Never mind that he is one of the great poets of our time; never mind that he is a groovy musician; never mind that he is a college party philosopher. Never mind that I suspect he gets drunk at breakfast. His questions are serious, and I think they are valid.

This is the man who sang a couple years ago:

"i could buy you a drink
i could tell you all about it
i could tell you why i doubt it
and why i still believe"

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

This World Of Dew

Life is temporary and fragile, like a dewdrop. This whole world is temporary and fragile. Getting attached to life and this world is silly, or so Issa would like to believe. So his Buddhism taught him. His philosophy created the ideals of non-resistance and unsurprised acceptance of suffering in this transient world. After all, nothing could last.

Still, his heart would cry out against the tyranny of such a philosophy. His heart didn't mirror the ideals.

Monday, October 26, 2009

After Studying The World

I know I've talked about him before, but let me do it again.

One of the most vibrant sites devoted to poetry on the whole of the WWW is Poefrika run by Rethabile Masilo. Continually, for years on end

'Twas Whispered In Heaven

Grace put me in the mood for riddles. Here is one I've never been able to solve. Who can help me?

'Twas whispered in Heaven,
'twas muttered in hell,
And echo caught faintly
the sound as it fell;
On the confines of earth
'twas permitted to rest,
And in the depths of the ocean

This Complicated World

As long as I'm posting Muslim poets . . .

Who are we in this complicated world?
if we come to sleep we are His drowsy ones.
and if we come to wake we are in His hands.
if we come to weeping,

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Without Cause God Gave Us Being

In a mood to read Rumi this evening. He is of course THE poet of love. And for that I adore him. But it is amazing how there is always a variety of totally unrelated but captivating thoughts that one can take away from him. For that I am in awe of him!


Love is reckless; not reason.
Reason seeks a profit.
Love comes on strong, consuming herself, unabashed.

Yet, in the midst of suffering,

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Soak Into My Pores

In discussing the way that different authors in the Old Testament are constantly quoting, arguing, and alluding to each other's writing, Walter Brueggemann says:

Those who are outsiders to the text may spot only the most explicit quotations, but those who are situated deeply and imaginatively

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ivory Tower Book-Heads

I just got an email from Richard Weikart that his new book has just come out. Four years ago I reviewed his book FROM DARWIN TO HITLER for Christianity and Society Journal. It really rocked my world and helped to clarify my focus in my own work on a book about God's image. As I just told Weikart, part of my goal became to present a Christian antithesis to the fascist ethic that Weikart had described.

So I am eagerly waiting for my copy of his new book, HITLER'S ETHIC: THE NAZI PURSUIT OF EVOLUTIONARY PROGRESS

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Strange Peace And Rest

The poetry of Edward Rowland Sill was quite popular during his lifetime, the late 1800's. His work appeared in the popular magazines under many pseudonyms, though it seems that these pen names were generally recognized as being his signatures. No one seems to have been fooled.

But in the years that followed, the world's taste in poetry took a sharp turn toward the intellectual. TS Eliot began writing; Hopkins was finally printed; James Joyce and Ezra Pound became the new status quo. Modernism was born

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Our Master Lies Asleep


Our Master lies asleep and is at rest:
His heart has ceased to bleed, His Eye to weep:
The sun ashamed has dropt in the west:
Our Master lies asleep.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Contemplative Bible Study

Don't we Americans often have a very goal-oriented approach to life? Every undertaking is evaluated based on the projected outcomes. We have all asked ourselves, "What did I expect would happen?"

This is good to an extent. We shouldn't be absolutely random in our approach to life.

But sometimes it doesn't seem to fit the situation. A man I know has decided to become my friend in order to get me to enter into a business with him. My entering will help him. He is being very goal-oriented. Very American. Very Western.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A New Review

Just today I saw a new review of my book "Covenant and Community." It came out a couple of days ago in Tradition and Discovery journal, a journal dedicated to the philosophy of Michael Polanyi.

Polanyi's insights concerning "indwelling"

Friday, July 31, 2009

Coraline Was Bored

Rereading CORALINE for the umpteenth time. Haven't seen the movie yet; I'm a little nervous that it will taint the way I see the story in my own mind.

Here is one of my favorite scenes from early in the book, before the adventure begins.

Coraline was bored.

She flipped through a book

Friday, July 10, 2009

Glory Be To God For Dappled Things

Another from Gerard Manley Hopkins.


Glory be to God for dappled things--
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Christ At All Hazards

Gerard Manley Hopkins was converted to Roman Catholicism as an adult, and soon committed himself to the strict life of a Jesuit monk. Along with his renunciation of the world, he renounced poetry, though he secretly longed to be reunited with it, until such a time as his superiors would give it back to him. In fact he burned most of his earlier poetry (what a loss to the world!).

In reality, there was nothing in the vows that forbade poetry. He was free to pursue a literary life and be a devout Jesuit. It seems that he turned his back on poetry in some sort of extrapolation of a vow of silence. He makes a couple of veiled references to a similar idea.

But while he longed to return to poetry

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Kind Of Thing That Always Does Take Place

"Poetry is the most direct and simple means of expressing oneself in words: the most primitive nations have poetry, but only quite well developed civilizations can produce good prose. So don't think of poetry as a perverse and unnatural way of distorting ordinary prose statements: prose is a much less natural way of speaking than poetry is. If you listen to small children,

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Naw Sir, I Ain't Got It Yit

I found that Zora Neale Hurston story I was looking for.

Hurston was many things: poet, fiction writer, public speaker, political essayist, social critic, center of the Harlem Renaisance, America's premier folklorist. And she was a first rate anthropologist.

As a folklorist and anthropologist she travelled the American south collecting the old tales that had been passed down through the African American community since the days of slavery. And thank God she did, for within a few years it would have been impossible to collect such stories from people who had been born under slavery. Not only did she collect the stories,

Monday, July 6, 2009

Upon Nothing

Aphra Behn based some of the most baudy characters in her plays on John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester, whom she knew because they were both among the most notable figures of the court of Charles II. Wilmot was, in a court of outrageous hooligans, perhaps the most perverse of them all.

Yet, I am reminded of Salieri's complaint, that God should have chosen to give such talent to such a childish reprehensible fool as Mozart. (At least such a rephrehensible fool as the movie version of Mozart.) For Wilmot's talent as a wordsmith is great,

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Love In Fantastic Triumph Sate

Aphra Behn wrote in the days just after Shakespeare. She was, by all accounts, not your average woman.

As a Tory she staunchly defended the King, against the Parliament. She believed in kings in the abstract sense. Which king it happened to be made little difference. He could be a good king or a bad king, a wise king or a foolish king. In fact this particular king was neither good nor wise, as Aphra Behn would learn. Charles II perfectly fit his epitaph, written by his close friend John Wilmot the Earl of Rochester:

Here lies our Sovereign Lord the King,
Whose word no man relies on,
Who never said a foolish thing,
Nor ever did a wise one.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

O Captain! My Captain! Rise Up And Hear The Bells!

The Revolution was fought to procure "freedom" for the inhabitants of America. But it was eighty years before that freedom was extended to a very large segment of the American population.

Somehow much of the white population was content to live in the freedom that we had gained, but felt no need to see that freedom made universal. Really that isn't much different than the Church, is it? Don't we all to often get comfortable in our own freedom but feel little need to see that freedom made universal? If the apathy of the majority of Americans in our first eighty years seems pathetic (and it does!) then what of our own apathy?

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Sunshine Patriot

In the year leading up to the American Revolution there were many opinions among the people as to what the status of the colonies should be. A slowly growing number favored independence, but at the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence it was far from unanimous. In fact loyalty to the English Crown was still high in many people's hearts. So many had been born there, or their parents had. To be loyal to the Crown was to be a patriot. To be disloyal was to be a traitor. And nobody wants to be a traitor.

And this was a religious land. To fight against the king whom God had placed over us was not only traitorous, many thought it blasphemous.

In order for the revolutionary conspirators to gain the public sympathy, and the public rifles, they had to wage a war of words

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Shot Heard Round The World

Sixty-three years after the signing of the Declaration, sixty-four years after the Revolution began, a monument was put up near a bridge that Paul Revere had ridden over on his historic messenger ride. His ride began in the evening of the 18th of April; Emerson's poem commemorates the events that it caused on the 19th.

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled;

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Accepts, But Does Not Clutch The Crown

As Americans we are not really big on dates. There are only two that we really tend to remember.

One is coming up in a few days. We all know that on the fourth of July, in 1776, our forefathers signed a document that declared our land to be free from the rule of England. It took another seven years of war to make that declaration of independence accepted by England and the rest of the world.

But that document did not begin the war.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Fly To Some Lone Lovely Dell

Having read a great deal of the poetry of Harley Coleridge and Sara Coleridge, I have been eager to read some of the poetry of Derwent Coleridge, the third of the three children of STC who lived. (There was another, a brother, who died very young.)

A friend is looking for his poems on my behalf, hopefully saved somewhere sometime. Some few were published in newspapers, but they do not seem ever to have been collected. Likely there are many more that were never published. And were those newspapers saved? I don't yet know.

Here is the first that I have found. It is a youthful venture,

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Unwritable Words

In keeping with the idea of yesterday's post, here is a tidbit that strikes me as humorous.

English speakers have long used a sort of clicking sound that we make by putting the tip of our tongues to the roof of our mouths just behind our front teeth. Then we suck in our breath ever so slightly, making a longer version of a click.

In the singular (one click) it can express exasperation or dissappointment. In the double, it means dissaproval. In this sense (double) we often use it ironically, signalling mock dissaproval.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Ain't You Learnt Them Letters?

Help me, help me, help me!

I am looking for a story that I used when I was teaching American Literature. I'm 98% sure that it was by Zora Neale Hurston. But I can't remember the name.

Unfortunately I read it to the class; I didn't assign them to read it. If I had assigned it, then I would have the record of the assignment in the handouts I prepared for each class. But no, I didn't assign it. I read it to them. No record. Bah!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Consanguinity: Just Call Them A Blessing

I have a linguistic question for anyone who can help.

Any decent language has special terms for all the members of one's family. In English we recognize only a very few of these. Mother, Father, Brother, Sister. So far so good.

Cousin (Is that a boy cousin or a girl cousin? Is it on the mother's side or the father's? Is it your father's sister's child, or your father's brother's child?)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Why Can Children Understand?

"Why can children understand stories so much earlier than logic?" Jerome Bruner, quoted by John Deely .

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A History Of Your True Loves

Jim Carroll, a New York poet and rock singer, sang in one of his songs: "It must be a great thing to be a cashier in a bookstore and to be surrounded by a history of your true loves." I've always thought he was right, although a librarian friend confided that it is frustating too, to be surrounded by all those true loves and have no time to read them.

No one would have read this blog for long who did not love poetry. I seem to stick pretty close to poetry and poets, more so than I intended when I began blogging. I had intended to include more polemical theological discussion, of which there has been little.

Friday, June 19, 2009

If We But Knew What We Do

When I was small I lived in the far north country of Minnesota. A twenty minutes walk could bring me to a dozen lakes, or to two houses. Besides that it was all forest, glorious forest that had not been touched in thousands of years. That was my land, my playplace, my sanctuary, my kingdom. I roamed those forests from sun-up to sun-down, getting to know the trees, the shrubs, each lady-slipper and violet that grew in their shade.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The World Is Heartsick . . . Or Is It?

Ever notice how sometimes it seems that when you listen to one person, you agree; you listen to someone else arguing with them and agree with that person too?

It reminds me of the scene in Fiddler On The Roof when there is an argument between a young radical student and an old villager. The men of the village stand around enjoying the spectacle.

The boy makes a good point, to which Tevye heartily chimes in, "He is right."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Perfect And Absolute Blank

A dear old friend and I have been arguing for more than a decade now. I will give you first his side and his reasons.

He is the pastor of a small church. Intentionally he has created in the church a very non-churchy atmosphere, and he has succeeded in attracting a good group of the down and out of our society. As he desired, he is building a church almost entirely composed from people who did not grow up in church and have very little knowledge of the Bible.

Friday, June 12, 2009

She Is Breeding Again!

A couple of days ago Mary Rae posted a great poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge that he wrote to his eldest son, Hartley. Please take a look at it before you read the following.

Take a moment, having read that poem, to wish that your father had written something like it to you when you were but a diapered doll. If he did, please tell us about it! We would love to hear!


That poem shows Samuel Taylor Coleridge at his parental best! He is a loving father delighting in his child!

But six years later

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Playing The Part Of Poet

Garbage can be literature. The voice is all. That is the main concept that I always strove to leave with my literature students. The filth on bathroom walls might be literature, albeit a low form of it. And eloquence might fall short.

To qualify as literature, a group of words (usually but not always written) must leave us access to the real voice of the author or authors.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Young Lamb's Heart Among The Full-Grown Flocks

William Blake was fond of reminding anyone who would listen that in the Bible poets and prophets were but two ways of looking at the same role. Poets were prophets and prophets were poets. These days we tend to draw a firmer line between the two, but even now the lines will blur at times.

The Coleridge children had the unusual opportunity of growing up with many of the greatest poets of the time being their neighbors and friends. When Hartley Coleridge was six, William Wordsworth wrote the following poem for him,

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

We Grappled Like Two Wrestlers

Two brothers, intimate companions in their early years, had hardly seen each other for twenty years. One, Derwent Coleridge, had grown into a stalwart pastor, a teacher of the eternal truths of Scripture. The other, Hartley Coleridge, had become something of a recluse, though not at all an outcast, from society. He kept himself, of his own volition, apart from the crowd. Derwent, the prosaic teacher, and Hartley, the poetic mystic: polar opposites except that they shared a common ideological and biological heritage. When they met at last, Hartley "was at once excited and embarrassed." (Derwent's description) It was both a joyous reunion, and also an awkward one, for Hartley felt overwhelmingly that he had let their parents down in their hopes for him. This guilt had oppressed him for many years.

After the meeting Hartley composed the following verses, which he sent to Derwent.

We grappled like two wrestlers, long and hard,

Monday, June 8, 2009

Why Should I Move My Tongue?

I have been considering the curiosity of tonal languages lately. My mother's native tongue is Sango, which has three tones. Mandarine has four. Attic Greek had, I think, three.

Tonal languages are those in which the tone of the voice has as much to do with the meaning of a word or phrase as does the pronunciation of the vowels and consonants. Thus, in the Mandarin language, the word "ba," if pronounced in a steady normally pitched voice, means the number eight. However, if it is pronounced with a falling and then a rising in the tone it becomes the verb "to hold."

Sunday, June 7, 2009

We Are Called By His Name

Two by William Blake, a matched pair although they originally appeared in different books:


Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee;
Gave thee life and bid thee feed
By the stream and o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;

The Shadow Of Oblivion

"The shadow of oblivion follows close upon our steps, covering up our path as we proceed. If we do not keep an eye behind us, we soon lose sight of our past selves;

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Such A Vile Short Plumpness

From the very beginning Samuel Taylor Coleridge was obsessed with the sounds of words.

"From my earliest years I have had a feeling of Dislike and Disgust connected with my own Christian Names: such a vile short plumpness, such a dull abortive smartness in the first Syllable, and this so harshly contrasted by the obscurity and indefiniteness of the syllable Vowel, and the feebleness of the uncovered liquid, with which it ends--the wabble it makes, and staggering betweeen a di--and a tri-syllable--

Friday, June 5, 2009

Such Thought Possessed The Nameless Artist's Mind

Paul the appostle once looked at an altar dedicated TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. This unknown god, he told a group of philosophers and religious speculators, was not unknown to Paul. "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everthing else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Barrage Of Calculated Effects

When Packer uses the word "should" in the following, he means it in the sense of "would."

"If we regarded it as our job, not simply to present Christ, but actually to produce converts--to evangelize, not only faithfully, but also successfully--our approach to evangelism would become pragmatic and calculating. We should conclude that our basic equipment, both for personal dealing and for public preaching, must be twofold.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Time To Dance Is Not To Woo

The feminism that I hear in Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poems seems to me to be both much more honest and infinitely more appealing than the brand of feminism that rules the world these days. It is in fact feminine, for it exalts the feminine; today's variety seems intent on destroying the whole concept of the feminine.


'Yes,' I answered you last night;
'No,' this morning, sir, I say:
Colors seen by candle-light
Will not look the same by day.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Your Love Was Writ In Sand

One doesn't have to look very far to find massive amounts of literary criticism claiming Christina Rossetti as a forerunner of the feminist movement. I have even seen articles touting Goblin Market as Rossetti's lesbian manifesto.

I agree that she was a very strong woman, impressively so. Yes, I would call her a feminist. The trouble is that while she was a feminist, the movement that now bears that name is something entirely different than anything that Rossetti ever contemplated.

In Cousin Kate we hear

Monday, June 1, 2009

Decaying More And More

Although many, maybe even most, poets occasionally experiment with non-standard meters, a few have made such experimentation a major focus of their work. Among them, George Herbert stands at the top, both because he was one of the first to do extensive experimentation in English meter and because his experiments went further than most before or since.

Despite the appearance of some of his outlandishly styled poems,

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Like A Rhythmic Fate Sublime

In the final stanza of the prologue to the Rhyme of the Dutchess May, Elizabeth Barrett Browning explains exactly what she is doing with the rhymic interlude in the midst of each stanza. This is a longish poem, and the short line, "Toll slowly," disrupts the otherwise standard rhythm of all 112 verses.

The scene is that she is reading a very sad tale, a tale of death, in a churchyard, while the church bell continuously tolls for a funeral. As Browning explains in the prologue, "The solemn knell fell in with the tale of life and sin, like a rhythmic fate sublime."

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Among Crags In Its Flurry

Robert Southey was a bigwig by anyone's standards. He was the poet laureate of Great Brittain for almost half his life. He wrote scholarly works on some of the great poets, including one on William Cowper. He married Coleridge's sister and was pals with Walter Landor Savage and William Wordsworth. He was a poet, a scholar, a role model to poets and a statesman. No small resume!

But he was not a distant father,

Friday, May 29, 2009

Breath And Smell

I can't get over what a complex effect Langston Hughes creates by mixing just a couple of rhythms together in such a small space. Again, the rhythmic effect on our mouths and our ears is absolutely essential to the overall effect of the poem. I dare say that if you read it silently (without even hearing it in your mind) you won't be able to understand it.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

There Shall Be One People

In THE ANVIL by the great Rudyard Kipling we hear an (I think) unprecedented rhythm. In each of the three stanzas the lines are arranged with six stresses in the first line, five in the second, six in the third and seven(!) in the last. 6-5-6-7! Who else but Kipling would have dared? The miracle of the poem is that the oddity of the line length does not (at least to my ear) intrude on our minds as we read it. It is hardly noticable.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My Soul Round Me Doth Roll

Even Perfection Craves Diversity

Over the years many poets have played with the meter of their poems, trying out different schemes just for the fun of seeing how they work. Some work well, others don't.

For Milton's Paradise Lost, his celebrated blank verse was indubitably the right choice. Throughout the book he sticks very close to the consistent use of the five stressed line, borrowing what has been called "Marlowe's mighy line."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Where Love Is There God Is Also

This is meant to follow a couple of posts by John W. May on the work of Christina Rossetti.

Christina Rossetti's attitude toward the religion that was the very center of her life and her art was highly meditative, one could even say that it was mystical. In this she was emphatically out of step with the Anglican Church of which she was a part, and indeed with all of Western culture in the nineteenth century. It was a time when "progress," "science," and "conquest" were quickly becoming the religion both in and out of the Church. The humble introspective spirit she displayed shines all the more brightly for its being so rare in her day as it is in ours.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

15,000 Days Old

Today I am 15,000 days old. Happy birthday to me!

Of those 15000 days, I've spent approximately:

4000 days sleeping;
3121 days working for pay;
2000 days reading;
840 days in school;

Thursday, May 14, 2009

On Some Fond Breast The Parting Soul Relies

Despite its name, the following was not written in a country churchyard, but was painstakingly written and re-written over the course of at least six years, maybe as long as nine years. (Why is it that poets like to create the illusion that poems spring fully formed from their pens?) Just for fun I've added in a stanza that was in the poem for awhile, but that Gray ultimately eliminated before publication. Those of you who already know the poem, can you spot the one that didn't make it past his final re-write?

Ellegy Written in a Country Churchyard
by Thomas Gray

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lived Between You and Me

Martin Buber was one of the greatest philosophers last century. His deceptively short treatise on love, I And Thou, is among the most beautiful books I've ever encountered.

He also wrote extensively of Hasidism, a mystic sect of Judaism that has sprouted among the very poor Jews of Eastern Europe. Besides writing for scholars and learned men, he also collected and composed many stories for children. His Tales of the Hasidim

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Page of Prancing Poetry

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any courser like a page
Of prancing poetry.

Monday, May 11, 2009

God's Self-Revelation

God’s Image as Self-Revelation

When God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness,” notice who was taking responsibility for making us in his image. God himself was. This point is very important for a couple of reasons. First, God will not fail in this proposal any more than he fails in any other proposal. Because God decided to make us to be his image, we will finally fulfill that role and become that which we were created to be.

Equally significant to the present discussion is the fact that God is proposing to make us in his own self-image.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Like A Pressed Flower

INKSPELL, the second in the INKHEART trilogy, is already fascinating in the first few chapters. Cornelia Funke's THE THIEF LORD is among my very favorites, so I went looking to see what else she has available.

INKSPELL is remarkably set simultaneously in two different worlds. Her debt to CS Lewis is obvious, but she doesn't live their as a burglar. Instead she moves into (what seem to me) completely new realms of imagination. Her first world is ours,

Monday, May 4, 2009

Eavesdropping on Theology Class

I recently learned that my book, Covenant and Community, has been assigned as required reading for a course on "Theology of the Human" at Trinity College, University of Toronto. The course, as I understand it, is the "what," "how," and "why" of being human, all from a biblical perspective. Thus it perfectly corresponds to the book, which is a study of the "what," "how," and "why" of God's image.

I would be curious to eavesdrop

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Believing in the Universe

Reading Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Terribly irreverant, mocks a version of end time events that no one I've ever come across holds to. To be truly sacreligious they would have needed to do their homework.

But it is sprinkled with little gems such as the following.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Heal The Earth's Wounds

I just returned from a glorious week at the Overseas Mission Study Center in New Haven, CT. Together with God's people from all corners of the globe, representing many languages and cultures, I had the joy of studying a portion of Isaiah (my favorite biblical author) that stressed the international and multicultural nature of the Kingdom of our God.

Invigorated and refreshed, I came home and opened a book of my favorite Russian poet, Nika Turbina,

Thursday, April 23, 2009

How Can I Bear It; Buried Here?

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

All I could see from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood;
I turned and looked another way,
And saw three islands in a bay.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Before the Law

Does God love us and save us because we obey him, or do we obey him because he loves and saves us?

It's an ancient question, to which we all know the answer, but I think the following quote is both concise and potent. Perhaps it is so potent because it is so concise.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

That Gav'st A Son


Hear me, O God!
A broken heart
Is my best part:
Use still thy rod
That I may prove
Therein, thy Love.

If thou hadst not
Been stern to me,

Monday, January 19, 2009

Poe at 200

Oops, I had the day flagged, but then I got too busy to post about poor old EAP! I missed his birthday!

Sorry Edgar!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Old And Weak, But No Matter

Today is Robert Servic's birthday. It seems appropriate that he would have been born in the height of the winter, for he gloried in the extremes of what the Yukon had to offer, the blizzards as well as the shining summers.

The Parson's Son may read to some as a warning against traveling in that wilderness, but to some of us it sounds more like an advertisement. The terrors and troubles were (along with gold) among the lures that took men and kept men in that powerful wild land.

The Parson’s Son
This is the song of the parson's son, as he squats in his shack alone,
On the wild, weird nights, when the Northern Lights shoot up from the frozen zone,