Saturday, December 18, 2010

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day*

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head**
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

---Henry Wordsworth Longfellow, 1864

*Usually sung to a tune written by Jean Baptiste Calkin
*This poem was written during the Civil War. Two stanzas further reflecting the sense of despair over the war are not usually included anymore in the hymn and are not included here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Moonless darkness stands between

Moonless darkness stands between.
Past, the Past, no more be seen!
But the Bethlehem-star may lead me
To the sight of Him Who freed me
From the self that I have been.
Make me pure, Lord: Thou art holy;
Make me meek, Lord: Thou wert lowly;
Now beginning, and alway:
Now begin, on Christmas day.
---Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins Icon

I've long been an admirer of Gerard Manley Hopkins' poetry. I wrote the thesis for my FIRST master's degree on his work. Father William Hart McNichols has created an "icon" of him in Eastern Orthodox style, although both were Roman Catholic priests.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Daughter Zion*

Daughter Zion, O rejoice;
Shout aloud with cheer, O Jerusalem.
See, your King now comes**, riding unto you***,
Royal Prince of Peace, He comes in God's own time.
Daughter Zion, O rejoice;
Shout aloud with cheer, O Jerusalem.
Hosanna, David's Son;
Blessed be Your people, O blessed One!
Your eternal Kingdom establish, LORD!
Hosanna, "Save us!", Eternal Word.
Hosanna, David's Son;
Blessed be Your people, O blessed One!

Hosanna, David's Son;
Be with joy now greeted, O King most mild!
Forever stands in peace Your royal Throne:
You, Eternal Father's Eternal Child.
Hosanna, David's Son;
Be with joy now greeted, O King most mild!
---German Adventslied; translated C. Marie Byars (c) 2004
*A German folk carol for Advent, set to music from G.F. Handel's Judas Maccabeus
**The first Sunday in Advent traditionally has a reading from Palm Sunday, which this song reflects. The "hope" that people had all those centuries before Christ came was to be fulfilled soon after Christ's entry into Jerusalem; He suffered, died on the cross and rose from the dead in that next week.
***The fact that Jesus was able to ride the "unbroken colt" of a donkey which had never been ridden before shows that He IS the Lord of Nature.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

O, Blessed Spring*

O, Blessed Spring where Word and Sign
Embrace us into Christ the Vine:
Here Christ enjoins each one to be
A branch of this life-giving Tree.

Through summer heat of youthful tears,
Uncertain faith, rebellious tears,
Sustained by Christ's infusing rain,
The boughs will shout for joy again.

When autumn cools and youth is cold,
When limbs their heavy harvest hold,
Then through us, warm, the Christ will move
With gifts of beauty, wisdom love.

As winter comes, as winters must,
We breathe our last, return to dust;
Still held in Christ, our souls take wing
And trust the promise of the spring.

Christ, Holy Vine, Christ, Living Tree,
Be praised for this blest mystery:
That Word and water thus revive
And join us to Your Tree of Life.
---Susan Palo Cherwien; (c) 1993
*(A hymn to be sung to the old English folk song, "The Water is Wide [I can't get o'er]"

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pied Beauty (Redux)

Always nice to repeat some of Hopkins work:

Glory be to God for dappled things,
For skies of couple-color as a brindled cow,
For rose-moles in stipple** upon trout that swim.
Fresh-firecoal chestnut falls***, finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced---fold, fallow, and plough;

And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, spare, original, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled, (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise Him.

---Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1877

*Pied: Having patches of more than one color; i.e. the "Pied Piper"
**Rose-colored dots or flecks
***Fallen chestnuts, red as burning coals

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Beside Still Waters

The LORD [Yahweh] is my shepherd;
I shall not [be in] want.
He maketh me to lie down in
green pastures:

He leadeth me beside the still waters.**
He restoreth my soul:

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me

in the presence of mine enemies:
Thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
----King David; Psalm 23 KJV*
*I normally don't read the King James Version anymore, but the etched-in beauty of this older version captivated me.
**Recently revisiting this Psalm (which, actually, is not my "favorite" of the Psalms, unlike many other people), I emphasized the "still waters" and "restoring my soul" because of some great, deep, long-sought but elusive peace which He recently brought to me & which I pray continues through the next leg of life's journey.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Crescent Moon

This is tonight's crescent Moon. (The New Moon was on Thursday the 7th.) See the Emily Dickison poem, "The Moon", which is linked in from below.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Harvest Moon


The Harvest Moon is the first full Moon at or right after the Autumn Equinox. This year, as a rare occurrence, it made its appearance right at the time of the Fall Equinox, which happened in the wee hours of September 23rd.
(This was taken on the night of September 22nd in the Western Hemisphere, leading into the equinox.)
The other bright spot is the planet Jupiter, which is yellowish in color in "real life." Its closeness to the Moon offered another point of interest for this year's Harvest Moon.
By the next night (the evening of the 23rd in the Western Hemisphere), the Moon had moved further away from Jupiter.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fringed Gentian

God made a little gentian;
It tried to be a rose
And failed, and all the summer laughed.
But just before the snows
There came a purple creature
That ravished all the hill;
And summer hid her forehead,
And mockery was still.
The frosts were her condition;
The Tyrian* would not come
Until the North evoked it.
"Creator! shall I bloom?"

---Emily Dickinson
*Tyrian: A shade of purple, named for the dye made in the ancient city of Tyre.

Friday, August 20, 2010

To Everything a Season

There is a time for everything,
And a season for every activity under heaven:
  • A time to be born and a time to die;
  • A time to plant and a time to uproot;
  • A time to kill off forcefully and a time to heal;
  • A time to tear down and a time to build;
  • A time to weep and a time to laugh;
  • A time to grieve and a time to dance;
  • A time to scatter stones about and a time to gather them up;
  • A time to embrace and a time to hold back;
  • A time to search and a time to abandon search;
  • A time to keep and a time to discard;
  • A time to tear and a time to mend;
  • A time to be silent and a time to speak
  • A time to love and a time to hate*;
  • A time for war and a time for peace....
[God] has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity into the hearts of people,
Yet they cannot grasp what God has done
From beginning to end. --(King Solomon?); Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 11
*We are called to truly hate what is evil or false; not to arbitrarily hate other people.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


[no mention of the Christian faith, but still a lovely poem BY a Christian!]
Winter is cold-hearted
Spring is yea and nay,
Autumn is a weather-cock
Blown every way:
Summer days for me
When every leaf is on its tree;

When Robin's not a beggar,
And Jenny Wren's a bride,
And larks hang singing, singing, singing,
Over the wheat-fields wide,
And anchored lilies ride,
And the pendulum spider
Swings from side to side

And blue-black beetles transact business,
And gnats fly in a host,
And furry caterpillars hasten
That no time be lost,
And moths grow fat and thrive,
And ladybirds arrive.

Before green apples blush,
Before green nuts embrown,
Why, one day in the country
Is worth a month in town;
Is worth a day and a year
Of the dusty, musty, lag-last fashion
That days drone elsewhere.

---Christina Rosetti, 1866

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Navy Hymn

(for American Independence Day, July 4th)

Eternal Father, Strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bid'st the mighty Ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep*;
O hear us when we cry to thee,
for those in peril on the sea.

O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy word,
Who walked'st on the foaming deep,
and calm amidst its rage didst sleep**;
Oh hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea!

Most Holy spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea!

O Trinity of love and power!
Our brethren shield in danger's hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe'er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee,
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.
---adapted from Rev. William Whiting, 1861

*From the Book of Job; Yahweh reminds Job that He set the limits of the ocean at the beginning of time.
**Jesus walked upon the water and calmed the stormy waters of the Sea of Galilee in the gospels. During one of these episodes, He slept on deck while the storm raged until His panicked disciples woke Him up.
***Genesis 1: The Holy Spirit brooded on the formlessness, the waters, before creation began

Sunday, June 20, 2010

When I Consider How My Light is Spent*

(Sonnet XIX)
When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide**
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide,
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask; But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His state
Is kingly
: thousands at His bidding speed
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait."

---John Milton

*A poem on his imprending blindness

**It would be a "mini-death" to have to give up writing poetry.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


O Earth, lie heavily upon her eyes;
Seal her sweet eyes weary of watching, Earth;
Lie close around her; leave no room for mirth
With its harsh laughter, nor for sound of sighs.
She hath no questions, she hath no replies,
Hushed in and curtained with a blessed dearth
Of all that irked her from the hour of birth;
With stillness that is almost Paradise.
Darkness more clear than noon-day holdeth her,
Silence more musical than any song;
Even her very heart has ceased to stir:
Until the morning of Eternity
Her rest shall not begin nor end, but be;
And when she wakes she will not think it long.
--Christina Rossetti

From Goblin Market and Other Poems (1862)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Literature Professor Passes

Robert Lee Conners Conners, Robert Lee, 72, passed away Tuesday, April 13, 2010 due to complications of Parkinson's disease. He was an English Literature Professor at many Lutheran colleges and universities during his 42 year career among which was St. John's in Winfield, Kansas. It was there that I met this fine professor & was introduced to the work of GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS in his literature classes. Bob encouraged the exploration of this work, which was very important for me in my life's journey.

Bob was survived by many children & grandchildren and will be missed by many.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Easter Song

I Got me flowers to straw Thy way,
I got me boughs off many a tree;
But Thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st Thy sweets along with Thee.

The sunne arising in the East,
Though he give light, and th’ East perfume,
If they should offer to contest
With Thy arising, they presume.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many sunnes to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we misse:
There is but one, and that one ever.

---by George Herbert (Welsh; 1593-1633)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Better Resurrection

[an excerpt; for the end of Lent & Easter]
I have no wit, no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numb'd too much for hopes or fears;
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimm'd with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.

My life is like a faded leaf,
My harvest dwindled to a husk:
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall--the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.
---Christina Rossetti

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"The Love of Christ Which Passeth Knowledge"

[A useful reflection for Lent]
I bore with thee long weary days and nights,
Through many pangs of heart, through many tears;
I bore with thee, thy hardness, coldness, slights,
For three and thirty years.

Who else had dared for thee what I have dared?
I plunged the depth most deep from bliss above;
I not My flesh, I not My spirit spared:
Give thou Me love for love.

For thee I thirsted in the daily drouth,
For thee I trembled in the nightly frost:
Much sweeter thou than honey to My mouth:
Why wilt thou still be lost?

I bore thee on My shoulders and rejoiced:
Men only marked upon My shoulders borne
The branding cross; and shouted hungry-voiced,
Or wagged their heads in scorn.
---Christina Rossetti

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Quality of Mercy

The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown.
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings.
But mercy is above this sceptered sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings;
It is an attribute of God himself;
And earthly power doth then show like God's
When mercy seasons justice.

---William Shakespeare; 1600
(Portia’s speech in Act IV, Scene 1 of The Merchant of Venice)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Poetic Prose

"For an afternoon's ramble ending in a picnic tea it would have been delightful. It had everything you could want on an occasion of that sort---rumbling waterfalls, silver cascades, deep, amber-coloured pools, mossy rocks, and deep moss on the banks in which you could sink over you ankles, every kind of fern, jewel-like dragon flies, sometimes a hawk overhead and once (Peter and Trumpkin both thought) an eagle." ---C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian; The Chronicles of Narnia

Monday, January 4, 2010


'Lord Babe, if Thou art He
We sought for patiently,
Where is Thy court?
Hither may prophecy and star resort;
Men heed not their report.' –
'Bow down and worship, righteous man:
This Infant of a span
Is He man sought for since the world began!' –
'Then, Lord, accept my gold, too base a thing
For Thee, of all kings King.' –

'Lord Babe, despite Thy youth
I hold Thee of a truth
Both Good and Great:
But wherefore dost Thou keep so mean a state,
Low-lying desolate?' –
'Bow down and worship, righteous seer:
The Lord our God is here
Approachable, Who bids us all draw near.' –
'Wherefore to Thee I offer frankincense,
Thou Sole Omnipotence.' –

'But I have only brought
Myrrh; no wise afterthought
Instructed me
To gather pearls or gems, or choice to see
Coral or ivory.' –
'Not least thine offering proves thee wise:
For myrrh means sacrifice,
And He that lives, this Same is He that dies.' –
'Then here is myrrh: alas, yea woe is me
That myrrh befitteth Thee.' –

Myrrh, frankincense, and gold:
And lo from wintry fold
Good-will doth bring
A Lamb, the innocent likeness of this King
Whom stars and seraphs sing:
And lo the bird of love, a Dove,
Flutters and coos above:
And Dove and Lamb and Babe agree in love: –
Come all mankind, come all creation hither,
Come, worship Christ together.

--Christina Rosetti; Before 1886