Thursday, April 30, 2015

School out of doors

. . . while I'm reading The Song of Roland, my twelve year old daughter is decorating her sister's hair . . .

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

i thank You God for most this amazing

~ E.E. Cummings (1894-9162)

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 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)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Hymn for the Third Sunday of Easter

The strife is o’er, the battle done
 ~ tr. from Latin by Francis Potts (1832-1909)

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

The strife is o’er, the battle done,
the victory of life is won;
the song of triumph has begun.

The powers of death have done their worst,
but Christ their legions hath dispersed:
let shout of holy joy outburst.

The three sad days are quickly sped,
he rises glorious from the dead:
all glory to our risen Head!

He closed the yawning gates of hell,
the bars from heaven’s high portals fell;
let hymns of praise his triumphs tell!

Lord! by the stripes which wounded thee,
from death’s dread sting thy servants free,
that we may live and sing to thee.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Listeners

~ Walter De la Mare (1873-1956)

“Is there anybody there?” said the Traveler,  
   Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses  
   Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,  
   Above the Traveler’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;  
   “Is there anybody there?” he said.
But no one descended to the Traveler;  
   No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,  
   Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners  
   That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight  
   To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,  
   That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken  
   By the lonely Traveler’s call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,  
   Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,  
   ’Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even  
   Louder, and lifted his head:—
“Tell them I came, and no one answered,  
   That I kept my word,” he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,  
   Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house  
   From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,  
   And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,  
   When the plunging hoofs were gone.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Spring Morning

~ Meng Haoran (689-740) [tr. Ulrich Theobald]

I awake light-hearted this morning of Spring,
Everywhere round me the singing of birds—
But now I remember the night, the storm,
And I wonder how many blossoms were broken.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


~ Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

The rain is raining all around,
    It falls on field and tree,
It rains on the umbrellas here,
    And on the ships at sea.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Cloud

~ Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
    From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
    In their noonday dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
    The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother’s breast,
    As she dances about the sun.
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
    And whiten the green plains under;
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
    And laugh as I pass in thunder.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Welcome, happy morning!

~ Venantius Honorius Fortunatus (540?-600?)
[tr. John Ellerton (1826-1893)]

“Welcome, happy morning!” age to age shall say:
hell today is vanquished, heaven is won today!
Lo! the dead is living, God for evermore!
Him their true Creator, all his works adore!

Earth her joy confesses, clothing her for spring,
all fresh gifts return with her returning King:
bloom in every meadow, leaves on every bough,
speak his sorrow ended, hail his triumph now.

Months in due succession, days of lengthening light,
hours and passing moments praise thee in their flight.
Brightness of the morning, sky and fields and sea,
Vanquisher of darkness, bring their praise to thee.

Maker and Redeemer, life and health of all,
thou from heaven beholding human nature’s fall,
of the Father’s Godhead true and only Son,
mankind to deliver, manhood didst put on.

Thou, of life the Author, death didst undergo,
tread the path of darkness, saving strength to show;
come then, true and faithful, now fulfill thy word,
’tis thine own third morning! rise, O buried Lord!

Loose the souls long prisoned, bound with Satan’s chain;
all that now is fallen raise to life again;
show thy face in brightness, bid the nations see;
bring again our daylight: day returns with thee!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

“O wind, where have you been”

~ Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894)

O wind, where have you been,
    That you blow so sweet?
Among the violets
    Which blossom at your feet.

The honeysuckle waits
    For Summer and for heat
But violets in the chilly Spring
   Make the turf so sweet.

Friday, April 10, 2015

“it smells like spring”

~ Violin Daughter (b. 1998)

it smells like spring

     the grass’s new growth is soft and green and

     the air is alive

peach blossoms are soft beside the dark wood of winter

    and when i look up

    i see new green buds






Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Lark Ascending

When I planned the post for yesterday I had intended to post Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “The Lark Ascending,” to go along with it, but when I was looking for a good recording to post here I learned two things. The first was that it was originally composed for piano and violin in 1920. He soon rescored it for solo violin and orchestra, which is the version most of us are familiar with. The second was that Vaughn Williams was inspired by a poem of the same name. So of course, I had to find both a recording of the original composition, and the poem which inspired it. The poem’s longer than what I usually post here—it takes about as long to read aloud as it takes the music to play. That’s probably not a coincidence, is it?


The Lark Ascending

George Meredith (1828–1909)

He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake,
All intervolv’d and spreading wide,
Like water-dimples down a tide
Where ripple ripple overcurls
And eddy into eddy whirls;
A press of hurried notes that run
So fleet they scarce are more than one,
Yet changingly the trills repeat
And linger ringing while they fleet,
Sweet to the quick o’ the ear, and dear
To her beyond the handmaid ear,
Who sits beside our inner spring,
Too often dry for this he brings,
Which seems the very jet of earth
At sight of sun, her music’ mirth,
As up he wings the spiral stair,
A song of light, and pierces air
With fountain ardor, fountain play,
To reach the shining tops of day,
And drink in everything discern’d
An ecstasy to music turn’d,
Impell’d by what his happy bill
Disperses; drinking showering still,
Unthinking save that he may give
His voice the outlet, there to live
Renew’d in endless notes of glee,
So thirsty of his voice is he,
For all to hear and all to know
That he is joy, awake, aglow,
The tumult of the heart to hear
Through pureness filter’d crystal-clear,
And know the pleasure sprinkled bright
By simple singing of delight,
Shrill, irreflective, unrestrain’d,
Rapt, ringing, on the jet sustain’d
Without a break, without a fall,
Sweet-silvery, sheer lyrical,
Perennial, quavering up the chord
Like myriad dews of sunny sward
The trembling into fulness shine,
And sparkle dropping argentine;
Such wooing as the ear receives
From zephyr caught in choric leaves
Of aspens when their chattering net
Is flush’d to white with shivers wet;
and such the water-spirit’s chime
On mountain heights in morning’s prime,
Too freshly sweet to seem excess,
Too animate to need a stress;
But wider over many heads
The starry voice ascending spread,
Awakening, as it waxes thin,
The best in us to him akin;
And every face to watch him rais’d,
Puts on the light of children prais’d,
So rich our human pleasure ripes
When sweetness on sincereness pipes,
Though nought be promis’d from the seas,
But only a soft-ruffling breeze
Sweep glittering on  a still content,
Serenity in ravishment.

For singing till his heaven fills,
’T is love of earth that he instill,
And ever winging up an dup,
Our valley is his golden cup,
And he the wine which overflows
To lift us with him as he goes:
The woods and brooks, the sheep and kine
He is, the hiss, the human line,
The meadows green, the fallows brown,
The dreams of labor in the town;
He sings the sap, the quicken’d veins;
The wedding song of sun and rains
He is, the dance of children, thanks
Of sowers, shout of primrose-banks,
And eye of violets while they breathe;
All these the circling song will wreathe,
And you shall hear the herb and tree,
The better heart of men shall see,
Shall feel celestially, as long
As you crave nothing save the song.
Was never voice of ours could say
Our inmost in the sweetest way,
Like yonder voice aloft, and link
All hearers in the song they drink:
Our wisdom speaks from failing blood,
Our passion is too full in flood,
We want the key of his wild note
Of truthful in a tuneful throat,
The song seraphically free
Of taint of personality,
So pure that it salutes the suns
The voice of one for millions,
In whom the millions rejoice
For giving their one spirit voice.
Yet men have we, whom we revere,
Now names, and men still housing here,
Whose lives, by many a battle-dint
Defaced, and grinding wheels on flint,
Yield substance, though they sing not, sweet
For song our highest heaven to greet:
Whom heavenly singing gives us new,
Enspheres them brilliant in our blue,
From firmest base to farthest leap,
Because their love of Earth is deep,
And they are warriors in accord
With life to serve and pass reward,
So touching purest and so heard
In the brain’s reflex of yon bird;
Wherefore their soul in me, or mine,
Through self-forgetfulness divine,
In them, that song aloft maintains,
To fill the sky and thrill the plains
With showerings drawn from human stores,
As he to silence nearer soars,
Extends the world at wings and dome,
More spacious making more our home,
Till lost on his aёrial rings
In light, and then the fancy sings.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

To a Skylark

~ William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

Ethereal minstrel! pilgrim of the sky!
Dost thou despise the earth where cares abound?
Or, while the wings aspire, are heart and eye
Both with thy nest upon the dewy ground?
Thy nest which thou canst drop into at will,
Those quivering wings composed, that music still!

Leave to the nightingale her shady wood;
A privacy of glorious light is thine;
Whence thou dost pour upon the world a flood
Of harmony, with instinct more divine;
Type of the wise who soar, but never roam;
True to the kindred points of Heaven and Home!

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Here is the skylark’s song. It sounds a bit like a mockingbird to me.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

if up’s the word

~ E.E. Cummings (1894-1962)

if up’s the word;and a world grows greener
minute by second and most by more—
if death is the loser and life is the winner
(and beggars are rich but misers are poor)
—let’s touch the sky:
            with a to and a fro
(and a here there where) and away we go

in even the laziest creature among us
a wisdom no knowledge can kill is astir—
now dull eyes are keen and now keen eyes are keener
(for young is the year,for young is the year)
—let’s touch the sky:
            with a great(and a gay
and a steep) deep rush through amazing day

it’s brains without hearts have set saint against sinner;
put gain over gladness and joy under care—
let’s do as an earth which can never do wrong does
(minute by second and most by more)
—let’s touch the sky:
            with a strange(and a true)
and a climbing fall into far near blue

if beggars are rich(and a robin will sing his
robin a song) but misers are poor—
let’s love until noone could quite be(and young is
the year,dear)as living as i’m and as you’re
—let’s touch the sky:
            with a you and  a me
and an every(who’s any who’s some)one who’s we

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Annual PSA: Note on the capitalization of E.E. Cummings’ name

Monday, April 6, 2015

Sabbaths 2003: V

~ Wendell Berry (b. 1934)

The politics of illusion, of death’s money,
possesses us. This is the Hell, this
the nightmare into which Christ descended
from the cross, from which also he woke
and rose, striding godly forth, so free
that He appeared to Mary Magdalene
to be only the gardener walking about
in the new day, among the flowers.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Amoretti LXVIII: Most glorious Lord of Lyfe

~ Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)

Most glorious Lord of Lyfe ! that, on this day,
Didst make Thy triumph over death and sin;
And, having harrowd hell, didst bring away
Captivity thence captive, us to win:
This joyous day, deare Lord, with joy begin;
And grant that we, for whom thou diddest dye,
Being with Thy deare blood clene washt from sin,
May live for ever in felicity !
and that Thy love we weighing worthily,
May likewise love Thee for the same againe;
and for Thy sake, that all lyke deare didst buy,
With love may one another entertayne !
    So let us love, deare Love, lyke as we ought,
    —Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Holy Sonnet XI

~ John Donne (1572-1631)

Spit in my face you Jewes, and pierce my side,
Buffet, and scoffe, scourge, and crucifie mee,
For I have sinn’d, and sinn’d, and onely hee,
Who could do no iniquitie, hath dyed:
But by my death can not be satisfied
My sinnes, which passe the Jewes impiety:
They kill’d once an inglorious man, but I
Crucifie him daily, being now glorified;
Oh let mee then, his strange love still admire:
Kings pardon, but he bore our punishment.
And Jacob came cloth’d in vile harsh attire
But to supplant, and with gainfull intent:
God cloth’d himselfe in vile mans flesh, that so
Hee might be weake enough to suffer woe.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Anthem for Good Friday

We glory in your cross, O Lord,
and praise and glorify your holy resurrection;
for by virtue of your cross
joy has come to the whole world.

May God be merciful to us and bless us,
show us the light of his countenance, and come to us.

Let your ways be known upon earth,
your saving health among all nations.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.

We glory in your cross, O Lord,
and praise and glorify your holy resurrection;
for by virtue of your cross
joy has come to the whole world.

~ 1979 Book of Common Prayer, page 281

Thursday, April 2, 2015

“The mists rise over”

~ Yamabe No Akahito (fl. 724-736)

The mists rise over
The still pools at Asuka.
Memory does not
Pass away so easily.

[tr. Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982)]

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

This poem has a special meaning to me for two reasons – I’m currently reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s book The Buried Giant, which is about memory and mists. And yesterday I witnessed an April Fool’s Day prank of epic proportions, the memory of which will not “pass away so easily.”

Silvia is going to be blogging through the novel, and I hope to as well. I may or may not write about the prank orchestrated by the child formerly known as #1 Son.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


~Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

Now, in the middle of the limpid evening,
The moon speaks clearly to the hill.
The wheatfields make their simple music,
Praise the quiet sky.

And down the road, the way the stars come home,
The cries of children
Play on the empty air, a mile or more,
And fall on our deserted hearing,
Clear as water.

They say the sky is made of glass,
They say the smiling moon’s a bride.
They say they love the orchards and apple trees,
The trees, their innocent sisters, dressed in blossoms,
Still wearing, in the blurring dusk,
White dresses from that morning’s first communion.

And, where blue heaven’s fading fire last shines
They name the new come planets
With words that flower
On little voices, light as stems of lilies.

And where blue heaven’s fading fire last shines,
Reflected in the poplar’s ripple,
One little, wakeful bird
Sings like a shower.