Rhyme or Reason

“Perhaps no person can be a poet, or can even enjoy poetry, without a certain unsoundness of mind.” said Lord Macaulay. He was right. The sound mind is concerned with common-sense, logic, empirical facts and calculated probabilities. It has no truck with wandering imagination, insights, feelings and the perception of truths which are glimpsed but not captured. The essential quality of poetry is to take us through the physical into the metaphysical by the use of the word.

We might make the same claim mutatis mutandis of all the arts – which are often the only contact with the spiritual that the modern man can bear. But poetry is the most immediate and the most accessible; it does not need an orchestra or an easel – a scrap of paper and a pencil stub will do.

Ultimately poetry has no rules. It stretches the use of language to its limits. Rhyme, half rhyme, rhythm and metre, neologism; alliteration, onomatopoeia, and line shape can all play their part. Of course there are fads. Some will claim that blank verse, often seen today, is not poetry, but both Milton and Dryden cursed the “modern bondage of rhyming” which interfered with purity of expression. In the end the test lies in the effect. Arguably, only the poet can judge how perfectly his poem expresses his meaning.

We do indeed look for patterns in a poem if only because our poor brains need pattern for understanding, completeness and memorability. But the forms of pattern can be achieved in manifold ways. And there are conventional verse forms, such as sonnet, haiku or villanelle (“Do not go gentle into that good night”, Dylan Thomas) which a poet may choose as a framework for his expression, finding that this discipline forces him to explore his thoughts more widely and deeply.

Three powerful characteristics stand out: metre, simile and metaphor. Metre reminds us that poetry and song are cousins. It can establish the whole thrust of the poem. Compare “Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean; the world has grown grey from thy breath.” (Swinburne) with “Half a league, half a league, half a league onward” (Tennyson), and with “Do you remember an inn, Miranda?/Do you remember an inn? (Belloc). And if some contemporary poetry eschews obvious metre, it can often be found in another balance, like this little poem about the Bible:

I doubt if King James wrote it,
But the one who did
Knew the force of short, brute, words;
And did not, if there were no clear need,
Write polysyllabically.

The Highwayman (Noyes) presents us with metaphor and simile within a line: “His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay “. The simile is vivid, but it is the metaphor which carries the power. No eye is actually a hollow of madness, but the phrase leads beyond itself. And we must travel alone to find our understanding. We should be accustomed to metaphor because much of Scripture is extended metaphor, and so is theology – though often stifled by the cold hand of use. What does time in Purgatory mean where time does not exist and the conditions in Purgatory mere speculation?

Shakespeare gives us a powerful example: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player/That struts and frets his hour upon the stage/And then is heard no more.” Two strong metaphors there – and the whole is wrapped in metaphor for the speaker himself is a “poor player” and a metaphor for Macbeth. Most of us know those lines by heart, and have thought upon them.

Which brings me to the memorable line. Poetry can get away with words which would be pretentious in prose. We each have our favourites, but surely all lists must include “A rose red city half as old as time”. John Burgon’s poem about Petra is indifferent, but that line won him the Newdigate Prize and put him among the immortals. I shall resist the temptation to give a longer list – you will know them all.

I say that confidently because a philosophy group I attend on a fortnightly basis finishes the term with a meeting in which each member reads a piece of poetry, and then tells us why. It is a great treat, and it often leads to the best discussions of the term. We are very ordinary people from different backgrounds, and yet all have poetry which has accompanied us through life. And important enough that, for some, reading their choice can move them too deeply to continue.

All of us who have poetry threaded into our lives share Macaulay’s unsound mind. And why not? We believe in a God whose name is a metaphor for his nature and a son who offers himself as a metaphor for his father. Before the altar we are all poets.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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79 Responses to Rhyme or Reason

  1. Brendan says:

    From the Eucharistic Prayer 2 of The Mass.
    ” You are indeed Holy, O Lord, The fount of all holiness. Make holy, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. ”
    This evocative passage leads us into the sublime mystery of the sacrifice by which His Presence in us is made real.

    • St.Joseph says:

      I find comfort in this Psalm.62

      O God. you are my God, for you I long + for you my soul is thirsting
      My body pines for you+ like a dry weary land without water.
      So I gaze on you in the Sanctuary+to see your strength and your glory.
      For your love is better than life+my lips will speak your praise.
      So I will bless you all my life.+ in your name I will lift up my hands.
      My soul shall be filled as with a banquet.+ my mouth shall praise you with joy.
      On my bed I remember you.
      On you I muse through the night. for you have been my help;+ in the
      shadow of your wings I rejoice.
      My soul clings to you+ your right hand holds me fast.

  2. Hock says:

    Perhaps Quentin this post could include those ‘one-liners’ that motivate as well as poetry and are poetic in their own way.
    One line I heard in a ‘feel good’ film has stayed with me : “Logic, reason and science do not define everything in the world.”

    • John Candido says:

      Hock, can you tell me what film had that line in it? Thanks.

    • Quentin says:

      Hock, you are quite right. I did not have space to mention that, at the philosophy group meeting I described, we include meaningful phrases such as your example.

      • overload says:

        Quentin, was it you who came up with this maxim on your website?:—
        Truth is to be found at the place that the three roads meet: the road of paradox, the road of ambiguity and the road of contradiction. Oedipus found this out – too late.

      • Quentin says:

        You know, I rather think it was me. I only hesitate because one may sometimes be unintentionally recording a shred of memory. Ironically, the phrase ‘half as old as time’ originated with another poet, Samuel Rogers. This phrase was strictly correct because the date of Petra was roughly midway between the 19th century and the, then, supposed creation of the world.

        I have in fact stood and contemplated the very place (according to the Greek tradition). It is quite an experience.

  3. Brendan says:

    In relation to my earlier post……………..the higher nobler emotions , deep seated sorrow, exquisite tenderness, being drawn into ecstatic pose grounded in Nature….. and reaching for God.
    When the melancholy fit shall fall
    Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
    That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
    And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
    Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
    Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
    Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
    Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
    Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
    And feed deep , deep into her peerless eyes.
    ( Ode on Melancholy – John Keats )

  4. overload says:

    O learn to read what silent love hath writ!
    To hear with eyes belongs to love’s fine wit.
    Shakespeare, Sonnet 24

    O blood and water gushing forth from the heart of Jesus as a fount of [life and] mercy for us: I trust in You.

  5. John L says:

    I always liked Housman – perhaps he reflects my own melancholy.
    One of my favourites remains “On Wenlock Edge” which tells, during a gale of wind, that whatever we feel or suffer in our own lives has been known and shared by others. “Then ’twas the Roman, now ’tis I”.
    However, since fellow bloggers are quoting psalms, how about “O Lord, you search me and know me”? Or that beautiful description of nature’s response to God – “The meadows are clothed with flocks And the valleys are covered with grain; They shout for joy, YES, THEY SING!”.

  6. Iona says:

    John L – That has to be my favourite psalm (138; or 139, depending on the numbering).
    I love the imagery in lines about the mountains leaping like rams, and the hills skipping like lambs; rivers clapping their hands; and ancient gates lifting up their heads.
    Brendan, is it that same Ode in which the poet goes on to refer to someone who can “burst joy’s grape against his palate fine”? Another image I’ve loved from the first moment I heard it.

    And for pushing language to extremes, how about Gerard Manley Hopkins? Some things he wrote, you have to read over and over again. They speak to you, they raise a deep echo, and yet you’d be pushed to say what they actually mean.

    • Brendan says:

      Yes Iona. The line you mention comes from the third stanza. I mentioned the middle verse attempting to make the connection between Nature and God in my first post. I was rather attracted to the Romantics in my youth – learning one or two poems off by heart as one does. I am thankful to Quentin for awakening this dormant pastime in me, and to ‘ Q’ – Sir Arthur Quiller- Couch who chose and edited the poems that made up ” The Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1918 ” , which gave me many hours of pleasure – broadening my mind spiritually and intellectually. Sadly however, although being Welsh, I was brought up and educated in a totally English milieu. I am a late developer.

    • John L says:

      The Holy Spirit’s “bright wings”. Ah!

  7. RAHNER says:

    Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean; the world has grown grey from thy breath; We have drunken of things Lethean, and fed on the fullness of death.
    Swinburne

    • overload says:

      I don’t think Peter was pale skinned, nor that his breath is responsible for the church’s shades-of-grey / homogenized-greyness, nor that he was a dreaming delusionary-monger.

  8. overload says:

    Quentin has got me going, trying to come up with some ‘maxims’:

    Dispassionately-passionate, passionate, and passionately-dispassionate: such is Love.

    Love and Peace are one. Love swallows itself up in Peace.

    The Scriptures indicate, of Love’s last work: Christ Jesus, having brought all things under His own name and authority, relinquishes His authority and self to the Father. And in doing so, it might be inferred, the Father also is swallowed up; having designated His own Mother’s womb.

    • Quentin says:

      I warn you, Overload, that maxims are a dangerous path. I have 263 at the last count – ranging of course from the brilliant to the extremely brilliant.

      Here are the first five.

      1. A maxim is never completely true nor completely false; it is only of value to the active mind.

      2. Making maxims is the last refuge of the self-opinionated.

      3. Maxims are written by those who want to express opinions but not to listen to them.

      4. Beware the bejewelled maxim; one may shine and shine and be a villain.

      5. In a book of maxims inconsistency is a virtue.

      • overload says:

        Thanks for these, Quentin.
        So you have 7 more Maxims than there are 100 shades of colour.

      • overload says:

        Quentin, further to your recent opinions and judgements on Luther and Protestantism, I hope you have actually taken the time to read what is—in my O so humble opinion—one of the most important documents in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, the 95 Maxims?

      • Quentin says:

        it’s a long time since I read these, but I agree that it’s a very important document — and helps one to understand the motives of the Reformation

      • overload says:

        Re. Luther’s 95 maxims, there seems (to my mind; perhaps I am being pedantic) to be a bit of trouble getting to grips with translation, for instance…

        71. Let him be anathema and accursed who denies the apostolic character of the indulgences.
        (from spurgeon.org)

        71. Let him who speaks against the truth concerning papal indulgences be anathema and accursed.
        (from luther.de)

        71. He who speaks against the truth of apostolic pardons, let him be anathema and accursed!
        (from iclnet.org

        71. People who deny the pardons of the Apostles will be cursed.
        (from historylearningsite.co.uk)

      • Quentin says:

        Please remember that more than two links requires a contribution to be moderated. So it saves me time if you can avoid this please.

      • tim says:

        There are no universal maxims (except this one?)

  9. Brendan says:

    For me poesy does somehow expresses a wish to satisfy/ explain my own inner feelings. To that extant one must always approach the inner ‘ mind ‘ of the poem with a certain kind of humility – lest like Icarus, one ‘ flies too close to the sun ‘. and the meaning evaporates all too soon.
    Perhaps then, there is a madness in baring ones soul to an obsessive degree so that many poets/ artists are said to have ‘ died for their art ‘ in some lonely garret . A reflection perhaps of some inner torment. ….” and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee .”- Donne.

  10. Geordie says:

    This poem was quoted in an episode of “Lewis” and I find in very moving. It could be used as a prayer during Exposition unless someone tells me that it’s liturgically incorrect.

    Love’s Philosophy
    BY PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY
    The fountains mingle with the river
       And the rivers with the ocean,
    The winds of heaven mix for ever
       With a sweet emotion;
    Nothing in the world is single;
       All things by a law divine
    In one spirit meet and mingle.
       Why not I with thine?—

    See the mountains kiss high heaven
       And the waves clasp one another;
    No sister-flower would be forgiven
       If it disdained its brother;
    And the sunlight clasps the earth
       And the moonbeams kiss the sea:
    What is all this sweet work worth
       If thou kiss not me?

    • Quentin says:

      The mystics often used the language of human love, sometimes quite sensually, to express their passion for God. The ecstasy of Teresa of Avila, according to her account, even had a physical element. So poems like this one are quite in order – although naturally we use proper prudence.

  11. Martha says:

    Children Leaving Home : Cecil Day Lewis

    Soon you’ll be off to meet your full grown selves
    Free from my guardianship, to sweat out your own life’s sentence.
    The house will be emptied of you, for every tie in time dissolves,
    And you, once close to us like a whisper of blood,
    In due season return, if return you will, as polite acquaintance.

    What will you then remember?
    The line that crowded your bedroom windows, shading the square rose bed beneath.
    Or such everyday sights, hours by boredom or wrath enclouded,
    Or those which burst like a rocket with red letter delights in the holiday sky,
    Picnics, the Fair on Blackheath.

    I heard you last summer, crossing Ireland by road,
    Ask the mother to retell episodes out of your past. You gave them the rapt attention
    A ballad maker’s audience owed to fact caught up in fable.
    Through memory’s dimension, the unlikeliest scene may be immortalised.

    Forgive my coldnesses now past recall, anger, injustice, moods contrary, mean or blind,
    And best, my dears, forgive yourselves when I am gone, for all love signals you ignored,
    And for the fugitive openings you never took into my mind.

    At that hour what shall I have to bequeath?
    A sick world we could not change, a sack of genes I did not choose,
    Some verse, now out of fashion, a laurel wreath, wilted.
    So, prematurely, our old age inters puny triumphs with poignant might have beens.

    Soon you’ll be leaving home, alone to face love’s treacheries and transports.
    May these early years have shaped you to be whole,
    To live unshielded from the rays which probe, enlighten and mature the human soul.
    Go forth and make the bet of it my dears.

    (transcribed from audio, so the verses and lines are my best attempt)

  12. Hock says:

    For info. of John Candido,
    John,
    I’ve come a back into this topic a little late and have just seen your request for the film title in which the phrase: “Logic, reason and science do not have the answer to everything in this world.”
    Regrettably I cannot be precise as to the title of the film but it was an updated version of the Film ‘Miracle on 42nd Street.’

  13. John Nolan says:

    Veni, sancte Spiritus et emitte caelitus lucis tuae radium.
    Veni, pater pauperum, veni, dator munerum, veni, lumen cordium.
    Consolator optime, dulcis hospes animae, dulce refrigerium.
    In labore requies, in aestu temperies, in fletu solatium.
    O lux beatissima, reple cordis intima tuorum fidelium.
    Sine tuo numine, nihil est in homine, nihil est innoxium.
    Lava quod est sordidum, riga quod est aridum, sana quod est saucium.
    Flecte quod est rigidum, fove quod est frigidum, rege quod est devium.
    Da tuis fidelibus, in te confidentibus, sacrum septenarium.
    Da virtutis meritum, da salutis exitum, da perenne gaudium.

    This, the ‘Golden Sequence’ for Pentecost, is a fine example of medieval Latin poetry and is generally assumed to have been written by Cardinal Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1207 to 1228, and one of the key figures in the framing of Magna Carta. And while we’re on the subject of the Holy Spirit, the following lines from Hopkins’s sonnet ‘God’s Grandeur’ are particularly striking:

    And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
    And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs –
    Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

  14. John Candido says:

    Thank you for your reply Hock. I had a suspicion that it was ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, which has had several film, television and play remakes or versions. I Googled ‘Miracle on 42nd Street’ and it turned out to be a documentary about a hotel that became an artist’s precinct. The original film which was released in 1947, starred Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, with Natalie Wood as the little girl, and Edmund Gwenn playing Santa Clause.

    The film you might have seen came much later in 1994, and starred the late Richard Attenborough who passed away at the ripe old age of 90 on the 24th August 2014.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracle_on_34th_Street_(1994_film)

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0039628/

  15. John Nolan says:

    Quentin, not long ago you quoted a rather fine poem which you had written. Do you still write poetry? And is any of your poetical work in print?

    • Quentin says:

      John, thank you for the thought. No doubt you guessed that the little poem I included was one of mine.

      I have written a fair amount of poetry, but in recent years the fount has been dry. For all the reasons I give I would wish it to spring again. I wonder if age dries up the emotion somewhat. However, what you say encourages me.

      I have had the occasional piece published but I suppose that what I ought to do is to plague appropriate publications to take my poetry. With enough of those behind me, I could approach a publisher – or perhaps self publish.

      Since I know you to be a man of precision, you might approve of this little one:

      A vagrant comma, more or less,
      An arbitrary apostrophe,
      Can cause confusion and distress.
      Such randomness is not for me.

      Discriminating punctuation
      Knows where a point or comma goes,
      Fits semi colons in their station,
      And forms the ligaments of prose.

      • John L says:

        I like that one, Quentin…
        Forgive a quote from Ogden Nash…

        One day I lost a preposition.
        It hid, I thought, beneath my chair.
        Angrily, I cried “Perdition!
        Up from out of in under there!”

      • tim says:

        Excellent! I shall commit to memory (or, in English monosyllables, ‘learn by heart’).

  16. John Nolan says:

    I like it! As for ‘short, brute, words’ the English language has more monosyllables than any other language I know of.

    A wise old owl sat on an oak.
    The more he saw, the less he spoke.
    The less he spoke, the more he heard –
    Why can’t we be like that wise old bird?

    This well-known saw also contains no Latin derivatives, which in a heavily Latinized language like English is remarkable. Yesterday was Quinquagesima Sunday, the epistle of which includes the familiar passage from Chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians. ‘Cum esset parvulus, loquebar ut parvulus. sapiebam ut parvulus, cogitabam ut parvulus. Quando autem factus sum vir, evacuavi quae erant parvuli.’ Translation (Douai-Rheims) : ‘When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But when I became a man I put away the things of a child’. Three words in English with more than one syllable; fourteen in Latin.

  17. Martha says:

    The great Anglo Saxon poem, The Dream of the Rood, has been described as passionate and haunting, a dream poem from the tree which was the Cross of Christ. It is almost impossible to pick out separate lines, it needs to be read in its entirety, but

    . . . . . . . . . Men shifted me
    on their shoulders and set me on a hill.
    Many enemies fastened me there. I saw the Lord of Mankind
    hasten with such courage to climb upon me.
    I dared not bow or break there
    against my Lord’s wish, when I saw the surface
    of the earth tremble. I could have felled
    all my foes, yet I stood firm.
    Then the young warrior, God Almighty,
    stripped Himself, firm and unflinching. He climbed
    upon the cross, brave before many, to redeem mankind.

    The story and the hymn of Caedmon are wonderful treasures in our heritage also, included in a very readable anthology compiled by Kevin Crossley -Holland.

  18. John de Waal says:

    I found the following lines in a letter my Dad wrote to my Mum when they were courting in 1944. I think they sum up the love between a husband and wife rather well.

    “This is a love that is true and real,
    God’s greatest gift,
    Life’s highest joy,
    A love that none can shake or break,
    And Death itself cannot destroy.”

    Dad didn’t give a source for this short poem and I have never been able to track it down.
    They had a very happy marriage, but sadly Dad died aged 40 in 1961. I read the poem at Mum’s funeral in 2007.

  19. St.Joseph says:

    A Great uncle of mine wrote a book of poems . In it one to his wife.

    I Saw First One Night In Spring
    Before The Sun Went Down A More Wimsome Girl I Had Never Seen.
    A Smile Took Place Of My Usual frown.

    Within My Heart I Knew That Night
    That No One Else Would Do
    I Prayed To God To Help Me Then
    For This Was Real Love. And I Knew

    As Time Went On I Loved Her More.
    She Gave Me Great Assurance.
    I Wondered If Our Love.Like some
    Was. Of Short Endurance.

    Time Has Proved Beyond All Doubt
    That Our Love Was Made To Last
    We Relive That Time Together
    And Be Sorry If It Ever Passed

    We Have No Regrets in This World
    For Time Has Not Been Wasted
    Perpetuating The Family Name
    Our Love Has Been Ample Taste

    • St.Joseph says:

      Another of my Uncles Poem Made me smile.
      SOME Day I’LL MEET A LITTLE DAME
      WHO’LL BE MY SWEETIE PIE
      I’LL CUDDLE HER FOR ALL I’M WORTH
      ATHOUGH I’LL NOT KNOW WHY

      I’LL ASK HER SILLY QUESTIONS
      IF SHE’D LIKE TO MARRY ME
      SHE’LL TWIST ME ROUND HER FINGER
      AND I’LL FIND MYSELF AT SEA

      BUT WHEN I’M AT MY SENSES
      I’LL KNOW WHAT TO REPLY
      I’LL TAKE HER FINGER AND TWIST IT BACK
      AND GET PREPARED TO FLY

      MARRIAGE IT IS NO FOR ME
      I’VE HEARD MY FAITHER SAY
      THE THINGS MA MITHER DID TAE HIM
      HAD MADE HIS HAIR TURN GREY

      SO I THINK I’LL JUST STAY SINGLE
      IN CASE THERE’S AUGHT TAE RUE
      FOR MILK INDEED AT ANY PRICE
      IS BETTER THAN BUYING A COO.
      .

  20. Martha says:

    St. Joseph, there is such love and sincerity in that lovely verse.
    Here is one written by one of my aunts in memory of an uncle shot down in WW2, their brother.

    We are far from the land where our young hero sleeps
    Where strangers around him are lying,
    Where inspired by his deeds, fond memory leaps
    To the thought of his glory undying.

    In ——-‘s grey sky, earth’s pale light did tell
    Of the dawn of the years unending,
    For boldly he fought, and nobly he fell,
    Honour’s cause, Peace and Justice defending.

    We sing the wild songs of our dear native land,
    Every note which he loved awaking;
    And the melodies sweet of Gregorian Chant,
    Their charms from the Liturgy taking.

    For his loved ones he lived, for their freedom he died,
    They were all that to this life did bind him.
    His Faith was his strength, Our Lady his guide,
    At his pray’r, her sweet care e’er entwined him.

    May God grant him rest_his eternal reward
    For those who have combatted bravely,
    May he still guard these shores from a barbarous horde,
    And still more- our loved island of ERIN.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Martha,
      That is beautiful and so sad.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Martha.
      This reminds me of my Grandad who died first day of the Somme-The Highland Light Infantry
      Never Found
      Conscript.
      Upon the Battle Field he Lay. His life was near an end The life he planned to serve his God.
      Was sacrificed for a friend
      His past life flashed before him.As in agony he lay. He saw his mother beside his cot.
      As a child he knelt to pray
      .He saw his friends of days gone by. Forgotten in the passage of time.
      His schooldays he remembred well. Now it seemed they were fine
      Now he was at home in the little Church where he often walked in procession.
      A voice seemed to whisper in his ear.My son remember your confession.
      He confessed his sins with a little awe.To a priest who seemed in a Palace
      My God forgive all my sins. To Thee may I offer this Chalice
      Bowing down in solemn submission he took to himself the Host
      Thereby entering another world.He had given up the Ghost.

      A Poetic Life. by Matthew Byrne.

      .

  21. Brendan says:

    Rhyming couplets lend themselves very well to lullabies as well as simple spoken verse. Every mother knows this instinctively as a form of natural bonding between mother a child.
    One of my earliest memories was of my mother teaching me a sacred ‘ goodnight poem ‘. I have just found out it is a shorten form ( with variations ) of a longer poem by children’s poet , Henry Johnstone. Like the child now in the man, I repeat it sometimes for its simplicity and sheer childhood innocence. I suspect everyone has sampled this form of ‘ mothers milk ‘

  22. Brendan says:

    Above – ibidem :-
    I lay my body down to sleep,
    I pray to God my soul to keep.
    If I die before I wake,
    I pray to God my soul to take.

    • overload says:

      Brendan’s “goodnight poem” reminds me of an anxious fear when I was a young child; I asked my mother “what happens if I fall out of bed (when asleep), will I be dead?”
      I think this was about a fear of the finality of death (loosing everything; everything suddenly ending), and also a fear of lack of control and meaning — of both unpredictability and arbitrariness in respect of this happening.

  23. Ignatius says:

    The Monk

    He sits here in this room
    which could be anywhere to him.
    We listen as he speaks about
    coming home, outside dusk
    is gathering, the birds singing,
    early April darkness is
    drawing close, full and heavy
    with the birth of Spring.

    He sits on does the monk,
    speaking quietly of beauty,
    of dreaming then of waking up,
    the birds sing still but softer now,
    a car sweeps over
    the nearby hill,
    headlights gleaming in the night

  24. Brendan says:

    As we prepare ourselves to be ‘ shriven ‘ – from the three Welsh Bishops in ” Walk with Me ” , this coming Lent – and for better or worse immortalised in popular culture through the musical ” Jesus Christ Superstar “.

    Day by day, three things I pray:
    To know Thee more clearly.
    To love Thee more dearly.
    To follow Thee more nearly,
    Day by Day. ( St. Richard of Chichester )

  25. Brendan says:

    We are currently celebrating various anniversaries centred around the two World Wars. The emotions aroused may range from a longing for/ a love of ones country/a feeling of loss of those who have died/ nostalgia for a time that is passing or long past /patriotic reverence. etc.
    I understand that the Welsh word ‘ hiraeth ‘ pronounced ‘ hee-r eye-th ‘ encompasses those things… and more. Welsh scholars say there’s no exact English translation. Linguistically speaking , some feelings just cannot be adequately transferred from one culture to another. Again, I believe the German equivalent to be ‘ heimat ‘.
    The nearest English poem I know of which reflects the closest to the Welsh is :-

    If I should die, think only this of me:
    That there’s some corner of a foreign field
    That is for ever England. There shall be
    In that rich earth a richer dust conceal’d;
    A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
    Gave , once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
    A body of England’s, breathing English air.
    Wash’d by the rivers, blest by suns of of home.
    And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
    A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
    Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
    Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
    And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
    In hearts at peace, under an English heaven. ( Rupert Brooke – who was killed soon afterwards in The Great War ,1915 )

  26. Iona says:

    “Hiraeth” – yes indeed; I live in Wales, and have learned a bit of Welsh. It is an untranslateable word, having something in common with nostalgia only it’s not in any way cloying, as nostalgia is; and something in common with longing, but more precise, – longing for something once known, lost, longed-for, possibly able to be regained or perhaps not.

    • Brendan says:

      Yes Iona, it’s not just about rugby football and only perhaps 17% are fluent in the language although most people know something of it. For those who are far away :-

      We’ll kiss away each hour of ‘ hiraeth ‘
      When you come home again to Wales.
      ( We’ll keep a welcome in the Hillside – a popular tune , words by Lyn joshua and James Harper, 1940 ) Croeso y Gymru, Iona.

  27. Iona says:

    John L – I loved that poem about the preposition.
    Ogden Nash thought up some amazing rhymes. How about a 2-line poem, “The Perfect Husband”:
    He tells you when you’ve got on too much lipstick
    And helps you with your girdle when your hips stick.

    and this, “Reflection on babies”:
    A bit of talcum
    Is always walcum.

    The preposition poem also reminded me (I’m sure Quentin will know this one) of a sentence which ends with 6 prepositions (you’re “not supposed” to end a sentence with a preposition):
    “What did you bring the book that you know I don’t like to be read aloud to from out of up for?”

    • John L says:

      Iona – Actually, there is a second verse…

      Correctness is my vade mecum
      and dangling phrases I abhor.
      But still I wonder, what should he come
      Up from out of in under for?

      I forbore to include it before, because the rhyme depends on that odd anglicised mispronunciation of Latin which I abhor.
      However, my smugness has caused me to come a cropper – I misattributed it to Ogden Nash. The author is actually one Morris Bishop. Perhaps O.N. quoted it himself?

    • John L says:

      p.s. Now we are into a different world…
      I’m trying to remember who modified the introduction to the TV series “Star Trek” to read…

      “To explore new worlds,
      To boldly split infinitives no man has split before.”

    • John L says:

      Winston Churchill to a Civil Servant who went to some trouble to avoid that prepositional ending…
      “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put”.

  28. John Nolan says:

    Rupert Brooke’s ‘The Soldier’ can be compared with Thomas Hardy’s Boer War poem ‘Drummer Hodge’.

    They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest
    Uncoffined – just as found:
    His landmark is a kopje-crest
    That breaks the veldt around;
    And foreign constellations west
    Each night above his mound.

    Young Hodge the Drummer never knew –
    Fresh from his Wessex home –
    The meaning of the broad Karoo,
    The Bush, the dusty loam,
    And why uprose to nightly view
    Strange stars amid the gloam.

    Yet portion of that unknown plain
    Will Hodge for ever be;
    His homely Northern breast and brain
    Grow to some Southern tree,
    And strange-eyed constellations reign
    His stars eternally.

  29. Brendan says:

    Hardy’s …. ” His homely Northern breast and brain
    Grow to some southern tree,..
    and Brooke’s…. ” some corner of a foreign field
    that is forever….” , bring back memories of a visit I made with my wife to visit the grave of a great-uncle ( killed at 1st Ypres, 1915 ) at the Military Cemetery in the centre of Boulogne……. I did indeed feel his enduring presence there in that place.

  30. Brendan says:

    Just one more anniversary …… and a ‘churchillian ‘ line contained in another context by John Milton – ” On his Blindness ”

    When I consider how my light is spent,
    E’er half my days, in this dark world and wide,
    And that one Talent which is death to hide,
    Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
    To serve therewith my Maker, and present
    My true account, least he returning chide,
    Doth God exact day-labour, light deny’d,
    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 milde yoak, they serve him best, His State
    Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
    And post o’re Land and Ocean without rest:
    They also serve who only stand and waite.

    The loftiness and providential ‘ faith ‘ contained in this poem , helped me in times past when I was in need. Pity I don’t live near your poetry appreciation group, Quentin,

  31. Brendan says:

    John L. – from post 12.08pm

    Was it Douglas Adams, ” Hitchhikers guide…… ” ?

  32. John Nolan says:

    Foreigners learning English generally find the grammar easy, with one exception – verbs followed by one or more prepositions (phrasal verbs) which incidentally make a lot of sentences end with prepositions. Why do we fill in a form while Americans fill one out? Surely the opposite of ‘to get on with’ is ‘to get off with’, nicht wahr? What did the bus conductor want when he said to a passenger ‘come on, get off’?

    • Brendan says:

      I fear some Welshfolk may be another example of what you have observed. English folk look quick quizzical ( the English -speaking Welsh have no problem with this of course ) when faced with …” Just a minute, now then !”
      Although, not being a Welsh speaker, I suspect that a colloquialism was arrived at some time ago when the Welsh was translated directly into English. Any takers ?

  33. St.Joseph says:

    I heard this comment on Tuesday on Life Site News..It made me think of words to reflect on.. It said ’21 Christians were just beheaded, and I’m stressing about giving up sugar for Lent’.

    • Brendan says:

      Yes St. Joseph, it’s a time for putting things in perspective.

      • overload says:

        Not to forget or belittle the beheaded, but to get our ‘privileged’ selves in perspective (actually, martyrdom in sure faith&love; is it not said to be the greatest privilege? Perhaps we need to pray for their faith, and ours, and seek to bare with them and share their suffering, in Spirit), I wonder how many Christians and non-Christians in this nation are—due to demons, commercial witchcraft, and unchaste (evil) desire—strangling, suffocating and murdering themselves (and perhaps others) on a daily basis with sugar and other foods / food combinations.
        Mundane habits, accumulative effect, and complexity, have a good disguise: as ‘minor issue’—or ‘no issue’! (Not that I believe any such problems can be truly overcome from the foundation of our own behavioural patterns and self-enforced will)

      • overload says:

        I think the greatest gift of martyrdom—ie. the greatest and fullest ‘giving witness’ to Christ—is giving ones whole being to God with trust, and with this, loving the murderer(s).

      • St.Joseph says:

        Overload.
        In Gods Love when we live it, it is impossible to hate.

  34. tim says:

    This thread deserves to run and run.
    “The butterfly, the Cabbage White
    His honest idiocy of flight
    Will never now (it is too late)
    Master the art of flying straight….” (Robert Graves)

    “Thrones, Dominations, Princedoms, Virtues, Powers” (Milton – quoted by Dorothy Sayers)

    “Lars Porsena of Clusium
    By the nine Gods he swore
    The noble house of Tarquin
    Should suffer wrong no more
    By the nine Gods he swore it
    And named a trysting day
    And bade his messengers ride forth
    East and west and south and north
    To summon his array” (Macaulay)

    “Was this the face that launched a thousand ships
    And burnt the topless towers of Ilium!” (Marlowe )

    “‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings
    Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'”
    Nothing beside remains…” (Shelley)

    “The thoughts of others
    Were light and fleeting
    Of lovers’ meeting
    Or love or fame
    Mine were of trouble
    And mine were steady
    So I was ready
    When trouble came”

    ‘Tendebantque manus ripae ultioris amore”
    (Housman and Virgil, respectively, both quoted by Stoppard in “The Invention of Love”

    Apologies for so many quotations – and mostly very well known – but they do stick in the mind.

    • overload says:

      Tim, this addition to (your?) poem is a bit clumsy, but I thought I would give it a try. I hope it sits fairly…

      “The thoughts of others
      Were light and fleeting
      Of lovers’ meeting
      Or love or fame
      Mine were of trouble
      And mine were steady
      So I was ready
      When trouble came.”
      And trouble or no
      Whilst I thinking able
      I did not know
      Chair seating elbow
      T’arse go on table.

      ?

  35. tim says:

    It’s a pity, in many ways, that regular verse forms have lost popularity. A set form – a sonnet, a triolet, a haiku, even a Clerihew or a limerick – may promote creativity rather than inhibiting it. And rhyme – and even more so scansion – makes work much easier to remember and so to love.

    Senile grouse: sub-editors no longer know how to scan! So you get misquotations which should have been picked up. Examples
    “… and thou beside me in the wilderness
    Then wilderness were paradise now” (In The Times, some years ago – admittedly, a spell-checker may have been responsible for that one).

    Or a couple from *The Oxford Dictionary of Scientific Quotations” (Bynam and Porter, 2005)
    Belloc “The Microbe”
    “But Scientists, who ought to know
    Assure us they must be so”… Belloc wrote “Assure us that they must be so”
    And (worse):
    Lehrer “The Elements” (to the tune of Gilbert’s “Modern Major-General”

    “There’s antimony, arsenic, aluminium, selenium
    And hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and rhenium”

    Here the original “aluminum” has been changed from US to British spelling. This accords with OUP house style (presumably) but destroys the rhythm by shifting the stress and adding an extra syllable.

  36. John Nolan says:

    Someone once described poetry as ‘memorable speech’. This won’t really do; Lincoln’s Gettysburg address and Churchill’s wartime speeches are certainly memorable, but they are not poetry. I think poetry when read aloud should be distinguishable from prose; too much modern ‘poetry’ fails this test.

    ‘To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve;
    To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.’

    Adrian Fortescue’s translation (1913). Poetry or sonorous prose? I incline to the former. A pity someone of his calibre wasn’t around when the Mass was put into English. The first effort, used from 1967 to 2011, was dreadfully impoverished both linguistically and theologically; the one currently in use is a vast improvement, but too many hands were involved, and it shows.

  37. St.Joseph says:

    ‘Love … that is what I ask…I know but one thing now- to love Thee, O Jesus!
    Glorious deeds are not for me, I cannot preach the Gospel, shed my blood…what does it matter?
    My brothers toil instead of me, and I, the little child, I keep close to the royal throne, I love for those who fight.’
    St Therese, The Little Flower of Jesus.

    • overload says:

      “Glorious deeds are not for me, I cannot preach the Gospel, shed my blood”
      Why did she said this?

      • St.Joseph says:

        Overload.
        To my mind St Theresa was an Enclosed Nun!
        I seem to think she did say she would have liked to have been an Ordained Priest,
        However she accepted the fact that she couldn’t. Being female, she respected Gods Will for her.
        Think about it!
        Maybe someone can put some other light on it.

  38. St.Joseph says:

    P.S.
    I can associate it to Mary and Martha, when Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, listening to His Word in Love and companionship-whilst Matha was complaining she was doing the cooking.
    Jesus said ‘Mary has chosen the better Life.
    Overload what do you think of that!

    • overload says:

      I think there is room for glorious deeds, proclaiming the Gospel, and shedding blood for Him — whatever our formal or informal occupation.
      Which, I am lead to believe, she did well to prove, only 24 when she died (a martyrs death?), and yet before she died she had suffered already bearing compassionately with her father in his mental illness, and praying for priests, and she had written enough to proclaim the ‘little way’ of the Gospel to future generations.?

      • St.Joseph says:

        Overload suurely St Therese did, thts we can all do it in our own calling, Monastic life. in marriage or Ordained Mimistry.It is all prayer Life, giving Love to God
        A reason to work for the unborn who shed their life in all innocence.Contraceptive abortifacants.
        We get so fixed on divorced who not through their own fault, can not receive Our Lord.
        Do we concern ourselve on the reception of Holy Communion or the actual divorce and re-marriage.To me it is better to remarry than not.
        I would welcome divorced back to the shared family Eucharist. I am probably sharing it with other people living in sin. As we all do¬
        .

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