Archive for August, 2011

One thought, that is my torment and delight,
Ebbs and flows bittersweet within my heart
And between doubt and hope rends me apart
While peace and all tranquility take flight.
Therefore, dear sister, should this letter dwell
Upon my weighty need of seeing you,
It is that grief and pain shall be my due
Unless my wait should end both swift and well.
I’ve seen a ship’s sails slackened by taut ropes
On the high tide at the harbour bar
And a clear sky suddenly fill with cloud;
Likewise fear and distress fill all my hopes,
Not because of you, but for the times there are
When Fortune doubly strikes on sail and shroud.

Mary Stuart



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 Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.


O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothèd then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

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Francesco Petrarca – Petrarch – from Canzoniere
trans. Mark Musa

Sonnet 3

It was the day the sun’s ray had turned pale

with pity for the suffering of his Maker

when I was caught (and I put up no fight),

my lady, for your lovely eyes had bound me.

It seemed no time to be on guard against

Love’s blows; therefore, I went my way

secure and fearless – so, all my misfortunes began

in the midst of universal woe.

Love found me all disarmed and saw the way

was clear to reach my heart down through the eyes,

which have become the halls and doors of tears.

It seems to me it did him little honor

to wound me with his arrow in my state

and to you, armed, not show his bow at all.

Sonnet 157

That day for forevermore so cruel and honored

sent to my heart its image so alive

there is no wit or style that can describe it,

but often I recall it with my mind.

Her attitude, adorned with gracious pity,

the bittersweet lamenting that I heard,

caused me to wonder were she mortal woman

or goddess, for she cleared the sky around her.

Her head fine gold, her face was like warm snow,

her eyebrows ebony, her eyes two stars

from where Love never bent his bow in vain—

pearls and red roses where the gathered grief was

transformed into ardent, lovely words—

her sighs of blame, her tears as though of crystal.

Sonnet 90

She’d let her gold hair flow free in the breeze

and whirled it into thousands of sweet knots,

and lovely light would burn beyond all measure

in those fair eyes whose light is dimmer now.

Her face would turn the color pity wears,

a pity true or false I did not know,

and I with all love’s tinder in my breast—

it’s no surprise I quickly caught on fire.

The way she walked was not the way of mortals

but of angelic forms, and when she spoke

more than an earthly voice it was that sang:

a godly spirit and a living sun

was what I saw, and if she is not now,

my wound still bleeds, although the bow’s unbent.

Sonnet 5

When I summon my sighs to call for you,

with the name love inscribed upon my heart,

And LAUdable sound at the beginning

of the sweet accents of that word comes forth.

Your REgal state which I encounter next

doubles my strength for the high enterprise,

that “TAcitly the end cries, “for her honor

These better shoulders for support than yours.”

And so, to LAUd and to REvere the word

itself instructs whenever someone calls you,

A lady worthy of all praise and honor –

Unless, perhaps, Apollo be offended

A morTAl tongue be so presumptuous

to speak of his eternally green boughs.

*Laure ta, laure ta! : praise you, praise you!

Sir Philip Sidney

Astrophil & Stella 9

Queen Virtue’s court, which some call Stella’s face,

prepared by nature’s chiefest furniture,

hath his front built of alabaster pure:

gold is the covering of that stately place.

The door, by which sometimes comes forth her grace,

red porphyr is, which lock of pearl make sure;

whose porches rich, which name of cheeks endure,

marble, mixed red and white, do interlace.

The windows now, through which this heavenly guest

looks over the world and can nothing such

which dare claim from those lights the name of best,

of touch they are that without touch doth touch,

which Cupid’s self from Beauty’s mine did draw:

of touch they are and poor I am their straw.

Lady Mary Wroth (neice of Sir Philip Sidney)

Pamphila to Amphilanthus 1

When night’s blacke Mantle could most darknesse proue,

And sleepe (deaths Image) did my senses hyre,

From Knowledge of my selfe, then thoughts did moue

Swifter then those, most swiftnesse neede require.

In sleepe, a Chariot drawne by wing’d Desire,

I saw; where sate bright Venus Queene of Loue,

And at her feete her Sonne, still adding Fire

To burning hearts, which she did hold aboue,

But one heart flaming more then all the rest,

The Goddesse held, and put it to my breast,

Deare Sonne now shoot, said she: thus must we winne;

He her obey’d, and martyr’d my poore heart.

I waking hop’d as dreames it would depart,

Yet since, O me, a Lover I haue beene.

Edmund Spenser



My mistress eyes are nothing like the sun;

coral is far more red than her lips red:

if snow be white, whyy then her breasts are dun;

if hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,

but no such roses see I in her cheeks,

and in some perfumes is there more delight

than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.

I love to hear her speak, yet well I know

that music has a far more pleasing sound.

I grant I never saw a goddess go:

my mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.

and yet, by heaven I think my love as rare

as any she belied with false compare.

Sting’s “Sister Moon


Sonnet 14

Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you

As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;

That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend

Your force to break, blow, burn and make me new.

I, like a usurped town, to another due,

Labor to admit you, but O, to no end;

Reason, your viceroy in me, and me should defend,

But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.

Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,

That am betrothed unto your enemy.

Divorce me, untie or break that knot again;

Take me to you, imprison me, for I,

Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,

Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Sonnet 17

Since she whom I loved hath paid her last debt

To nature, and to hers, and my good is dead,

And her soul early into heaven ravished,

Wholly on heavenly things my mind is set.

Here the admiring her my mind did whet

To seek thee, God; so streams to show the head;

But though I have found thee, and thou my thirst hast fed,

A wholly thirsty dropsy melts me yet.

But why should I beg more love, whenas thou

Dost woo my soul, for hers offering all thine;

And dost not only fear lest I allow

My love to saints and angels, things divine,

But in thy tender jealousy dost doubt

Lest the world, flesh, yea the devil put thee out.

Sonnet 18

Show me, dear Christ, thy spouse so bright and clear.

What! Is it she which on the other shore

Goes richly painted? Or which, robbed and tore,

Laments and mourns in Germany and here?

Sleep she a thousand, then peeps up one year?

Is she self-truth, and errs? Now new, now outwore?

Does she, and did she, and shall she evermore

On one, on seven, or on no hill appear?

Dwells she with us, or like adventuring knights

First travel we seek, and then make love?

Betray, kind husband, thy spouse to our sights,

And let mine amorous soul court thy mild dove,

Who is most true and pleasing to thee then

When she is embraced and open to most men.

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Bede’s Story of Caedmon: http://www.heorot.dk/bede-caedmon.html

Caedmon’s Hymn (West Saxon Version)

Nu sculon herigean heofonrices weard,
meotodes meahte and his modgeþanc
weorc wuldorfæder, swa he wundra gehwæs
ece drihten, or onstealde.

He ærest sceop eorðan bearnum
heofon to hrofe, halig scyppend;
þa middangeard moncynnes weard
ece drihten, æfter teode
firum foldan, frea ælmihtig


Old English Poetry Recordings (including Caedmon’s hymn): http://www.wwnorton.com/college/english/nael/noa/audio.htm


Caedmon too I was lucky to have known,
Back in situ there with his full bucket
And armfuls of clean straw, the perfect yardman,
Unabsorbed in what he had to do
But doing it perfectly, and watching you.
He had worked his angel stint. He was hard as nails
And all that time he’d been poeting with the harp
His real gift was the big ignorant roar
He could still let out of him, just bogging in
As if the sacred subjects were a herd
That had broken out and needed rounding up.
I never saw him once with his hands joined
Unless it was a case of eyes to heaven
And the quick sniff and test of fingertips
After he’d passed them through a sick beast’s water.
Oh, Caedmon was the real thing all right.

Seamus Heaney


All others talked as if

talk were a dance.

Clodhopper I, with clumsy feet

would break the gliding ring.

Early I learned to

hunch myself

close by the door:

then when the talk began

I’d wipe my

mouth and wend

unnoticed back to the barn

to be with the warm beasts,

dumb among body sounds

of the simple ones.

I’d see by a twist

of lit rush the motes

of gold moving

from shadow to shadow

slow in the wake

of deep untroubled sighs.

The cows

munched or stirred or were still. I

was at home and lonely,

both in good measure. Until

the sudden angel affrighted me—light effacing

my feeble beam,

a forest of torches, feathers of flame, sparks upflying:

but the cows as before

were calm, and nothing was burning,

nothing but I, as that hand of fire

touched my lips and scorched my tongue

and pulled my voice

into the ring of the dance.

Denise Levertov

“Caedmon Remembers”

Hearing the harp, like hearing my enemy’s horn,
filled my heart with fear even when I was
longing for heaven to come down into my hands

so I could pray and praise in the company
of men in the mead-hall, those ordinary mortals,
my friends and my kinsmen from whom I fled

to bungle my way to the barn to bed down
with the animals, not expecting the angel, who appeared
and said: “Sing to the Shaper the beginnings of earth and sky!”

Jane Beal

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All that is gold does not glitter,

Not all those who wander are lost;

The old that is strong does not wither,

Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

J.R.R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings

Preacher Ken Follett of Church of the Advent, my church, quoted these first four lines from one of Tolkien’s most famous poems in his sermon today.

He explained them and made me think about them in a different way. Some golden things do glitter; others do not, but that does not make them any less gold. Of course we wander, like Paul who was prevented from going to Asia and ended up in Macedonia, not knowing where we are or where we are going — but not lost, not truly, because God knows our whole journey, beginning to end, and he reveals our next step at the right time. The scriptures are not only old, but ancient, and their truth does not wither in our hearts: they make us come alive!  Deep roots help our whole being to survive and thrive.

This was encouraging to think about.

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About an Acorn

“When you look at the oak tree, you don’t feel the “loss” of the acorn is a very great loss … The seed does not “know” what will happen. It only knows what is happening–the falling, the darkness, the dying … God’s ultimate plan was as far beyond our imaginings as the oak tree is from the acorn’s imaginings. The acorn does what it was made to do … Why must I let myself be lost? we persist. The answer is, Look at the acorn and trust Me.” ~ Elizabeth Eliot (1984)

“I have spent the evening by a little pool which held the silent sky in its heart.” ~ Elizabeth Elliot (1948)

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“Though Love appears far off,
you will move into its depth.”

Hadewijch of Brabant (13th c.)

from The Mirror of Simple Souls

She is alone in love, the Phoenix alone.
The soul is solitary in love,
the soul has all and has nothing,
she knows all and knows nothing,
yet she swims in the sea of joy,
swims in the sea of delights flowing and streaming
down from the Godhead.
The soul feels no joy
for she is joy
swimming and floating in joy.
She lives in joy. Joy lives in her.

Marguerite  Porete (13-14th c.)

“You can make blossom in me
flowers of fire.”

Huang O (1498-1569)


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