Poetry & Verse


(Kelly) #1

April is National Poetry Month- and I don’t normally care about national holidays, but I’ll take any excuse :grin:

Would anyone like to share their favorite poets, or poetic works?

I shared this by John Milton today, on my other social media accounts. (try reading it aloud; it helps with comprehension and it sounds GREAT!)

There have been many times in my (not-so-long) life when I’ve taken comfort in the truth presented here.


(Nathan Smith) #2

Very nice.

Saw this recently in an anthology I think…

Epitaph by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Stop, Christian passer-by! Stop, child of God,
And read with gentle breast. Beneath this sod
A poet lies, or that which once seemed he.
O, lift one thought in prayer for S.T.C.

That he who many a year with toil of breath
Found death in life, may here find life in death!
Mercy for praise - to be forgiven for fame
He asked, and hoped, through Christ. Do thou the same!


(Kelly) #3

Ooo, good one. I’ve not read that before. I have his Rime of the Ancient Mariner, with engravings by Gustave Dore, but- don’t tell anybody… I haven’t read it.


(Jesse Tiersma) #4

I’ve always had a hard time with poetry, it takes a lot of work for me to enjoy. However, I got really into Irish history in my mid 20s for some reason, and really liked the poem The Fool by Padraig Pearse, written in the early 1900s. I thought it was profound, particularly this section:

“I have squandered the splendid years that the Lord God gave to my youth
In attempting impossible things, deeming them alone worth the toil. Was it folly or grace? Not men shall judge me, but God.
I have squandered the splendid years:
Lord, if I had the years I would squander them over again”

Now that I’m a little older, and hopefully a little wiser, I no longer think it is quite so profound, in fact I don’t quite know what to think of it. I’ll share it here, and you guys can let me know what you think.

Since the wise men have not spoken, I speak that am only a fool;
A fool that hath loved his folly,
Yea, more than the wise men their books or their counting houses or their quiet homes,
Or their fame in men’s mouths;
A fool that in all his days hath done never a prudent thing,
Never hath counted the cost, nor reckoned if another reaped
The fruit of his mighty sowing, content to scatter the seed;
A fool that is unrepentant, and that soon at the end of all
Shall laugh in his lonely heart as the ripe ears fall to the reaping-hooks
And the poor are filled that were empty,
Tho’ he go hungry.

I have squandered the splendid years that the Lord God gave to my youth
In attempting impossible things, deeming them alone worth the toil. Was it folly or grace? Not men shall judge me, but God.
I have squandered the splendid years:
Lord, if I had the years I would squander them over again,
Aye, fling them from me!
For this I have heard in my heart, that a man shall scatter, not hoard,
Shall do the deed of to-day, nor take thought of to-morrow’s teen,
Shall not bargain or huxter with God; or was it a jest of Christ’s
And is this my sin before men, to have taken Him at His word?

The lawyers have sat in council, the men with the keen, long faces,
And said, This man is a fool,' and others have said,He blasphemeth; ’
And the wise have pitied the fool that hath striven to give a life
In the world of time and space among the bulks of actual things,
To a dream that was dreamed in the heart, and that only the heart could hold.

O wise men, riddle me this: what if the dream come true?
What if the dream come true? and if millions unborn shall dwell
In the house that I shaped in my heart, the noble house of my thought?
Lord, I have staked my soul, I have staked the lives of my kin
On the truth of Thy dreadful word. Do not remember my failures,
But remember this my faith.

And so I speak.
Yea, ere my hot youth pass, I speak to my people and say:
Ye shall be foolish as I; ye shall scatter, not save;
Ye shall venture your all, lest ye lose what is more than all;
Ye shall call for a miracle, taking Christ at His word.
And for this I will answer, O people, answer here and hereafter,
O people that I have loved, shall we not answer together?
-Padraig Pearse


(Valerie) #5

I’m mostly stoopid about poetry, but here are a couple of favorites:

Indwelling
Thomas Edward Brown

If thou couldst empty all thy self of self,
Like to a shell disinhabited,
Then might He find thee on the Ocean shelf,
And say — “This is not dead,” —
And fill thee with Himself instead.

But thou art all replete with very thou,
And hast such shrewd activity,
That, when He comes, He says — “This is enow
Unto itself — 'Twere better let it be:
It is so small and full, there is no room for Me.”

Carrion Comfort
Gerard Manley Hopkins

Not, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist — slack they may be — these last strands of man
In me ór, most weary, cry I can no more . I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.
But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me
Thy wring-world right foot rock? lay a lionlimb against me? scan
With darksome devouring eyes my bruisèd bones? and fan,
O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to avoid thee and flee?

    Why? That my chaff might fly; my grain lie, sheer and clear.
Nay in all that toil, that coil, since (seems) I kissed the rod,
Hand rather, my heart lo! lapped strength, stole joy, would laugh, chéer.
Cheer whom though? the hero whose heaven-handling flung me, fóot tród
Me? or me that fought him? O which one? is it each one? That night, that year
Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God.


(Fr. Bill Mouser) #6

Jesse TiersmaJesse, thank you for this. I’ve scanned it and now tell myself that I need to return to it when it’s quiet and I don’t have so many things niggling at me. There are lines in it that are thick and need some careful parsing to unpack them.

Kellyper.ardua, as to favorite bits of poetry, I fear that my selections are not all that lofty. I offer two selections: a nonsense sonnet, and an extended meditation on smoking tobacco in a pipe.

The sonnet is, as you’ll see, a farce on sonnet form. I came across it as a boy - probably around age 11 as I recall - in an anthology of nonsense poetry. The sonnet is typical of the contents of that book, as I recall it. But, for some reason I do not know and cannot puzzle out, the sonnet immediately stuck in memory (!). What does that tell you?

And, so, sixty years after I first read and instantly memorized it, here 'tis:

Oh that my heart might beat like buttered peas,
For the old egg of my desire is broken.
Gone’s the pearly white, and gone’s the yolk.
And as its melancholy contents grease my path,
The shorn lamb baas like bumblebees.
Time’s trashy purse is like a taken token,
Or, like a thrilling recitation spoken
By mournful mouths filled full with mirth and cheese.

But, should I choose to clasp the earthful urn?
Or find the frittered fig that felt the fast?
Or choose to chase the cheese around the churn?
Or swallow any pill from out the past?

Ah, no Love! Not while your hot kisses burn
Like a potato riding on the blast!

And, then, there’s this, about smoking tobacco in a pipe. Somewhere (don’t remember now), I read that this poem was routinely read at a gathering of Scotch Presbyterian men who gathered periodically in order smoke pipes and discuss theology. Supposedly, one of their number would stand to recite the verses, while the entire gathering would join in to exclaim the refrain: Think thus and smoke tobacco!

I don’t know if it’s true or not. I hope it is. It ought to be true. It is, additionally, a fantastic example of what sacramental spirituality is and how it works, namely to make manifest the parables that our Heavenly Father has hidden in every nook and cranny of His creation. In this case, the poem exposes the parables latent in the tobacco plant and its deployment in recreational smoking.

Part I

This Indian weed now wither’d quite,
‘Tho’ green at noon, cut down at night,
Shows thy decay;
All flesh is hay.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

The pipe so lily-like and weak,
Does thus thy mortal state bespeak.
Thou art ev’n such,
Gone with a touch.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

And when the smoke ascends on high,
Then thou behold’st the vanity
Of worldly stuff,
Gone with a puff.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

And when the pipe grows foul within,
Think on thy soul defil’d with sin;
For then the fire,
It does require.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

Then to thyself thou mayest say
That to the dust
Return thou must.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

Part II

Was this small plant for thee cut down?
So was the plant of great renown;
Which mercy sends
For nobler ends.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

Doth juice medicinal proceed
From such a naughty foreign weed?
Then what’s the pow’r
Of Jesse’s flow’r?
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

The promise, like the pipe, inlays,
And by the mouth of faith conveys
What virtue flows
From Sharon’s rose.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

In vain th’ unlighted pipe you blow;
Your pains in inward means are so,
'Till heav’nly fire
Thy heart inspire.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

The smoke, like burning incense tow’rs
So should a praying heart of yours,
With ardent cries,
Surmount the skies.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

Ralph Erskine (1685-1752)


(Kelly) #7

Hopkins is a perennial favorite! He worked in a masterly way with rhythm & rhyme. And Carrion Comfort has long been in my little notebook of saved verse. That bit “sheer and clear” gives such a perfectly clear picture.

Have you read his “Just indeed thou art, O Lord”? Another favorite of mine.


(Kelly) #8

@Jesse I’m going to have to look this poet up- I like the direction this poem is going. Lots of ideas here from the Bible. I’ll have to reread a few times, and maybe read some of his other work, before I’m sure that the poem as a whole is correct, but my first impression is very favorable.

It reminds me a bit of Hilaire Belloc’s The Rebel, which is very little like in content and pace, but has a similar burning heart of zeal behind it.

@Fr_Bill I LOVE these! I laughed aloud several times. And I’ll be sharing the tobacco one with several family members. :grin:


(Jesse Tiersma) #9

If you want to look him up, his first name is often given as Patrick or Padraic as well. Although he was a fairly prolific poet, and a schoolteacher, he is mostly remembered today for his political writings and speeches advocating for Irish freedom from Britain. This is probably because he wrote the Easter Proclamation (basically The Irish Declaration of Independence and named for the time of year it was issued), as well as taking up arms against Britain and being executed for it. Not sure if this changes your view of his poem, but it does give a little of his background.


(Joseph Bayly) #10

@Jesse, The Fool took me back to a course I loved on The Fool and Folly in Western Literature. In particular, it reminded me of In Praise of Folly, which I loved. However, I’m such a dunce with poetry that I cannot tell what it is trying to say. Is it an example of true folly, or an example folly used as a foil to bring out wisdom. I have no idea. That’s why I prefer poetry that is simpler.

I am no poet, but I’ve been trying to decide what to do with this one I wrote a few days after our daughter Margaret Louise was stillborn. This seems like a good time and place to share it.

It’s too cold this March 17th
The flurries too few
The windows too thick
The day too long
Too short.
Too cold.

This birth is too natural
Too painless
Too quiet.
Too sad.
Too late.

This baby girl is too beautiful
to wake.
Too peaceful
to startle.
Too still
to sleep.
Too cold
to live.

God damn this cold of death.
Damn it to Hell where it belongs.

It’s too cold.


(Kelly) #11

Thank you for sharing that. I didn’t chime in with the others before, but I was truly sorry to hear of your little girl’s death.

“One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.”


(Jesse Tiersma) #12

I bet that was an interesting course. I didn’t realize folly was a big enough trope in Western Lit to warrant a whole course on it.

I hear you, reading poetry is hard work for me. I always understood him to be referring to folly in the world’s eyes, as opposed to wisdom in the world’s eyes, because of lines like:

Always seemed to me to be channeling 1 Corinthians 1.

If I may end by hoping that the God of all peace continues to grant you His comfort.


(Kelly) #13

On a completely different note, here’s something that always makes me laugh:


(Kelly) #14

One of my good friends (who writes about church, literature, homeschooling, and math here) shared this poem on her blog:

Amoretti XXVI, by Edmund Spenser

Sweet is the rose, but grows upon a brere;
Sweet is the juniper, but sharp is the bough;
Sweet is the eglantine, but pricketh near;
Sweet is the fir-bloom, but his branch is rough;
Sweet is the cypress, but his rind is tough;
Sweet is the nut, but bitter is his pill;
Sweet is the broom-flower, but yet sour enough:
And sweet is moly, but his root is ill.
So every sweet with sour is temp’red still,
That maketh it be coveted the more:
For easy things, that may be got at will,
Most sorts of men do set but little store.
Why then should I account of little pain
That endless pleasure shall unto me gain!


(Jeremy Vander Galien) #15

I’ve tried and failed on a few occasions to read (or learn to read) poetry. Where should I start? What help can you give to someone who has read very little poetry but has seen enough to convince him that he should keep trying?


(Nathan Smith) #16

I don’t have a great answer. I’m a novice myself. I have thoughts but they may not take you any further.

I try to make poetry a habit.
I try to read some ‘mannish’ poetry.
I try to revisit poetry I like or seems edifying.
I try to read poetry that I hear spoken highly of.
I try to stay in the Psalms.

I don’t have any training in poetry or literature save one college course that was part of a general education requirement.

I try not to start ten sentences in a row with “I” unless I have to.


(Kelly) #17

I’m in the same boat as Nathan- just an amateur! I think his ideas are great, though.

I suggest reading it aloud if you can, or listen to someone good reading it. It’s easier to catch the meaning, the rhythm & rhyme, and the general feel.

You might try some Robert Frost, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Hilaire Belloc… Shakespeare of course, but definitely read him aloud!

I believe there’s a Bookening episode on poetry. And Brandon Chasteen probably has a lot more good tips! (I can’t figure out how to tag him on my phone, sorry)


(Paul Ojanen) #18

A flea and a fly in a flue
Were imprisoned, so what could they do?
Said the fly, “let us flee!”
“Let us fly!” said the flea.
So they flew through the flaw in the flue.

–Ogden Nash


(Fr. Bill Mouser) #19

As I’m prone to do more often these days, I inserted “poetry tutorial” into the Youtube search field and turned up this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPnAGwOPdtg

I listened to it and suggest you give it a try. It’s not exhaustive, but it does point out some of the things a poet is working with, some things obvious, others not so obvious until someone points them out.

The only drawback was the Indian-accent of the narrator. But, you can get used to that eventually.


(Daniel Meyer) #20

Here’s one of my favorites, The Little Blue Engine by Shel Silverstein:

The little blue engine looked up at the hill.
His light was weak, his whistle was shrill.
He was tired and small, and the hill was tall,
And his face blushed red as he softly said,
“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”

So he started up with a chug and a strain,
And he puffed and pulled with might and main.
And slowly he climbed, a foot at a time,
And his engine coughed as he whispered soft,
“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”

With a squeak and a creak and a toot and a sigh,
With an extra hope and an extra try,
He would not stop — now he neared the top —
And strong and proud he cried out loud,
“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!”

He was almost there, when — CRASH! SMASH! BASH!
He slid down and mashed into engine hash
On the rocks below… which goes to show
If the track is tough and the hill is rough,
THINKING you can just ain’t enough!