Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

In Charles Williams’ Arthurian poetry Taliessin is Arthur’s court bard, and the King’s Poet’s Household is a group of friends that keep alive the ideals of the kingdom even after its fall.  My own Arthurian cycle is just the same, except different.  That is, I borrow the character of Taliessin and his function, but the adventures work out rather differently and the spiritual references are less allusive and obscure.  Up next is an episode from The Household of Taliessin:

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THE CONVERSATION OF TALIESSIN

When one of Arthur’s knights desired peace

For thought, he might traverse the colonnaded

Path which left the high hall toward the east,

Then through an arch into a secret, shaded

Garden, where all Nature’s bounty, aided

By unobtrusive Art, had made a place

Of richness and of order and of grace.

 

For there were coverts deep and shadowy,

And there was sunlight warm upon the grass,

And there were fountains bubbling merrily,

And there were pools as smooth and clear as glass.

There one on pathways lined with stones might pass

By flocks of deer that wandered unafraid

Through flowery meadow and enchanted glade.

 

And though it was not visible to sight,

A subtle patterning of symmetry,

A balance of proportion, never quite

Obvious–a hidden harmony

Of part and whole, a sound felicity

Of shape caused those who wandered there to find

Composure welling up within the mind.

 

And there at whiles Taliessin would walk,

Sometimes alone, sometimes with two or three

Of noble lords and ladies, and their talk

Would be of beauty and the brevity

Of life, of valor and of sanctity,

Of love; and often on such days their words

Would scale the heavens like a flight of birds.

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Sir Balin le Sauvage was not a knight

To dally much with love or courtesy.

His talk was all of puissant deeds in fight,

Of famous sieges, tourneys, strategy,

Of glory won by arms, of victory.

Why he was in the garden on that day

(‘Twas not his custom), no one there could say.

 

Taliessin was saying, “We must ever

Keep these things in mind and hold them fast.

For if we should lose them, they may never

Return in our time.  And if the past

Foretells the future, then they cannot last.”

In disbelief Sir Balin shook his head

And clapped the poet on the back, and said,

 

“My friend, thou needest purgatives I ween.

Come, be a man and don’t make such a fuss.

Why, look around you!  Has there ever been

A king so great and knights so glorious?”

The minstrel struck his harp and answered thus:

“Aye, by God’s grace they are indeed.  But, then,

I am a man, and they are only men.”

 

“And what is man?”

 

“Intricate engine angels might admire,

Material spirit, animated earth,

Crafted casket for celestial fire–

Doomed to die the day it has its birth.

Hands that open, befitting a gracious lord,

Able to touch a cheek as soft as mist,

To wield a pen, a brush, a harpsichord–

But just as apt to freeze into a fist.

Godlike image, able to stand erect,

Yet by what small and simple things laid low:

A sneeze, a scratch, a germ, and all is wrecked;

A few short years, the time has come to go.

Delicate instrument of Love or Lust,

Admirably compacted–out of dust.”

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And Balin turned disgustedly away

And clanked off in his armor, but Elayne

And Percivale to Taliessin said, “Pray,

Good Sir, continue.”  Down a grassy lane

They strolled, extolling in a gentle vein

The Virtues, and their conversation ran

On love and on the mystery of man.

 

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, due out Dec.1,, 2016, from Square Halo Books!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

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THANKSGIVING

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With Christmas Carols and Christmas decorations taking over the stores when Halloween is barely past, and Black Friday looming right after it, Thanksgiving is a holiday that has a hard time maintaining its position in American life.  And what that position is can be hard to determine, beyond an excuse to consume obscene amounts of Turkey and doze through a football game under the influence of all the Tryptophan flooding one’s system.  I will probably consume a little more Turkey than is ideal for my diet and  watch some football myself.  But I hope I don’t forget what the Pilgrims were thankful for: not prosperity but survival, and a survival which meant a chance to have a new life in which they could worship God according to Scripture as they understood it, without interference from prying magistrate or prelate.  I hope I don’t forget that they thought such freedom something worth risking their survival over.  And I hope I will not be the only one pondering the question whether they might have been right about that after all.

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Thanksgiving is a time to remember our Forefathers and what they struggled for.  It is also a time to ponder the virtues of thankfulness in itself.  I remember once at a picnic a rather gaudy, elaborately articulated, and heraldically colored bug flew by and landed on one of us.  We spent a few minutes oohing and ahing over its surreal beauty, and then my friend David Stott Gordon made a profound observation on the moment.  “It must be rather depressing to be an atheist,” he mused, “because they don’t have anyone to thank.”

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We are made to give thanks and praise for the thousand little wonders that the world constantly showers upon us.  Think about that football game: When a receiver makes a particularly acrobatic, even balletic catch as the consummation of the incredible timing between him and the quarterback, combining power and grace in the way that only American football allows for, some response is required of us.  We don’t just raise a Spockian eyebrow; we pump our fist and shout if it was for our side, and exclaim that it was a great play even if it wasn’t.  The enjoyment of the moment is not complete without the expression of praise.  And if all such wonders are merely chance occurrences due only to the random motion of atoms and ultimately mean nothing–if indeed there is no One to thank–then our enjoyment of the world must of necessity be truncated and incomplete at best.  The holiday can serve as a reminder of the virtue of receptiveness to the blessings with which life showers us, as blessings–as gifts from the hand of God.  The thing we should be thankful for most of all is the fact that as Christians, as people who know the Creator as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have some One to thank.

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Thanks be to God.

For more of Dr. Williams’ writing, go to the Lantern Hollow estore and order his books, Stars Through the Clouds, Reflections from Plato’s Cave, and Inklings of Reality.

https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.

Also, check out his newest work from Square Halo Books: Deeper Magic: The theological Framework behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis!

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CLXVIII

 Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

Two villanelles on the noetic effects of sin, i.e., its effects on the mind?  It is an important and neglected topic.  Last week we looked at it in the abstract; this week’s villanelle takes a more existential approach to the idea.

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THE NOETIC EFFECTS OF SIN, II

Though Satan threatens always to deceive

And oft the veil seems heavy on my face,

Lord help mine unbelief, for I believe!

I’ve seen through every subtle wile he weaves

And would with all my heart your truth embrace,

But Satan threatens always to deceive.

The tyranny of sight gives no reprieve,

More garish than the glimmers of your grace;

Lord, help mine unbelief, for I believe.

The evidence is there; I do perceive

It clearly and myself can make the case,

But Satan threatens always to deceive.

The certainty you help me to achieve

Can sometimes disappear without a trace;

Lord, help mine unbelief, for I believe.

It’s all so plain!  How deeply you must grieve

To see me still in doubting Thomas’ place.

Since Satan threatens always to deceive,

Lord, help mine unbelief, for I believe.

 

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, from Square Halo Books!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

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CLXVII

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

The theological phrase “the noetic effects of sin” refers to the impact sin has had upon the mind.

The Essence of Sin

The Essence of Sin

THE NOETIC EFFECTS OF SIN

It was too much of reason to expect

The world’s foundations to be excavated

By efforts of unaided intellect.

Finite mentalities could not reflect

Ideas so infinite and elevated;

It was too much of reason to expect.

Still less would so far fallen minds elect

The Truth; it never could be venerated

By efforts of unaided intellect.

Still, their attempts could by no means be checked;

But though they strove and studied and debated,

It was too much of reason to expect.

Each time they thought they knew, their thoughts were wrecked;

Once more the subtle Quarry had evaded

The efforts of unaided intellect.

So why then would so few of them inspect

What in the Bible God himself had stated?

It was too much of reason to expect

From efforts of unaided intellect.

 

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, from Square Halo Books!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

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CLXVI

 Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

Poets of all men should know that human beings are embodied creatures.  Our bodies are part of our glory, and the Christian hope is that they will be resurrected in the Last Day, not discarded.  But now they partake of our fall—no more than the spirit, but no less either.  This poem was first published in The Rolling Coulter 4:2 (Fall 1992): 41.

The muscles and tendons of the human body

THE BODY HUMAN

Sonnet L

“Intricate engine angels might admire,

Material spirit, animated earth,

Crafted casket for celestial fire–

Doomed to die the day it has its birth.

Hands that open, befitting a gracious lord,

Able to touch a cheek as soft as mist,

To wield a pen, a brush, a harpsichord–

But just as apt to freeze into a fist.

Godlike image, able to stand erect,

Yet by what small and simple things laid low:

A sneeze, a scratch, a germ, and all is wrecked;

A few short years, the time has come to go.

Delicate instrument of Love or Lust,

Admirably compacted–out of dust.”

 

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, due out soon from Square Halo Books!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

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