CCVI 

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.”

Dante

VISION

For what did Dante climb the winding stair?

A burning and a piercing Charity

That flamed with geometric clarity—

Not Beatrice, but what she wished to share.

She was the first, but not the Final Vision;

Although her face was what had fueled his flight,

Her purpose was to help him to prepare

‘Til, in the deepest bosom of the night,

With certain and inexorable precision,

He saw the Point of unrelenting Light,

Infinitely small—and infinitely bright.

Beatrice

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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CCV

 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.”

Pride in our heroes of the War for Southern Independence has just about been shamed out of us down here in the South.  Their statues have a hard time staying upright.  But what was the significance of their struggle?  Yes, they were defending slavery (in some cases) or the South’s right to deal with the problem of slavery without Yankee interference (in others).  And slavery needed to end.  I know.  But there was more to it than that.  This is what their memory means to me.  Just call me unreconstructed.

I got to recite this on the porch of the Appomattox Courthouse a few years ago.[Cue Rebel Yell.]

APPOMATTOX

“I’d rather die a thousand deaths,” he’d said;

Well, better he should die them than his men.

Though there was nothing left for them to win,

Still at his word they would have fought and bled

(Or starved, more likely—true—but dead is dead).

 

So Lee, immaculate in his dress grays,

And Grant, unbuttoned, chewing his cigar,

Sat down together there to end the war.

And when they had agreed on every phrase,

They signed it through an inexplicable haze.

 

And Lee stepped out upon the porch that day

And drove his fist into his open hand

Three times while staring out across the land.

And then, since there was nothing more to say,

He mounted Traveler and rode away.

 

And now he’d have to face the thin gray lines.

“It’s Gen’ral Lee!”  With joy they gathered ‘round.

He tried to speak, but could not force a sound,

‘Til slowly in his face they read the signs

And silence fell beneath the somber pines.

Only those nearby could comprehend

The words, “Superior numbers . . . forced to yield . . .

Your horses you may keep to plow your fields . . .

I’ve done the best I could for you, my friends.

You’re heroes all.  Farewell.”  And so it ends:

 

The last gasp of the South that might have been,

The first breath of the South as she would be,

Beaten, bowed—but with a memory:

The independence that she could not win,

The Lost Cause, and the frailty of men.

 

The noblest soldier living could not save

Her from the long defeat or from the tears.

It would protect her for a hundred years

From half the vulgar lies with which men pave

The primrose paths that lead but to the grave.

 

For Lee stepped out upon the porch that day

And drove his fist into his open hand

Three times while staring out across the land.

And then, since there was nothing more to say,

He mounted Traveler and rode away.

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

CCIV

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.”

More of my history of philosophy in limericks.  You’re welcome.

THE PRESOCRATICS

Limericks # 26-30

 

Men once thought that it would be nice

To step in the same river twice.

But then Heraclitus

As if just to spite us

Said, “No!  Once will have to suffice.”

Heraklitus

“The water is flowing away;

The new that arrives does not stay.

Therefore, my conclusion:

All else is illusion.

There is Change; that is all we can say.”

 

Parmenides answered, “Not so!

The stream doth eternally flow.

What is permanent’s real;

So, whatever you feel,

There’s no motion and no place to go.”

 

He went on, “Heraclitus, you dunce,

Why attempt such ridiculous stunts?

With no motion or change,

You can’t even arrange

To step in the first river once.”

Parmenides

Is the world all in flux or immutable?

The answers both seemed irrefutable.

But while they were debating,

Some children went wading,

Once–twice–and it seemed somewhat suitable.

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

CCIII

 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.”

What actually happened on the Day of Pentecost?  And how does it relate to modern phenomena that go by the same name?  Not exactly what you might expect.

PENTECOST

(Compared with Later Imitations)

 

Stronger than a hawk, the Dove

Swept by, and in the eddies of

His passing, tongues of flame were fanned

And men fell to the ground unmanned.

They stuttered as their wits were lost

And thought it a new Pentecost:

The merely inarticulate sigh

Of His furious passing by.

 

But when He stopped to build His nest

First in the Apostolic breast,

A different language was expressed

In fit words, honed and well disposed;

Those were not drunk as men supposed,

But spoke real tongues they had not learned:

Thus the true tongues of fire burned.

Men heard about their sins and grieved;

They heard the Gospel and believed,

For each one heard of Jesus’ blood

In his own tongue—and understood.

 

Does that Dove’s nesting in the heart

Drive it and the mind apart?

Never!  Rather, say He brings

The two together ‘neath His wings.

The mind alert was not the cost

Of the primal Pentecost,

Where true wit was not lost, but gained

When the showers of blessing rained.

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

CCII

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.”

Jim Kilgo was a professor of American Literature at the University of Georgia when I was doing my doctorate there back in the 1970s.  I never had a class with him, but we bonded as fellow Christians.  We had other reasons too.  I miss that man.

KILGO

We never did get to the woods together.

We’d meet up in his air-conditioned office

From time to time to swap a tale or two.

He’d find a chair beneath a pile of papers

For me, beneath a pile of books for him,

And we’d lament the state of education

And then get on to more important things:

How quiet dawn is in a river swamp,

How sharp the wind blows over Albert’s Mountain,

The steam a plate of grits makes on a table

When frost is on the sedge outside the window,

The best last lines in all of literature

(They must be Izaak Walton’s Life of Donne

And then “The Life and Death of Cousin Lucius”).

We’d quote from C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Faulkner,

Or Robert Frost, or Flannery O’Connor;

We loved the words that named the things we loved.

We even tried some naming of our own–

He’d read his stories, and I’d read my poems,

Testing lines like newly mounted axe-heads

For balance and a clean and compact stroke:

The different rhythm life has on the trail–

I said, “Three days away from clocks you feel it”;

The trout he caught high in a mountain stream

In pools between the rapids and the falls–

“No gift comes cleaner from the hand of God.”

His book was Deep Enough for Ivorybills.

He meant woodpeckers in a cypress swamp;

I take it and apply it to his soul.

We love the words that name the things we love,

And one among the cleaner strokes is “Jim.”

Photo credit: David Hodges

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