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CCVII

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.”

Gerard Manley Hopkins

THEODICY

Hopkins knew the Lord was just, yet pled

The justice of his own request for rain.

ThePsalmist’s echoed accents make it plain,

It wasn’t the first time such words were said.

Even Jesus wondered as he bled

Why God had turned His back upon the pain.

The Spirit’s calculus of loss and gain

Cannot be quickly figured in your head.

 

So when like Job we groan and question why

And plead our case, but seem to plead in vain,

We might remember that the Lord’s reply

Was simply a refusal to explain,

And then a pure, white Lamb who lived to die.

It is enough:  We follow in His train.

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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CXXXVI

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.”

A seldom seen form utilized by Gerard Manley Hopkins in “Pied Beauty” is the “curtal sonnet.” It’s a shorter, more compact version of the Italian sonnet, with groups of six and five lines instead of the traditional octave and sextet.  So you have eleven lines of iambic pentameter rhyming ABCABC, then DBCDC, with the last line cut off to only one or two feet.

Hopkins

Hopkins

One of the effects to which the curtal sonnet lends itself is the powerful concentration of meaning you can get in that last, short line, if you set it up properly.  Let’s see if I did it here.

 

“SURELY, THIS MAN WAS . . .”

THE CENTURION SPEAKS

Curtal Sonnet # 4

 

Things are not always what they seem:  We drove

The spikes through wrist and ankle bones to bind

The criminals upon the cross.  We spliced

Their flesh to wood with iron; thus we strove

To make secure what fates the gods had twined—

And generally that view of things sufficed.

 

But that last Jew clean put me at a loss

To tell what held up what.  Have I gone blind?

No!  I would swear that, when he paid the price,

I saw the world suspended by the cross

From Christ.

Crucifixion-Glass

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.

The Time Being

The frenzy of the Christmas Rush is mercifully over.  The felt joy of Christmas Day itself, while real and memorable, was already fading by Boxing Day, and now we begin to remember where we are: facing the long weeks of Seasonal Affective Disorder until the light begins to return, interrupted by the forced celebration of New Year’s Day.  And the culture we inhabit seems in the doldrums of winter itself, poised between forced celebration and despair.  The words of the poet ring true:  “The time being is the hardest time of all.”  What are we to do in such a moment?

There is no hope to be gained by looking to society or to the state.  The irrational hatred of everything good and wholesome by Islamic Terrorists is matched only by the sad inability of the West to find a reason to preserve itself.  Multiculturalism has blinded us to the stubborn fact that not all cultures are created equal after all.  There is a difference between barbarism and civilization.  Civilization is to be preferred, but it cannot be preserved or defended if it refuses to believe in an objective difference between itself and the barbarians.  There is a difference between health and decadence within that civilization, even when it is not threatened from without.  Health is to be preferred, but it cannot be preserved if we refuse to believe that there is an objective difference between good and evil, if we are unable to use a word like “wholesome” without irony.  We have met the enemy, and he is us.

pogo enemy is us

There is no hope to be gained by looking to the church.  The most popular and fastest growing form of Christianity in the world is the so-called “Prosperity Gospel,” the health-and-wealth or “name it and claim it” (more accurately, “blab it and grab it”) movement.  If ever we wanted a theology scientifically designed to confirm the suspicions of our secular neighbors that ministers are just in it for the money, boy, have we got one!  More faithful followers of the Savior who sacrificed Himself, not for self but for others, seem more marginalized than ever.  They have not adjusted well to the loss of the position of cultural privilege they once enjoyed, and half of the adjustments they propose to the new situation they have finally come to recognize sound more like strategies for retreat than for a better and more effective engagement.  Scandal, compromise, and accommodation where there is not actually false teaching–no, if you are looking for encouragement, do not look to the church.

How then is the faithful remnant to sustain itself in this moment of cultural Seasonal Affective Disorder?  As it has always done, when it faced even worse times like the fall of Rome: by staying focused on the things that do not change; by remembering that while Seasonal Affective Disorder may seem permanent while you are in its grasp, it is, by definition, seasonal;  by staying faithful to its Lord as something worth doing for its own sake whatever the outcome and leaving the consequences in His hand.  It will do so more effectively if it remembers the wisdom of Gerard Manley Hopkins:

space-sunrise

For 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.

For more of Dr. Williams’s writing, check out his books on the Lantern Hollow estore:  To order ($15.00 each + shipping), go to  https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.

A book that fights back against the encroaching darkness.

A book that fights back against the encroaching darkness!

XCII

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.”

When everybody else was abandoning iambic pentameter for free verse, Gerard Manley Hopkins dove even deeper into the metrical sea of poetry and came up with creative pearls we still haven’t caught up to. This tribute was in New Oxford Review, May, 1981.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins

To Gerard Manley Hopkins

Daylight’s dauphin, wanwood, diamond delves,
Mountain mind-cliffs, lightning, eyes of elves,
Finches’ wings or falcon’s, wolfsnow, wet
Weeds wildness by the burn-bank lingering yet,
Thoughts of Scotus, music of Purcell
Ring out like stones rim-tumbled in a well.
All are lead-golden echoes, all a view
Of Eden Garden, fresh when it was new
Or cursed and cancerous, fell with Adam’s fall,
Blasted with death’s dread worst despair—Not all
Is this the tale. Christ did for that he came,
Grace graces: thus He flings out broad His Name;
The Spirit boods still; brooded over you.
Your firedint, mark on mind is not yet through:
Still in your lines He flings it forth anew.

Hopkins at his Desk

Hopkins at his Desk

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.

Donald T. Williams, PhD

LXXXV

 

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.”

            I spooked this guy on a walk one summer afternoon, and he ended up in New Oxford Review, Jan.-Feb., 1981, as a result.

To a Quail

Sonnet XXVIII

Flash!  Flushed, it rushes and, flurrying, flies,

No covey, but one lone quail, across the grass,

While, fluttering likes its flight, the notes it cries

Float flute-trilled thrills, through back the hushed air pass.

Oh fleet flinger of wing-beats into space,

O sweet singer to carol the quickening dawn,

One breathless, trembling moment saw you race

The sun to the distant trees, and you were gone.

Hopkins held all Nature was news of God:

Free windhover, caged lark, unleaving grove,

Stippled trout, generations that trod and trod,

And I’d thought, “What treasure if true, then, Nature’s trove!”

And standing there, startled and shaken by your shimmering flight,

I knew beyond all doubt that he was right.

 Stars Through the Clouds

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest book from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

Donald T. Williams, PhD