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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.”

FIRMAMENT

Thin clouds set by the moon aglow;

Concentric circles fade away:

White like sun on face of snow

Melts through silver into gray.

The surface is not smooth, but creased:

Rents and patches, not a few,

Hurried on from West to East,

Sometimes let a star shine through.

Frame it all with stands of pine,

Silent shapes against the light.

Shifting shadows redefine

Modulating moods of night.

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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CIV

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.”

This poem tries to capture a truly magical moment and reveal it as a useful image of a spiritual truth.  The relationships between appearance and reality, and between faith and sight, deserve more thought than they sometimes receive.

fog2

North Campus, The University of Georgia, Spring, 1980:

The Ninth Sphere Reflected in the First

 

“This mist just barely lets the moonlight through.

We’ll see no stars tonight.”  “But where the moon

Is shining, you can bet the stars are too.

No matter we can’t see them in this noon

Of silver foglight, for tonight the trees

Are all intent on standing in for them:

New dogwood blossoms, ranked in galaxies

And constellations, glow on every limb.

Somehow they gather in the diffuse light

And give it back in concentrated flares

Of brilliance, making dark the softer white.”

“What strange astronomy is this, that dares

Set stars ablaze so far from their own sphere?”

“Well, one that knows how much we need their light

And feels their unseen influence down here

And, having seen them once in their full height,

Thereafter walks by faith and not by sight.”

winter lamp post narnia

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

Many Wondrous Kinds of Light

We looked through doorways, we ambled along beautiful, mysterious paths.  Now, I’d like to talk about atmosphere.  What makes any place feel more magical is just the right quality of light.

I think I brought up sunrise and sunset in my post on doorways – the time between times.  Photographers love it because the quality of light is both soft and rich, quiet and striking.  

Different kinds of light take you different places.  Those warm, perfect sunsets (I’ll be honest, I can’t really tell you much about sunrises as I am rarely awake enough of in the early mornings to appreciate them) are breathtaking.  It’s hard to look away from the sky when the sun, normally too bright to see, is swathed in a hundred layers of brilliant color as it falls into seas or mountains.  Half the world goes dark as shadows creep up from underneath, but the top layer holds onto that glorious golden color until the last lights fade.

But the time between times isn’t the only beautiful kind of light.  A noonday sun that casts rays directly down can burn and blind, but on a good day, when the light is filtered through the right amount of cloud, the world is bright and dim at once.  The sky has texture.

Or takes on a new color entirely.

And then there is the bright light that we find coming through a layer of multi-colored greens in a forest.  This is one of my favorites.  Gaps in the wood allow arrows of brightness to find the forest floor.  Thin, pale green leaves are like stained glass aglow as the sun hits them from above.  The forest floor is dappled, like the stones of a cathedral across from a green-themed window.

The thing about the sun is, we don’t love it for itself, exactly, but for what its light and warmth do to our world, especially after long, gray days of sunlessness.  I think of Puddleglum under the earth as the witch tries to drive all memory and belief of the Overworld and its sun from their minds.  But Puddleglum, one of the saddest but truest of all heroes, says,

“Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.” (Silver Chair, CS Lewis)

Days without the sun certainly drove me to doubt whether I’d ever see it again, but when the light finally did touch grass and tree and stone, it was as though the whole world had been born again.

We are such light-loving creatures that we seek it long into the night.  The soft, silent kind of light that we find in the moon provides an eery imitation of the sun.

Whenever I think about moonlight, I always hear the sound of Loreena McKennitt singing “The Highwayman” where “the moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas” and “the road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moors.”  That is what I feel when I see a moon like the one I saw behind St Giles in this photo.

Firelight, starlight, moonlight – we are certainly drawn to light after the sun disappears.

When the natural world is too dark, we capture our own light – torches and candles, silmarils and lamp posts, we bring small flames with us into the darkness and make our own suns and stars.

I always notice the lamp posts that I pass in a street or a park.  They seem so lonely, secretive, and (of course) a little magical as well.  We know whose fault that is.

Photography is light-writing, and how light touches and transforms the world is an endless study.  Take a moment to notice how light touches, colors, and translates what you see into something better than it otherwise might be.

Dreams and the worlds they live in

A little story about the world of dreams…

There is a market that can only be reached by moon light on the sea.  It is on the edge of a sleepy town.  My Grandmother took me there one night.  We rode the ferry across the bay as the moon rose bright orange over the horizon.  We walked through the silent streets.  Signs creaked in the salty breeze.  Just as the town ended, and at the edge of a low stone wall, merchants were setting up tents and stalls.

A hairy little man tried to sell me a glass eye, saying it was better than a real one–better than magic: you could see the present. And a lovely women in a green dress tossed a string of beads over my head than asked me to buy them.  I didn’t have any coins to give her, so I reluctantly pulled the beads off.  As I did, I could glimpse Forbidden Love.  I quickly gave them to her; she stalked off disappointed.

My Grandmother tried to keep me close, but I somehow lost her hand.  I was soon treading the path between the stalls alone, trying not to get stepped on by strange creatures.  They were all shouting and bartering, hoping to get the best deal.  I finally found a quiet tent.  It was full of beautiful glass trinkets.  Upon inspection, they were figures–delicate figures of men and women, children and infants, and occasionally a cat or a dog even a horse or two, one was a unicorn.  Mesmerized, I meandered through the display cases noting that each figure was unique and that the people were oddly very human.  It was some time before I notice I was being watched.  There was a tall thin man behind a counter.  He was very pale with dark piercing eyes.  We stared at one another for several breaths; he seemed so familiar like an old friend or the tree in the back yard you play on; it is constant and always waiting for you.  Quietly, I walked to the counter.  He held out a figure for me to examine.  It was warm in my hands.  I held it up to the light,which came through a hole in the canvas where the moon shined.  The figure looked at me and I knew instinctually that it was me. I would have dropped the figure, had the man behind the counter not reached out and grabbed it from my hands.

“You break it, you won’t get another one.”  He said, his voice sounding in the back of my mind.  His eyes reflected stars that could not be seen in a normal night sky.   I shivered.  “Do you know what we sell here?”  And he spread his white hands out.  He was not meaning just his tent but the whole market.   I shook my head.  “Dreams.”  His voice echoed in my mind.   “Would you like one?”  I didn’t know you could buy dreams or even sell them.  I put my hands deep in my pockets in hopes that he would see I had nothing to buy a dream with.  Instead of lint, I found a small coin in the bottom of one of my pockets.  Surprised I retracted my hand and stared at the gold piece.  It had a raven on it with the words ‘facio somnium’.  The man smiled a rather grim smile.  He snatched the coin from my fingers and examined it closely.  He whispered something before handing it back.  It was cold on my palm.

“Child!”  Grandmother’s voice broke through the silence of the tent.  “Come, it is time to go.”  She grabbed my hand.  I gave the man behind the counter a fleeting glance.  He was putting my glass figure back into one of the display cases.  His eyes were on me and I thought I saw a shooting star in one.

Then we were out in the crowed pathways.  I clutched my coin and hurried to keep up.  The Moon was setting casting on orange glow over the water when we reached the ferry.

There is a market that you can only get to by moonlight on the sea.  I went there once and was give a dream it sits in a box on my dresser, a coin with a raven and the words ‘facio somnium’.

“Do dream.”