Tag Archive: poems


What ails the wind

I offer you a rough and ready poem:

What ails the wind

What ails the wind thrums my soul, my ears buffeted red and raw
I regret not checking the roof when the sky was calm and dare not venture out now
Lest a tile or tree come crashing down to test my mortality
The howl and hum and whoosh and groan are artefacts of house and wall and wire and ground
The racing heart, the running step, the watering eyes and dribbling nose testify to the gale’s power
Now the breeze rises and falls while painting the house with rain and jabbing every crack in the walls with a gust that mocks the mortar
And all this sitting in the warm, glad to be indoors, contemplating a cup of tea
Imagining, not experiencing; remembering more than knowing.
I am not at sea bouncing on waves indifferent to my fate;
I do not trudge across civilised plains hoping for a welcome or at least a crumb of comfort
It is not my job to sweep up the leaves even to keep the trains running on time.
Is it enough just to spare a thought for those caught out in the wind and rain
or should we do something for them as well?

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3rd September 1802

There are associations with the beginning of September such as the invasion of Poland and the declaration of war against Germany. While it is appropriate to show respect to important events of the past, I like to think that we can recall uplifting moments in our history as well as tragic ones.

Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

Earth hath not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendor, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! The very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

I imagine John Clare as a young man walking around the Northamptonshire countryside letting his mind wander and wonder at the same time. He sees the untidiness (what today we might call ‘fractal’) and beauty of nature on the one hand. On the other, seeing a field full of poppies, seeded by nature not by a human farmer, he imagines an army marching “in all the grand array of pomp and power”. He associates the red poppies with the colour of the uniform of the British army. These days I have a different association with red poppies. For all their beauty, it is not with the marching soldiers but toward the fallen ones that my mind leans.

Pleasant Spots

There is a wild and beautiful neglect
About the fields that so delights and cheers
Where nature her own feelings to effect
Is left at her own silent work for years
The simplest thing thrown in our way delights
From the wild careless feature that it wears
The very road that wanders out of sight
Crooked and free is pleasant to behold
And such the very weeds left free to flower
Corn poppys red and carlock gleaming gold
That makes the cornfields shine in summer’s hour
Like painted skys – and fancy’s distant eye
May well imagine armys marching bye
In all the grand array of pomp and power

John Clare (1793-1864)

PS a note on the spelling. I have left it as I found it in “John Clare, selected poems”. Mr Clare was not conventional in either spelling, punctuation or grammar. Great sport is to be had by academics in deciding what to “correct” or not.

“Love lives beyond …

“Love lives beyond, the tomb, the earth, the flowers, and dew”

These are lines from one of John Clare’s poems and one of my favourites. He lived the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and the anniversary of his birth is 13th July.

Sixth Sunday of Lent…

…usually called Palm Sunday. Although it should be pointed out that the “palm” bit is only the beginning. During the final days before Jesus is arrested and executed, he arrived in Jerusalem riding on a donkey and was welcomed by crowds who strewed his path with branches taken from palm trees. Once in Jerusalem events build to a head until the authorities feel they have no choice but to catch him and silence him. In our churches on Palm Sunday we often begin the service with a procession and carry either palm branches or palm crosses as we sing. Once inside, though, the mood turns more sombre and we recall the events of Good Friday.

Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle,
sing the ending of the fray,
o’er the cross, the victor’s trophy,
sound the loud triumphant lay:
tell how Christ, the world’s Redeemer,
as a victim won the day.

God in pity saw man fallen,
shamed and sunk in misery,
when he fell on death by tasting
fruit of the forbidden tree:
then another tree was chosen
which the world from death should free.

Therefore when the appointed fullness
of the holy time was come,
he was sent who maketh all things
forth from God’s eternal home:
thus he came to earth, incarnate,
offspring of a maiden’s womb.

Thirty years among us dwelling,
now at length his hour fulfilled,
born for this, he meets his Passion,
for that this he freely willed,
on the cross the Lamb is lifted,
where his life-blood shall be spilled.

To the Trinity be glory,
to the Father and the Son,
with the co-eternal Spirit,
ever Three and ever One,
one in love and one in splendour,
while unending ages run. Amen.

Pange lingua gloriosi by Venantius Honorius Clementianus Fortunatus (c.535–609)
translation mainly by Percy Dearmer (1867–1936)

Passiontide

This week’s haiku:

Shadow of the Cross

Sad wondering eyes
Looking across at Jesus
Cross distant and near

Lent haiku

Today’s offering:

In a Temple

For what do you seek?
How hard can it be to see?
Whom are you seeking?

Another haiku

Here is the next haiku:

Found water

Drill well for water
Plumb ever deeper to drink
Needing bread also

 

A haiku

This week’s haiku:

Whatever

Whatever is true
Whatever is trustworthy
Think about those things

First Sunday of Lent 2015

Recently I have been struck by the words of some of the more traditional hymns we sometimes sing. Too often I may find myself singing along quite heartily while my mind is elsewhere – usually on the next part of the service (a hazard that must befall many a worship leader). If I had chosen that particular hymn, the chances are that I have read it and thought about it (if not exactly prayed it) at home – and therefore done it some justice. Reading hymns out loud as a poem makes me concentrate more on the words and their meaning. So for each Sunday in Lent  I shall choose a hymn to post. It will be in the public domain (no copyright issues) and I will have read it out loud at least once.

This one is from John Bunyan who wrote “The Pilgrim’s Progress”. He spent some time in gaol as he refused to conform to the religious norms of his time.

He who would valiant be
’Gainst all disaster,
Let him in constancy
Follow the Master.
There’s no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent
To be a pilgrim.

Who so beset him round
With dismal stories,
Do but themselves confound—
His strength the more is.
No foes shall stay his might,
Though he with giants fight;
He will make good his right
To be a pilgrim.

Since, Lord, Thou dost defend
Us with Thy Spirit,
We know we at the end
Shall life inherit.
Then fancies flee away!
I’ll fear not what men say,
I’ll labour night and day
To be a pilgrim.

John Bunyan (1628-88), Percy Dearmer (1867-1936)

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