Tag Archive: poetry


30th December 2015

This is the last post for “Sundry Times”. Writing and posting something at least once a week for five years has been an interesting challenge. Having the possibility of sharing on this blog, I have learnt to look through a camera differently; no longer just taking snapshots and landscapes but also looking for curious shapes and patterns.

I have dared to share some of my poetry – I don’t claim any particular merit but I have taken a bit more care over them, sharpening phrases, typesetting lines etc with the thought that someone just might want to read them out loud. And I have mixed all this up with prayers, politics and jokes in the believe that “It is all of a piece”: we have one life with many accents and colours but not separate holy, secular, spiritual, natural, work and home lives.

I hope that you have found something of value here, some gold among the grit.

The main reason for “Sundry Times Too” is that I have more or less used up all the memory here so I need some space for more photos. The other reason is that I started this blog as a way out of a nervous breakdown. I still have my “unexpected lows” but I am in a much better place than I was in 2010 but I want to mark my moving on by moving on to another, though similar blog.

God bless

kangerew

An Advent hymn

Help, I’ve already had two Christmas lunches and a carol service and Christmas is still three weeks away. I suppose it doesn’t matter that much – not one has died as a result of not keeping Advent. However, it was suggested that perhaps we get so caught up with Christmas and the celebration of Jesus’ first coming, that we lose sight of the other meaning of Advent. As well as looking forward to Christmas there is looking forward to Jesus’ return, his second coming, just as he promised. I sense (and this includes me) that many Christians may well nod in agreement with the idea of Jesus’ return and yet. And yet, while we may still be waiting, we have given up expecting him.

So as a reminder to myself I re-read this old Advent hymn. It was written around 500 years ago by John Milton. As with all poetry, it is better read (or sung) out loud.

The Lord will come and not be slow,
his footsteps cannot err;
before him righteousness shall go,
his royal harbinger.

Truth from the earth, like to a flower,
shall bud and blossom then;
and justice, from her heavenly bower,
look down on mortal men.

Rise, God, judge thou the earth in might,
this wicked earth redress;
for thou art he who shalt by right
the nations all possess.

The nations all whom thou hast made
shall come, and all shall frame
to bow them low before thee, Lord,
and glorify thy name.

For great thou art, and wonders great
by thy strong hand are done:
thou in thy everlasting seat
remainest God alone.

John Milton, the elder (c.1563–1647) based on verses from Psalms 82, 85, 86
from “Ancient & Modern”, no. 51

Elizabeth and Zechariah

I was going to call this poem a “sonnette” because my original intention was to write a sonnet. However, I was too impatient to shape my ideas into a sonnet form yet I did want it to resemble one. “A little sonnet” or a “sonnette” seem a bit too pretentious for what is really just a run-of-the-mill poem made from lines thrown together in the midst of some Bible study. It is a snap-shot of my thinking process: half-baked, you might say, but then again, some people enjoy the sauce that comes with the not-quite-baked sponge pudding.

The occasion is when Elizabeth and Zechariah, who are both too old to have any children, are both told that they will have a son – the person we have come to know as John the Baptist. He was born some six months before Jesus; Elizabeth was Mary’s sister, thus making Jesus and John cousins. The miracle of John’s conception forms part of the overall story of God coming to us as a human being, the incarnation, which we celebrate at Christmas.

Elizabeth and Zechariah

Two loyal servants of God, long in years
who wrestle with blessing and prophecy
in the house of the divine and in the prose of humanity;
Hidden in her womb, a miracle, a blessing;
knowledge of another soon to follow
He serves faithfully yet doubts the angel’s message
a word that leaves him dumbfounded
– astonishment will evolve into confidence and joy
for now makes him speechless
There is wonder-ing and then there is questioning
There is keeping one’s counsel and there is being lost for words.

There are Zechariah and Elizabeth – good and faithful
There is what they believe: Zechariah doubts; Elizabeth trusts
There is what they are told about their son:
There is what will happen next:

Faithfulness will be vindicated in the end

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?

… is everywhere.”

Too often of a Sunday when we sing a well-known hymn it is marred by over-familiarity and we stop paying attention to the words. Or rather, stop paying attention to the meaning. Recently we sang this hymn by John Mason (“How shall I sing that majesty?”). I realise now that I have sung it a few times before but to another tune. This time it was not an easy sing, with an tune new to me, and I really had to concentrate. In order to do so I listened to the first verse before joining in. Although this hymn/poem is well over three hundred years old, it struck a chord.

A day later and I re-read the the hymn. The first reading is sounded pleasant to the ear. The second time round, as I work through the 17th century turns of phrase, I began to get the poets idea: singing praise to God here on earth, pales in comparison with the songs of heaven. That said, he still wants to join in. Like most poetry it works better when read out loud. It is reproduced below and I commend it to you.

How shall I sing that majesty
which angels do admire?
Let dust in dust and silence lie;
sing, sing, ye heavenly choir.
Thousands of thousands stand around
thy throne, O God most high;
ten thousand times ten thousand sound
thy praise; but who am I?
2 Thy brightness unto them appears,
whilst I thy footsteps trace;
a sound of God comes to my ears,
but they behold thy face.
They sing, because thou art their Sun;
Lord, send a beam on me;
for where heaven is but once begun
there alleluias be.
* 3 Enlighten with faith’s light my heart,
inflame it with love’s fire;
then shall I sing and bear a part
with that celestial choir.
I shall, I fear, be dark and cold,
with all my fire and light;
yet when thou dost accept their gold,
Lord, treasure up my mite.
4 How great a being, Lord, is thine,
which doth all beings keep!
Thy knowledge is the only line
to sound so vast a deep.
Thou art a sea without a shore,
a sun without a sphere;
thy time is now and evermore,
thy place is everywhere.

John Mason (c.1645–1694)

A haiku for National Poetry day: Light

Illumination
ease the burden of darkness
beaming light relief

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” Plato

A haiku for 30th September 2015

melting Autumn sun

soft against the silver sky

nips at Summer’s heels

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!

Showery intervals

A haiku:

a ragged grey sky
clouds scrunched like an unmade bed
soaked are field and coat

Tears, idle tears

William Wordsworth was moved to write about Tintern Abbey, and so was Alfred Lord Tennyson. Of the two I find Tennyson’s the more moving. The sight of the abbey evoked a sense of a lost past and the transience of life so much so that Tennyson began to weep. So there is a sense of times lost and the sadness of nostalgia. This is not a poem to cheer us up but its eloquence may give voice to our sadness and, by expressing it, relax its hold on us.

Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.

Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld,
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.

Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
The earliest pipe of half-awaken’d birds
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square;
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.

Dear as remembered kisses after death,
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feign’d
On lips that are for others; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
O Death in Life, the days that are no more!

%d bloggers like this: