Daily Archives: March 26, 2020

A New Endeavour on Youtube

welcome to my study, make yourself at home!

We are of course in the midst of the series I am posting to you of my sonnets from ‘After Prayer’ but I thought I’d use this extra little post to bring you some news. Like of all of you I am more than a little frustrated at being, ‘cabined, cribbed, confined’ by the entirely necessary restrictions of our present lockdown. And one of those frustrations is that I can no longer entertain my friends to drinks, conversation, and the happy random browsing and perusal of the books on the shelves, and scattered across every surface in my study. So, by way of compensation and defiance, I have mastered the mysteries of Youtube and created a little channel there for a series called ‘ A Spell in the Library’, in which I invite you all to join me in my study, and do just what we would do, on any visit, take down the books, read favourite passages, and muse together on what Larkin called ‘The million-petales flower of being here’. I shall put up these little episodes two or three times a week, inviting you all to join me. Of course these usual blog posts will continue for my subscribers here. But if you’d also like to join me in this other mode of being together, that would be wonderful. I am pasting below the links to each of the three little films I have already posted, which should allow you to see the films on this page. But you might also like to pop over to my new Youtube Channel. If you would like to watch more of these, then do go over to Youtube and subscribe (entirely for free) to the channel and that way you can’ visit with me ‘ regularly for ‘ A Spell in the Library’. I hope you enjoy these and would like to come back for more.

So first off here’s the introduction:

Now here’s a little reading in which George Macdonald appreciates George Herbert:

And here’s a sonnet called ‘Spell:

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Filed under literature

Lent with Herbert Day 23: The Bird of Paradise

We continue our Lenten Journey through Herbert’s poem Prayer, using the sonnets in my new book After Prayer. If you want a feel for the book itself and for what moved me to write it there is a full interview Here, conducted by Lancia Smith for her excellent ‘Cultivating’ website.

Today we come to one of Herbert’s more intriguing emblems of prayer: he calls prayer the bird of paradise. Scholars tell us that in the seventeenth century it was believed that an exotic species called ‘the bird of paradise’ was unique in having no feet, no means of standing or perching, and it was thought therefore that it lived in perpetual flight, never stopping to rest, but ceaselessly beating its wings from birth to death. Of course this was a piece of folklore and mythologising, but the bird became proverbial, and it’s easy to see how Herbert might find in it an emblem of unceasing prayer. Perhaps too he thought of the bird as unable to rest in this world precisely because it was a bird of paradise, and could only rest at last in its eternal home. So it might be with our souls in prayer. All these thoughts were also in my mind as I wrote, but for me there was also something more. As I thought of that poor restless bird I suddenly remembered the beautiful lines in Bob Dylan’s heart-breaking song ‘Tangled Up in Blue’, lines in which he expresses our experience of brokenness and through it all out restless yearnings:

And when it all came crashing down

I became withdrawn

the only thing I knew how to do

was keep on keeping on

like a bird that flew

tangled up in blue.

So in my response I find Herbert and Dylan somehow singing together!

As always you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ button or the title

The Bird of Paradise

Poor bird of paradise: she finds nowhere

To rest or settle on her long flight home,

But circles the blue heavens endlessly,

Or so we once believed, and she became

A perfect emblem of unceasing prayer:

Born out of paradise and restlessly

Seeking return, pressing on steady wings,

Beating perpetual blessing through the air,

Which parts to give her passage, and still brings

Us echoes of the haunting song she sings.

I find in her a fitting emblem too,

She sings in me, but now she is the one

In Dylan’s song, who keeps on keeping on,

Like all of us, still tangled up in blue.

the bird of paradise

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Filed under imagination, Poems