Listening, to the radio I was horrified to hear that the daily death toll from Corona was once more exceeding a thousand. It was a strange and terrible deja vu of listening to the radio last Spring, an experience which prompted this poem and this post, indeed this prayer. I am reposting it today in case anyone might find comfort in these words, or a voice for their own prayers:
‘ These are mind numbing numbers and only the exercise of compassionate imagination can give us even a glimpse of the harrowing personal stories behind each one. When I began to hear our statistics mount on our own evening radio news, I found myself again and again in prayer, knowing that even though I only heard the numbers, God knew and loved and died for the people behind those numbers.
All this found its way into the concluding section of my Quarantine Quatrains which I am posting here as a poem on its own’
I’m happy to say that we raised over five and a half thousand for the charity! (£5,511.81 to be precise!) Emily, from CWC tells us: ‘this amount will have supported at least 11 care workers who have had to isolate as a result of Covid-19’
You may be interested to know that Roger is also going to produce a limited edition fine art print with four of the illustrations on it, signed by both of us, the first 10 of which will also be sold in aid of CWC. The print will be available at http://www.rogerwagner.co.uk/prints from Advent Sunday.
Meantime, for those who may have missed it, the rest of this post gives you the chance to read all seven sections of the complete poem. As always you can hear me read each section of the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ button or the Roman numeral.
Earlier this year I published a sequence called Quarantine Quatrains , whose seventh and final section was a requiem for those who have died during this pandemic and especially for the careworkers who gave their lives in looking after them. Today, as we keep All Souls Day, the day for remembering the dead with thanksgiving, I am posting this final part of my poem again, and I am conscious that I do so at the beginning of a second lockdown and the rising wave of further illness, a wave which will once more call for heroism in the NHS and amongst careworkers. The Quarantine Quatrains was published in a limited edition to raise funds for The Careworker’s Charity. That edition is almost completely sold out, but if you find this post helpful perhaps you would like to donate to the Careworker’s charity via This Page, rather than buying me a coffee.
Once more we are confronted by mind-numbing numbers and only the exercise of compassionate imagination can give us even a glimpse of the harrowing personal stories behind each one. When I began to hear our statistics mount on our own evening radio news, I found myself again and again in prayer, knowing that even though I only heard the numbers, God knows and loves and died for the people behind those numbers.
As usual you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the title or the play button
One of Roger Wagner’s illustrations for The Quarantine Quatrains
I am delighted to announce the fruition of a a special project that the artist Roger Wagner and I have been working on together for the last couple of months. You will remember that I have been composing some ‘Quarantine Quatrains’ , in the metre of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, as a kind of ‘New Rubaiyat’ for our times. Happily this caught the attention of the excellent artist Roger Wagner, and, since the original Rubaiyat was so often published with beautiful illustrations, often exquisite Persian miniatures, Roger kindly agreed to make a beautiful set of seven ‘miniatures’, on Nepalese paper, illustrating and commenting on the text of my poem. As the final section of that poem is an elegy for the care workers who died of Covid themselves in the course of saving other people’s lives, we decided to dedicate this book to them and to donate our work on it, so that all profits, after the costs of printing, posting and packaging, could go to The Care Workers Charity. We engaged the Parchment Press in Oxford to produce a booklet with the poem and Roger’s illustrations beautifully reproduced, in a limited run of 6oo, numbered, and signed by both of us. By selling this at £15 inclusive of post and packaging (including postage to North America!), we hope to raise at least £5000 for The Careworker’s Charity.
So on this occasion, rather than buying me a coffee, why don’t you buy yourself this beautiful booklet, and at the same time support the care workers who are helping to get us all through this crisis. you can do so from this page on Roger’s website HERE
Here, as a taster, is the final section of the poem with Roger’s beautiful illustration and embedded below that is a film, edited by Roger, in which the two of us discuss our inspiration for this project, and which also features a song setting of this section of the poem.
Psalm 30 is one of those psalms that seem to spring to new life and speak to us directly as we read and pray it through during this Covid crisis. It is a psalm of recovery, certainly, but of a chastened recovery, a recovery that hi-lights our utter dependence on God’s unfailing Love, rather than our own achievements or prosperity.
Everybody knows and loves verse 5 of this psalm:
For his wrath endureth but the twinkling of an eye, and in his pleasure is life: heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
We rightly take comfort in that verse, but the key verses, for understanding this psalm are the three that follow:
And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be removed: thou, Lord, of thy goodness hast made my hill so strong.
Thou didst turn thy face from me: and I was troubled.
Then cried I unto thee, O Lord: and gat me to my Lord right humbly.
It is only after that humble return that the psalmist can finally say:
Thou hast turned my heaviness into joy: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness.
So in responding to this psalm I felt that I could very much make its phrases my own and turn it into a prayer for our time.
As usual you can hear me read the poem by pressing the ‘play’ button if it appears, or else by clicking on the title. For the other poems in my psalm series type the word ‘psalm’ into the search box on the right.
Of how through our long night we heard your warning
And heeded you, and found your love again
How night withdrew and joy came in the morning.
If you are enjoying these posts, you might like, on occasion, (not every time of course!) to pop in and buy me a cup of coffee. Clicking on this banner will take you to a page where you can do so, if you wish. But please do not feel any obligation!
I am thinking of my American friends today as the tragic death-toll from the virus there passes 100,000. These are mind numbing numbers and only the exercise of compassionate imagination can give us even a glimpse of the harrowing personal stories behind each one. When I began to hear our statistics mount on our own evening radio news, I found myself again and again in prayer, knowing that even though I only heard the numbers, God knew and loved and died for the people behind those numbers.
All this found its way into the concluding section of my Quarantine Quatrains which I am posting here as a poem on its own