Tag Archives: George Herbert

Lent with Herbert Day 13: Softness

On our Lenten Journey through Herbert’s poem Prayer, using the sonnets in my new book After Prayer, we emerged at last from his dark series, within the longer sequence, then passed through a passage of transposition and retuning in the middle two lines of the poem:

The six-days world transposing in an hour,

Kind of tune that all things hear and fear

Now we are ready to begin a beautiful ascent back into joy, a joy which is all the more secure and real because it has passed through and transmuted sorrow. Herbert signals this in a single line:

Softness and peace and joy and love and bliss

When I was first considering how to respond to Herbert’s Prayer with poetry of my own I wondered whether to treat this whole line as a single image, but in the end I saw that although the words here are all related, they are related by way of progression or ascent: each a step leading to the other, lifting us out of the pit into which we have fallen. So I decided that each distinct step should have a poem of its own, but that the five sonnets dealing with this line should form a little sequence in themselves, rather as the darker sonnets about struggle had also formed their own sequence. It was a challenge of course to commit to five sonnets in this way because, as Philip Larkin once remarked ‘Happiness writes white’ – it’s much more difficult to convey joy than sorrow, like writing with white ink on white paper, and the only way to do it is by contrast, which is the approach I have taken. So here is the first of this sequence, on softness.

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

Softness

Softness and peace and joy and love and bliss,

They rise like steps ascending to his throne,

Each step a blessing and a power to bless,

A strength in knowing and in being known

In Christ’s strong love. Softness is first: a grace

That sets aside our strife, undoes our stress,

As hard lines soften in a kindly face

And hard toil softens into real rest,

As when, on days all strewn with broken glass,

Days we have borne with bleakness all alone,

We turn at last to take the hard road home

And someone greets us with a soft caress,

Brushing away the tears that blind our sight,

Soothing the down of darkness into light.

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Lent with Herbert day 12: A Kind Of Tune

On our Lenten Journey through Herbert’s poem Prayer, using the sonnets in my new book After Prayer, we have come to the middle two lines, the very hinge of the sonnet, Herbert turns for comfort and wisdom to his beloved world of music:

The six-days world transposing in an hour,

Kind of tune that all things hear and fear

Yesterday we looked at the image of transposition and today I want to focus on prayer as ‘a kind of tune’. In Herbert’s conception prayer is at once the natural music of the soul. and also an act of discernment in which we hear at last the true music, the song of Chtist himself, and gradually tune ourselves or rather allow him to tune us to that. These are both insights he may have received from Donne who expressed them both together in a remarkable sermon which Herbert may have heard:

God made this whole world in such an uniformity, such a correspondancy,  such a concinnity of parts, as that it was an Instrument, perfectly in tune: we may say the trebles, the highest strings, were disordered first; the best understandings, Angels and Men, put this instrument out of tune. God rectified all again, by putting in a new string…the Messias, and onely by sounding that string in your eares, become we musicum carmen, true musick, true harmony, true peace to you.(Sermons II, p.170.)

I think this passage, which struck me forcibly when I was studying Donne’s sermons for my PhD, was also in my mind when I came to write this sonnet, which is paired with the one we read for day 11.

As always you can hear me read the sonnet by clicking on the play button or the title.

 

A Kind Of Tune

 

A kind of tune, a music everywhere

And nowhere. Love’s long lovely undersong,

A trace in time, a grace-note in the air,

Borne to us from the place where we belong

On every passing breeze and in the breath

Of every creature. All things hear and fear,

For faintly, through our fall, we too may hear

The strong song of the Son that undoes death.

 

And one day we will hear it unimpaired:

The joy of all the sorrowful, the song

Of all the saints who cry ‘how long’,

The hidden hope of all who have despaired.

He sang it to his mother in the womb

And now it echoes from his empty tomb.

Cantus Firmus

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Lent with Herbert Day 10: Christ’s side-piercing spear

On our Lenten Journey through Herbert’s poem Prayer, using the sonnets in my new book After Prayer, we conclude in this dark series, within the longer sequence, in which Herbert explores the experience of frustration, struggle and anger in our prayer life, with an image that at once sharpens and resolves, and re-frames all the preceding images of struggle and conflict: ‘Christ’s side-piercing spear’.

Here we are no longer in the realm of some great, general struggle, figured under the image of siege warfare, now it’s personal. And more than that. As I came to write my sonnet in response to this image of prayer I realised that it changes my understanding of all the previous images. It is as though, all that time I was besieging what I thought was God’s castle, I was really facing in the wrong direction, and imagining God himself in entirely the wrong way. For all the while I was looking up, he had, without my noticing, slipped out of the castle and come down. He was not ‘up there’ any more, he was down here, on the ground amongst the wounded, as vulnerable as I am, standing with open arms, just behind me, waiting for me to turn around and come to him. There had never been any question of my breaking his siege, on the contrary, he had come down to break mine, and the spear that pierced his heart was the true emblem of all my prayers.

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

Christ’s side-piercing spear

For all the while I hurl my hurts at heaven,

Believing I besiege the battlement,

Of God’s invulnerable heart and haven,

I strike at emptiness, at my own bafflement,

I shake my fist in fury at a shadow.

For he is not like us nor are his ways

Like ours. He left that heaven’s haven long ago

And broke our siege. A voice behind me says:

 

Why do you weep and rage at heaven above?

I have come down to die here in the dirt,

Your wounds have wounded me, for I am Love

And in my heart I hold your deepest hurt.

Oh turn around, return, and face me here

Your slightest prayer will pierce me like a spear.

‘Your slightest prayer will pierce me like a spear’. Painting by Fra Angelico

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Lent with Herbert Day 9: Reversèd Thunder

On our Lenten Journey through Herbert’s poem Prayer, using the sonnets in my new book After Prayer, we continue in this dark sequence of sonnets concerned with struggle and conflict. We have had ‘engine against th’almghtie‘ and ‘sinners tower’ and now we have ‘reversed thunder’. Here Herbert takes the cliched image of Zeus hurling his thunderbolts, or a wrathful God thundering down at us, and audaciously reverses it, as though he were saying to God ‘You want to thunder at me? well, have I got thunder for you!’, following perhaps the ‘permission’ extended in the John Donne Sermon I quoted in an earlier post:

‘Prayer hath the nature of Impudency; wee threaten God in Prayer…and God suffers this Impudency and more. Prayer hath the nature of Violence; in the publique Prayers of the Congregation we besiege God, saies Tertullian,’

It is good for us to thunder back at God, if we need to. The psalms and Job are full of it and God is big enough to take it. But in my own poem on this phrase I was drawn to meditate on what produces the thunder in the first place, on the growing tension before the storm, the darkening clouds, the gradual build up of a powerful electric charge, a current that must somehow find release. It seemed to me that if Herbert is right, then prayer is a reversal of those lightening conductors we all have on the top of our church spires, with their wires ‘earthed’ in church yard, to conduct a lightening strike away from the building and into the earth. In prayer it is all the other way round, and when we finally release our tension in prayer and let God have the full blast of what we’re feeling, all the energy of our prayer runs up the conductor, who is Christ himself, and is ‘earthed’ with him in Heaven.

Reversèd Thunder

 

This light is muffled, muted, murky, dense,

Thick with a threat of thunder unreleased.

The clouds are darkening, the air grows tense,

The coming storm is lowering in the east

Something within me trembles too, and pales,

Though no one sees the brooding darkness there,

Or feels the tension building between poles

Of faith and doubt, of vision and despair.

 

Everything deepens, gathers to a head:

Anguish and anger at my absent God

Until the charge of all that’s left unsaid

Leaps out at last to find its lightening rod.

But even as the skies are rent and riven

I find that lightening rod is earthed in heaven.

 

 

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Lent with Herbert Day 8: Sinners’ Tower

On our Lenten Journey through Herbert’s poem Prayer, using the sonnets in my new book After Prayer, we continue in this dark series, within the longer sequence, in which Herbert explores the experience of frustration, struggle and anger in our prayer life. In yesterday’s post we saw how Herbert introduced the image of siege warfare with the phrase ‘Engine against th’almighty’, and it seems to be continued in today’s phrase ‘Sinners’s Tower’. There is some debate amongst Herbert scholars as to whether this leads directly from the previous phrase and refers to a siege tower, constructed so as to help the besieging forces get up over the battlements, or whether it might be a reference to the tower of Babel. I believe it is both, because the tower of Babel, mankind’s attempt to reach Heaven by its own power and with its own culture and technology, is precisely a kind of siege tower since it depends on the idea that God is somehow (and only) ‘High and Mighty’ sealed up in heaven. The incarnation tells us otherwise! The key term, indeed the shocking moment in the Genesis narrative telling the story of Babel, is the moment, just before the tower is completed, when God says ‘Let us go down‘ (Genesis 11:verse 7). As so often an act of judgement in the Old Testament prepares for, and opens out an act of blessing in the New Testament. In Genesis God goes down to confound our misguided efforts and to scatter us. But this is only because, having brought to nothing our false religiosity, He will truly come down in Christ, and become one of us, take our nature and deal with our sin, so us to lift us up, in His strength, not ours, to Heaven.

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

 

Sinners Tower

 

Exhausted by my own siege engine’s roar,

The clatter and the rattle of my prayer,

I drop, defeated, at his bolted door,

And sink awhile in silence and despair.

Is there another way to come at him,

Who seems so distant in his might and power?

I have no wings to rise like seraphim

So I begin to build the sinners tower,

Returning to that folly back in Babel.

Effort and elevation are my aim,

As though by my own powers I were able

To overwrite the nameless with my name.

But just before the summit and the crown

A voice in darkness calls: ‘let us go down’.

The Tower of Babel Peter Brueghel the younger

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Lent with Herbert Day 7: Engine against th’Almightie

Continuing, with our Lenten Journey through Herbert’s poem Prayer, using the sonnets in my new book After Prayer, we find, after the Christian plummet, that we have entered into a dark sequence of four further sonnets of struggle and conflict, and I would like to say something by way of preface to this dark sequence within the wider sequence of the whole poem, before I give you each day the individual poems:

‘Engine against th’Almighty, sinners tower

Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,’

This is as an extraordinary clutch of related images, all drawing on pictures of warfare and violence against God to describe of part of our relation with Him in prayer. Herbert achieves his effect by a sudden reversal of perspective, epitomised here in the phrase ‘reversed thunder’ We think of God in Heaven thundering down on us, but in prayer we are at liberty to thunder back at him as indeed in our desperation we sometimes do and perhaps those are our best prayers. The ‘Engine against the Almighty’ is almost certainly intended to conjure the image of a catapult or similar siege engine.

The image of prayer as a form of weaponry is of course rooted in St. Paul’s military metaphors (e.g. Ephesians 6:13 forward) but here Herbert has dared to observe that it is not always the devil, but sometimes God himself whom we are fighting, as we struggle with our vocation to full humanity. In compressing this idea into the images of his poem Herbert may have been remembering a sermon by his older friend John Donne:

‘Earnest prayer hath the nature of Importunity; Wee presse, wee importune God…Prayer hath the nature of Impudency; wee threaten God in Prayer…and God suffers this Impudency and more. Prayer hath the nature of Violence; in the publique Prayers of the Congregation we besiege God, saies Tertullian, and we take God Prisoner, and bring God to our Conditions; and God is glad to be straightened by us in that siege.’[The Sermons of John Donne ed. Potter and Simpson, (Los Angeles, 1953-1962) vol. V  p.364]

But after the thunders and towers and cannons of the siege imagery, Herbert brings the focus down and sharpens it with that single piercing image: ‘Christ-side-piercing spear’. We have become the centurion, making that terrible thrust, but this time it is not cold iron but our own agonies which are piercing the heart of Christ

Now here is my poem for ‘Engine against th’Almightie. As I say in the preface to After Payer, I found that following Herber’s images allowed me to open out and give expression to some of my own experiences of struggle and desolation in prayer.

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

Engine Against Th’Almightie

Here in this shadowed valley, dark and bleak,

We lay a bitter siege against the one

Who was our heart’s desire, but now withdraws

Behind his battlements. Our prayers just break

Against what seem like walls of silent stone.

We make an engine of our injuries,

And vault at God a volley of our sorrows:

All the despair and anger that we feel.

The catapult of our catastrophes

Hurls up its heavy load, and flights of arrows

Clatter against his walls, fall back and fail.

How can we make him feel our miseries?

We fling back famine at him, torture, cancer,

Is he almighty then? Has he no answer?

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Lent with Herbert day 6: The Christian Plummet

A Stone Cold Jonah
Image by Alma Sheppard-Matsuo taken from the Tablet

 

I am continuing, with our Lenten Journey through Herbert’s poem Prayer, using the sonnets in my new book After Prayer, this time responding to Herbert’s line ‘The Christian Plummet, sounding heaven and earth’.

Herbert is referring to the plummet or sounding line used on ships to measure the depth below the keel, lowered into the waves on a marked line and then hauled up so that the linesman could tell the helmsman what depth he had below his keel. In my own poem though I felt moved to imagine things from the point of view of the plummet itself, and to put into the context of prayer my own and other people’s experience of  suddenly plummeting down into depression. I especially responded to seeing the words ‘Christian’ and ‘plummet’ together. Some Christians can give you the impression that unless your constantly cheerful you’re not a true believer or haven’t ‘heard the gospel’, as though Jesus had never endured the agony in the garden. But it’s my conviction that a person is just as much a Christian when they are plummeting down and sounding depths others may not know, as when they are cheerful.I hope this poem may help those who have had similar experiences of plummeting.

With this line in Herbert’s Prayer, and this sonnet, in my responding sequence, we begin as it were a new movement in the overall music of the piece, we transpose from a major to a minor key. We might call the first movement, the one we have just completed, ‘Abundance’, its key motif set by the opening phrase ‘the Church’s Banquet’, and the second movement, which starts here and carries through to ‘christ’s side-piercing spear’, we might call ‘Plunge and Shadow’ as it deals with the darkness and struggle which is also necessarily part of our prayer lives. As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’button.

The Christian Plummet

 

Down into the icy depths you plunge,

The cold dark undertow of your depression,

Even your memories of light made strange,

As you fall further from all comprehension.

You feel as though they’ve thrown you overboard,

Your fellow Christians on the sunlit deck,

A stone cold Jonah on whom scorn is poured,

A sacrifice to save them from the wreck.

 

But someone has their hands on your long line,

You sound for them the depths they sail above,

One who takes Jonah as his only sign

Sinks lower still to hold you in his love,

And though you cannot see, or speak, or breathe,

The everlasting arms are underneath.

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Lent with Herbert, Day 5: Heart in Pilgrimage

Continuing, with our Lenten Journey through Herbert’s poem Prayer, using the sonnets in my new book After Prayer, we come to a phrase which in some ways parallels ‘soul in paraphrase’ and that is ‘heart in pilgrimage’. They are both modest: the paraphrase is never perfect, the pilgrim has not yet arrived. Pilgrimage is indeed a rich theme for understanding prayer, suggesting that each prayer is itself a step on a journey, and that though the journey is towards a holy place, the holiness of that end reaches back and sanctifies the journey itself. We learn as much, and are sometimes blessed as deeply on the twists and turns of our long journey, as we are when we arrive at the place of pilgrimage. And so it is with prayer. For me the archetypal prayer/pilgrimage is the story of the pilgrim Dante, and each of us with him, starting  ‘In the middle of the way of this life’, astray in a dark wood, but found again by Love (through Poetry) and set on the right path once more. So this sonnet uses Dante’s Terza Rima rhyme scheme.

Once Dante had come into my poem, it was natural that he should be joined by the other great writers on pilgrimage, Chaucer and then Bunyan, ‘a tinker our of Bedford/A vagrant oft in quod’ as Kipling called him. My sonnet here addresses my own heart, as Dante addresses his, and is an encouragement to set off and to keep going, much needed at this stage in Lent!

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

Heart In Pilgrimage

I start with Dante in a darkened wood

Well past the middle of my mazy way,

My beating heart sustains this flesh and blood,

 

A sounding drum that will not let me stay

Stuck in the sluggishness of middle age.

For here are April showers, and a new day,

 

As Chaucer joins me in my pilgrimage;

The mottled glory of his company,

With all their tales to tell, gives me new courage.

 

And now a Bedford tinker comes to me

And sings: Here little, and hereafter bliss,

Death where’s thy sting, where grave thy victory?

 

So, pilgrim heart, keep beating, fierce and free,

Your last beat brings me where I long to be.

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Lent with Herbert Day 4: The Soul In Paraphrase

Continuing, with our Lenten Journey through Herbert’s poem Prayer, using the sonnets in my new book After Prayer, the fourth phrase in Herbert’s masterpiece is itself about phrasing: ‘The soul in paraphrase’. The idea of prayer as a kind of paraphrase is at once intriguing and encouraging. Paraphrase is a tentative, an exploratory, an inexact art. A paraphrase confesses at the outset that it is only an approximation, it indicates ‘something understood’, something, but not everything. The whole of Herbert’s poem Prayer can be seen as a series of paraphrases of the inexpressible mystery of Prayer itself, each paraphrase making up for, and perhaps balancing what is lacking in the others. And if our daily prayer is a mystery too great fully to paraphrase, what of the mystery and depth of our own souls? Herbert’s idea that prayer itself is a paraphrase of the soul invited me to make my own cascade of paraphrases for the soul, and, like Herbert, to admit, that the mystery is always more than the language which gestures towards it.

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

The Soul in Paraphrase

A fledgling hidden in an ancient tree,

Singing unseen and darkling to the stars,

The fount and spring of meaning, just upstream

Of every utterance, unsullied, free,

A prisoner who grips and bends her bars,

The one who begs to differ, dares to dream,

A child astray, still calling to your heart,

A pattern, personal as all the swirls

In fingerprints on hands that hands have held,

Wholeness that knows itself within each part,

A flag whose emblem every breath unfurls,

A chasm bridged, and an old heartache healed,

A new day at the end of all your days,

A mystery you’ll never paraphrase.

Fledgling Eastern Phoebe, one of at least three successfully fledged young present in willow thickets in the Hastings creek area on the Seward Peninsula, alaska, on 25 July 2016. Photo by Lucas H. DeCicco/USFWS

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Word in the Wilderness Week 1: The Pilgrimage Begins

image courtesy of https://lanciaesmith.com

image courtesy of https://lanciaesmith.com

As well as the new series on Lent with George Herbert, I will be continuing, each Sunday in Lent, to post the poems for the coming week, from My Word in the Wilderness anthology, for those who are following that. In this first week in Lent  Word in the Wilderness introduces poems about pilgrimage itself and our life as pilgrimage. We will reflect on maps and mapping, on how outer journeys and inner ones are linked, on what it is we learn from the landscapes through which we walk. But first we have a poem for the first Sunday in Lent. Properly speaking, all Sundays are exceptions to Lent, for every Sunday is a commemoration of the first day of the week, the day of resurrection, and so really part of Easter. We should see Sundays as little islands of vision in the midst of Lent, or perhaps as little oases or pools of reflection and refreshment on our Lenten Journey and that is how I shall treat them in this anthology. Once again thanks are due to Lancia Smith for the image which accompanies this week’s poems.

So to celebrate the first of them here is R. S. Thomas’s famous poem ‘The Bright Field’.

The Bright Field

MONDAY

The Pilgrimage   George Herbert


I travell’d on, seeing the hill, where lay

My expectation.

A long it was and weary way.

The gloomy cave of Desperation

I left on th’one, and on the other side

The rock of Pride.

 

And so I came to Fancy’s meadow strow’d

With many a flower:

Fair would I here have made abode,

But I was quicken’d by my houre.

So to Cares copse I came, and there got through

With much ado.

 

That led me to the wild of Passion, which

Some call the wold;

A wasted place, but sometimes rich.

Here I was robb’d of all my gold,

Save one good Angel, which a friend had ti’d

Close to my side.

 

At length I got unto the gladsome hill,

Where lay my hope,

Where lay my heart; and climbing still,

When I had gain’d the brow and top,

A lake of brackish waters on the ground

Was all I found.

 

With that abash’d and struck with many a sting

Of swarming fears,

I fell, and cry’d, Alas my King;

Can both the way and end be tears?

Yet taking heart I rose, and then perceiv’d

I was deceiv’d:

 

My hill was further: so I flung away,

Yet heard a crie

Just as I went, None goes that way

And lives: If that be all, said I,

After so foul a journey death is fair,

And but a chair.

 

TUESDAY

 

Satire III   John Donne


… though truth and falsehood be

Near twins, yet truth a little elder is;

Be busy to seek her; believe me this,

He’s not of none, nor worst, that seeks the best.

To adore, or scorn an image, or protest,

May all be bad; doubt wisely; in strange way

To stand inquiring right, is not to stray;

To sleep, or run wrong, is. On a huge hill,

Cragged and steep, Truth stands, and he that will

Reach her, about must and about must go,

And what the hill’s suddenness resists, win so.

Yet strive so that before age, death’s twilight,

Thy soul rest, for none can work in that night.

To will implies delay, therefore now do;

Hard deeds, the body’s pains; hard knowledge too

The mind’s endeavours reach, and mysteries

Are like the sun, dazzling, yet plain to all eyes.

 

WEDNESDAY

 

The Passionate Man’s Pilgrimage   Walter Raleigh

Give me my scallop-shell of quiet,

My staff of faith to walk upon,

My scrip of joy, immortal diet,

My bottle of salvation,

My gown of glory, hope’s true gage;

And thus I’ll take my pilgrimage.

 

Blood must be my body’s balmer,

No other balm will there be given;

Whilst my soul, like a quiet palmer,

Travelleth towards the land of heaven ;

Over the silver mountains,

Where spring the nectar fountains:

There will I kiss

The bowl of bliss;

And drink mine everlasting fill

Upon every milken hill:

My soul will be a-dry before;

But after, it will thirst no more.

Then by that happy blestful day,

More peaceful pilgrims I shall see,

That have cast off their rags of clay,

And walk apparelled fresh like me.

I’ll take them first

To quench their thirst,

And taste of nectar suckets,

At those clear wells

Where sweetness dwells

Drawn up by saints in crystal buckets.

 

And when our bottles and all we

Are filled with immortality,

Then the blessed paths we’ll travel,

Strowed with rubies thick as gravel;

Ceilings of diamonds, sapphire floors,

High walls of coral, and pearly bowers.

From thence to heavens’s bribeless hall,

Where no corrupted voices brawl;

No conscience molten into gold,

No forged accuser bought or sold,

No cause deferred, nor vain-spent journey;

For there Christ is the King’s Attorney,

Who pleads for all without degrees,

And he hath angels, but no fees.

And when the grand twelve-million jury

Of our sins, with direful fury,

‘Gainst our souls black verdicts give,

Christ pleads his death, and then we live.

 

Be thou my speaker, taintless pleader,

Unblotted lawyer, true proceeder!

Thou giv’st salvation even for alms;

Not with a bribèd lawyer’s palms.

And this is my eternal plea

To him that made heaven, earth, and sea,

That, since my flesh must die so soon,

And want a head to dine next noon,

Just at the stroke, when my veins start and spread,

Set on my soul an everlasting head.

Then am I ready, like a palmer fit;

To tread those blest paths which before I writ.

 

THURSDAY

 

Maps  Holly Ordway Check out Holly’s website HERE

Antique maps, with curlicues of ink

As borders, framing what we know, like pages

From a book of travelers’ tales: look,

Here in the margin, tiny ships at sail.

No-nonsense maps from family trips: each state

Traced out in color-coded numbered highways,

A web of roads with labeled city-dots

Punctuating the route and its slow stories.

Now GPS puts me right at the centre,

A Ptolemaic shift in my perspective.

Pinned where I am, right now, somewhere, I turn

And turn to orient myself. I have

Directions calculated, maps at hand:

Hopelessly lost till I look up at last.

 

FRIDAY

 The Song of Wandering Aengus   W. B. Yeats


I went out to the hazel wood,

Because a fire was in my head,

And cut and peeled a hazel wand,

And hooked a berry to a thread;

 

And when white moths were on the wing,

And moth-like stars were flickering out,

I dropped the berry in a stream

And caught a little silver trout.

 

When I had laid it on the floor

I went to blow the fire a-flame,

But something rustled on the floor,

And some one called me by my name:

 

It had become a glimmering girl

With apple blossom in her hair

Who called me by my name and ran

And faded through the brightening air.

 

Though I am old with wandering

Through hollow lands and hilly lands,

I will find out where she has gone,

And kiss her lips and take her hands;

 

And walk among long dappled grass,

And pluck till time and times are done

The silver apples of the moon,

The golden apples of the sun.

 

SATURDAY

First Steps, Brancaster   Malcolm Guite


This is the day to leave the dark behind you
Take the adventure, step beyond the hearth,
Shake off at last the shackles that confined you,
And find the courage for the forward path.
You yearned for freedom through the long night watches,
The day has come and you are free to choose,
Now is your time and season.
Companioned still by your familiar crutches,
And leaning on the props you hope to lose,
You step outside and widen your horizon.

 

After the dimly burning wick of winter
That seemed to dull and darken everything
The April sun shines clear beyond your shelter
And clean as sight itself. The reed-birds sing,
As heaven reaches down to touch the earth
And circle her, revealing everywhere
A lovely, longed-for blue.
Breathe deep and be renewed by every breath,
Kinned to the keen east wind and cleansing air,
As though the blue itself were blowing through you.

 

You keep the coastal path where edge meets edge,
The sea and salt marsh touching in North Norfolk,
Reed cutters cuttings, patterned in the sedge,
Open and ease the way that you will walk,
Unbroken reeds still wave their feathered fronds
Through which you glimpse the long line of the sea
And hear its healing voice.
Tentative steps begin to break your bonds,
You push on through the pain that sets you free,
Towards the day when broken bones rejoice

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