Tag Archives: psalms

A Rondeau for Leonard Cohen

You chant again the telling charm

You chant again the telling charm

Today, on the anniversary of Leonard Cohen’s death I am reposting the poem I composed for him last year.

King David is the archetypal sacred singer, the psalmist in whom and through whom every passion can be lifted into poetry, and lifted through that poetry to God. His psalms sound Praise and Lament together, the wounds and glories of Eros and the wounds and glories of  Agape. It has often seemed to me that Leonard Cohen was a latter day David, as he too addressed the Lord and said

‘From this broken hill,

all your praises they shall ring

if it be your will

to let me sing.

I composed this poem about his passing in the mediaeval Rondeau form. The Rondeau is also the form used in the poem In Flanders Field and it seems a fitting form for this occasion. As always you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the title or the play button.

This poem, originally posted on this blog last year, was published in February of this year in The Christian Century.

A Rondeau for Leonard Cohen

 

Like David’s psalm you named our pain,

And left us. But the songs remain

To search our wounds and bring us balm,

Till every song becomes a psalm,

And your restraint is our refrain;

 

Between the stained-glass and the stain,

The dark heart and the open vein,

Between the heart-storm and the harm,

Like David’s psalm.

 

I see you by the windowpane,

Alive within your own domain,

The light is strong, the seas are calm,

You chant again the telling charm,

That names, and naming, heals our pain,

Like David’s psalm.

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Hymn Before Sunrise by ST Coleridge

Image by Linda Richardson

Image by Linda Richardson

For January 4th in my  Anthology from Canterbury PressWaiting on the Word, I have chosen to read a passage from A Hymn before Sunrise in the vale of Chamouni by ST Coleridge.

You can hear me read this poem by clicking on the title or the play button. The image above was created by Linda Richardson for her book of responses to Waiting on the Word, she writes:

Anyone who has ever had a “glance” of God wants to share the experience. It is like running home to show your family the beautiful butterfly you have captured in your cupped hands but when you get there it has escaped and all you have are impressions and words. In the gospel of John we hear Andrew’s response after he meets Jesus: “The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.”

Words and images have power to point to an experience but they aren’t the experience itself. What we really want to do is bring people to experience what we have experienced, to bring them to Jesus like Andrew brought his brother, (to bring them to the Holy Mountain). In my little painting, the mountain sits above the words, the words point to the mountain. God’s promise is that if we seek, we will find. Talking about God is good but if we don’t also open ourselves to be transformed by the experience of God, (Rise, O ever rise..), we remain in doctrine and dogma which, although essential, only has the power to point.

You can find the words, and a short reflective essay on this poem in Waiting on the Word, which is now also available on Kindle

from The Hymn before Sunrise, in the Vale of Chamouni   Samuel Taylor Coleridge

 

Ye Ice-falls! ye that from the mountain’s brow

Adown enormous ravines slope amain—

Torrents, methinks, that heard a mighty voice,

And stopped at once amid their maddest plunge!

Motionless torrents! silent cataracts!

Who made you glorious as the gates of Heaven

Beneath the keen full moon? Who bade the sun

Clothe you with rainbows? Who, with living flowers

Of loveliest blue, spread garlands at your feet?—

God! let the torrents, like a shout of nations,

Answer! and let the ice-plains echo, God!

God! sing ye meadow-streams with gladsome voice!

Ye pine-groves, with your soft and soul-like sounds!

And they too have a voice, yon piles of snow,

And in their perilous fall shall thunder, God!

Ye living flowers that skirt the eternal frost!

Ye wild goats sporting round the eagle’s nest!

Ye eagles, play-mates of the mountain-storm!

Ye lightnings, the dread arrows of the clouds!

Ye signs and wonders of the element!

Utter forth God, and fill the hills with praise!

Thou too, hoar Mount! with thy sky-pointing peaks,

Oft from whose feet the avalanche, unheard,

Shoots downward, glittering through the pure serene

Into the depth of clouds, that veil thy breast—

Thou too again, stupendous Mountain! thou

That as I raise my head, awhile bowed low

In adoration, upward from thy base

Slow travelling with dim eyes suffused with tears,

Solemnly seemest, like a vapoury cloud,

To rise before me—Rise, O ever rise,

Rise like a cloud of incense from the Earth!

Thou kingly Spirit throned among the hills,

Thou dread ambassador from Earth to Heaven,

Great Hierarch! tell thou the silent sky,

And tell the stars, and tell yon rising sun,

Earth, with her thousand voices, praises God.

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A Rondeau for Leonard Cohen

You chant again the telling charm

You chant again the telling charm

King David is the archetypal sacred singer, the psalmist in whom and through whom every passion can be lifted into poetry, and lifted through that poetry to God. His psalms sound Praise and Lament together, the wounds and glories of Eros and the wounds and glories of  Agape. It has often seemed to me that Leonard Cohen was a latter day David, as he too addressed the Lord and said

‘From this broken hill,

all your praises they shall ring

if it be your will

to let me sing.

Today I composed this poem about his passing in the mediaeval Rondeau form. The Rondeau is also the form used in the poem In Flanders Field and it seems a fitting form for this occasion. As always you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the title or the play button

A Rondeau for Leonard Cohen

 

Like David’s psalm you named our pain,

And left us. But the songs remain

To search our wounds and bring us balm,

Till every song becomes a psalm,

And your restraint is our refrain;

 

Between the stained-glass and the stain,

The dark heart and the open vein,

Between the heart-storm and the harm,

Like David’s psalm.

 

I see you by the windowpane,

Alive within your own domain,

The light is strong, the seas are calm,

You chant again the telling charm,

That names, and naming, heals our pain,

Like David’s psalm.

14 Comments

Filed under Music, Poems

Hymn Before Sunrise by ST Coleridge

For January 4th in my  Anthology from Canterbury PressWaiting on the Word, I have chosen to read a passage from A Hymn before Sunrise in the vale of Chamouni by ST Coleridge.

You can hear me read this poem by clicking on the title or the play button. the image above was created by Lancia Smith, and carries a quotation from the poem. You can see this and more on her  excellent Website Cultivating the True the Good and the Beautiful.. You can find the words, and a short reflective essay on this poem in Waiting on the Word, which is now also available on Kindle

from The Hymn before Sunrise, in the Vale of Chamouni   Samuel Taylor Coleridge

 

Ye Ice-falls! ye that from the mountain’s brow

Adown enormous ravines slope amain—

Torrents, methinks, that heard a mighty voice,

And stopped at once amid their maddest plunge!

Motionless torrents! silent cataracts!

Who made you glorious as the gates of Heaven

Beneath the keen full moon? Who bade the sun

Clothe you with rainbows? Who, with living flowers

Of loveliest blue, spread garlands at your feet?—

God! let the torrents, like a shout of nations,

Answer! and let the ice-plains echo, God!

God! sing ye meadow-streams with gladsome voice!

Ye pine-groves, with your soft and soul-like sounds!

And they too have a voice, yon piles of snow,

And in their perilous fall shall thunder, God!

Ye living flowers that skirt the eternal frost!

Ye wild goats sporting round the eagle’s nest!

Ye eagles, play-mates of the mountain-storm!

Ye lightnings, the dread arrows of the clouds!

Ye signs and wonders of the element!

Utter forth God, and fill the hills with praise!

Thou too, hoar Mount! with thy sky-pointing peaks,

Oft from whose feet the avalanche, unheard,

Shoots downward, glittering through the pure serene

Into the depth of clouds, that veil thy breast—

Thou too again, stupendous Mountain! thou

That as I raise my head, awhile bowed low

In adoration, upward from thy base

Slow travelling with dim eyes suffused with tears,

Solemnly seemest, like a vapoury cloud,

To rise before me—Rise, O ever rise,

Rise like a cloud of incense from the Earth!

Thou kingly Spirit throned among the hills,

Thou dread ambassador from Earth to Heaven,

Great Hierarch! tell thou the silent sky,

And tell the stars, and tell yon rising sun,

Earth, with her thousand voices, praises God.

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Christ and the Cambridge Poets 3: Christopher Smart

Christopher Smart at Pembroke College

Over the centuries that St. Edwards has stood at the heart of Cambridge, the
city has been home to some great poets whose work can give us
new and imaginative insights into our faith. Over five weeks starting wednesday
may 11th I have been  exploring some of the insights that these poets
can offer to us now.

May 11th Edmund Spenser and the insights of Love

May 18th George Herbert and the insights of prayer,

May 25th Christopher smart and the insights of ‘madness’

June 1st Tennyson and the insights of doubt,

June 8th Gwyneth Lewis and the insights of science

Today we come to Christopher Smart a poet whose best work was writen when he had been confined to a lunatic asylum, but whose life and witness challenged his own and our society’s definition of ‘madness’. It is possible to see in Smart’s writing now, not, as his contemporaries thought, incomprehensible delusion, but clear prophetic utterance and a challenging poetry of faith and ecology which has crucial truths to disclose to the twenty-first century. As usual you can hear the audio by clicking on the ‘play’ button if it appears in your browser, or by clicking on the words ‘christopher smart’.The talk lasts about 55 minutes. Below the audio I have pasted the text  of extracts from Smarts poetry from the handout I used in the lecture

christopher smart

From A Song to David:

He sang of God—the mighty source
Of all things—the stupendous force
On which all strength depends;
From whose right arm, beneath whose eyes,
All period, power, and enterprise
Commences, reigns, and ends.

The world, the clustering spheres, He made;
The glorious light, the soothing shade,
Dale, champaign, grove, and hill;
The multitudinous abyss,
Where Secrecy remains in bliss,
And Wisdom hides her skill.

Trees, plants, and flowers—of virtuous root;  
Gem yielding blossom, yielding fruit,  
  Choice gums and precious balm;  
Bless ye the nosegay in the vale,

        130

And with the sweetness of the gale  
  Enrich the thankful psalm.  
   
Of fowl—even every beak and wing  
Which cheer the winter, hail the spring,  
  That live in peace or prey;

        135

They that make music, or that mock,  
The quail, the brave domestic cock.  
  The raven, swan, and jay.  
   
Of fishes—every size and shape,  
Which nature frames of light escape,

        140

  Devouring man to shun:  
The shells are in the wealthy deep,  
The shoals upon the surface leap,  
  And love the glancing sun.  
   
Of beasts—the beaver plods his task;

        145

While the sleek tigers roll and bask,  
  Nor yet the shades arouse;  
Her cave the mining coney scoops;  
Where o’er the mead the mountain stoops,  
  The kids exult and browse.  

The pillars of the Lord are seven,
Which stand from earth to topmost heaven;
His Wisdom drew the plan;
His Word accomplish’d the design,
From brightest gem to deepest mine;
From Christ enthroned, to Man.

For Adoration all the ranks
Of Angels yield eternal thanks,
And David in the midst;
With God’s good poor, which, last and least
In man’s esteem, Thou to Thy feast,
O blessèd Bridegroom, bidd’st!

Glorious the sun in mid career;  
Glorious the assembled fires appear;

        500

  Glorious the comet’s train:  
Glorious the trumpet and alarm;  
Glorious the Almighty’s stretched-out arm;  
  Glorious the enraptured main:  
   
Glorious the northern lights a-stream;

        505

Glorious the song, when God’s the theme;  
  Glorious the thunder’s roar:  
Glorious Hosannah from the den;  
Glorious the catholic Amen;  
  Glorious the martyr’s gore:

        510

   
Glorious,—more glorious,—is the crown  
Of Him that brought salvation down,  
  By meekness called Thy Son;  
Thou that stupendous truth believed;—  
And now the matchless deed’s achieved,

        515

  Determined, Dared, and Done.  
   

From Jubilate Agno

For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.

For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.

For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.

For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.

For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.

For he rolls upon prank to work it in.

For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.

For this he performs in ten degrees.

For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.

For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.

For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the forepaws extended.

For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.

For fifthly he washes himself.

For sixthly he rolls upon wash.

For seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.

For eighthly he rubs himself against a post.

For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.

For tenthly he goes in quest of food.

For having consider’d God and himself he will consider his neighbour.

For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.

For he keeps the Lord’s watch in the night against the adversary.

For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.

For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.

For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.

For he is of the tribe of Tiger.

For I bless God in the rising generation, which is on my side.

For I have translated in the charity, which makes things better and I shall be translated myself at the last.

For the merciful man is merciful to his beast, and to the trees that give them shelter.

For he hath turned the shadow of death into the morning,the Lord is his name.

For I am come home again, but there is nobody to kill the calf or to pay the musick.

For I pray God to bless improvements in gardening till London be a city of palm-trees.

For I pray to give his grace to the poor of England, that Charity be not offended and that benevolence may increase.

For in my nature I quested for beauty, but God, God hath sent me to sea for pearls.

For I rejoice like a worm in the rain in him that cherishes and from him that tramples

For the names and number of animals are as the name and number of the stars. —

For I pray the Lord Jesus to translate my MAGNIFICAT into verse and represent it.

For I bless the Lord Jesus from the bottom of Royston Cave to the top of King’s

For I am possessed of a cat, surpassing in beauty, from whom I take occasion to bless Almighty God.

For I pray God for the professors of the University of Cambridge to attend and to amend.

The Text from Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb, drawn from Smart’s Jubilate Agno

CHORUS

1 Rejoice in God, O ye Tongues; give the glory to the Lord, and the

Lamb. Nations, and languages, and every Creature, in which is the

breath of Life. Let man and beast appear before him, and magnify his

name together.

2 Let Nimrod, the mighty hunter, bind a Leopard to the altar, and

consecrate his spear to the Lord.

Let Ishmail dedicate a Tyger, and give praise for the liberty in which

the Lord has let him at large.

Let Balaam appear with an Ass, and bless the Lord his people and his

creatures for a reward eternal.

Let Daniel come forth with a Lion, and praise God with all his might

through faith in Christ Jesus.

Let Ithamar minister with a Chamois, and bless the name of Him, that

cloatheth the naked.

Let Jakim with the Satyr bless God in the dance, dance, dance, dance.

Let David bless with the Bear—The beginning of victory to the

Lord—to the Lord the perfection of excellence

3  —Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah from the heart of God, and from

the hand of the artist inimitable, and from the echo of the heavenly

harp in sweetness magnifical and mighty, Hallelujah, Hallelujah,

Hallelujah.

TREBLE SOLO

4 For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.

For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him.

For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his

way. For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with

elegant quickness. For he knows that God is his Saviour.

For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.

For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.

For I am possessed of a cat, surpassing in beauty, from whom I take

5 For the Mouse is a creature of great personal valour.

For—this a true case—Cat takes female mouse—male mouse will not

depart, but stands threat’ning and daring.

. . .  If you will let her go, I will engage you, as prodigious a creature as

you are.

For the Mouse is a creature of great personal valour.

For the Mouse is of an hospitable disposition.

TENOR SOLO

6 For the flowers are great blessings. For the flowers are great blessings.

For the flowers have their angels even the words of God’s Creation.

For the flower glorifies God and the root parries the adversary.

For there is a language of flowers.

For flowers are peculiarly the poetry of Christ.

CHORUS

7 For I am under the same accusation with my Saviour—

For they said, he is besides himself.

For the officers of the peace are at variance with me, and the watchmen

smites me with his staff.

For Silly fellow! Silly fellow! is against me and belongeth neither to me

nor to my family.

For I am in twelve HARDSHIPS, but he that was born of a virgin shall

deliver me out of all, shall deliver me out of all.

RECITATIVE (BASS SOLO) AND CHORUS

8 For H is a spirit and therefore he is God.

For K is king and therefore he is God.

For L is love and therefore he is God.

For M is musick and therefore he is God.

And therefore he is God.

9 For the instruments are by their rhimes.

For the shawm rhimes are lawn fawn and the like.

For the shawm rhimes are moon boon and the like

For the harp rhimes are sing ring and the like.

For the harp rhimes are ring string and the like.

For the cymbal rhimes are bell well and the like.

For the cymbal rhimes are toll soul and the like.

For the flute rhimes are tooth youth and the like.

For the flute rhimes are suit mute and the like.

For the Bassoon rhimes are pass class and the like.

For the dulcimer rhimes are grace place beat heat and the like.

For the Clarinet rhimes are clean seen and the like.

For the trumpet rhimes are sound bound soar more and the like.

For the TRUMPET of God is a blessed intelligence and so are all the

instruments in HEAVEN.

For GOD the father Almighty plays upon the HARP of stupendous

magnitude and melody.

For at that time malignity ceases and the devils themselves are at peace.

For this time is perceptible to man by a remarkable stillness and

serenity of soul.

CHORUS

10—Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah from the heart of God, and from

the hand of the artist inimitable, and from the echo of the heavenly

harp in sweetness magnifical and mighty, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

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