DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
“The Temper” by George Herbert (b.1593)
HOW should I praise thee, Lord ! how should my rymes
Gladly engrave thy love in steel,
If what my soul doth feel sometimes,
My soul might ever feel !
Although there were some fourtie heav’ns, or more,
Sometimes I peere above them all ;
Sometimes I hardly reach a score,
Sometimes to hell I fall.
O rack me not to such a vast extent ;
Those distances belong to thee :
The world’s too little for thy tent,
A grave too big for me.
Wilt thou meet arms with man, that thou dost stretch
A crumme of dust from heav’n to hell ?
Will great God measure with a wretch ?
Shall he thy stature spell ?
O let me, when thy roof my soul hath hid,
O let me roost and nestle there :
Then of a sinner thou art rid,
And I of hope and fear.
Yet take thy way ; for sure thy way is best :
Stretch or contract me thy poore debter :
This is but tuning of my breast,
To make the musick better.
Whether I flie with angels, fall with dust,
Thy hands made both, and I am there.
Thy power and love, my love and trust,
“God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins (b. 1844)
THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
“Making Capital” by Paul Mariani (b. 1940)
I cannot in conscience spend time on poetry, neither have I the inducements and inspirations that make others compose. Feeling, love in particular, is the great moving power and spring of verse and the only person that I am in love with seldom, especially now, stirs my heart sensibly and when he does I cannot always ‘make capital’ of it, it would be sacrilege to do so. Then again I have of myself made verse so laborious.
--- Hopkins to Bridges, February 15, 1879
For six weeks I’ve tried lassoing the wind
and come up with nada, zip & zero. Oh, I know
what moved me then, what sweet whisperings to the mind,
but could not make those protean shapes sit still, though
God knows I’ve tried. Sunday mass. The eight.
My wife there next to me, thinking her own deep
thoughts. Congealed light on the pews, cold as Fate,
candles guttering, half the parishioners half asleep.
And the priest up at the pulpit, embellishing a story taken
from one of those Chicken Soup series for the soul.
I kept glancing left, then down, then right. Forsaken
the place, as if the Good News had dropped down some black hole,
paralyzed by what the papers had been screaming now
of scandal, indifferent to whatever the poor priest had to say.
Then, suddenly, up there at the altar, I caught a shadow
stirring, as if struggling up the hill under the heaving sway
of thornwood. Young Isaac, carrying kindling for a fire,
branches his shaken father had ordered him to fetch.
The figure trembled in the ether, then gave way to yet another,
whose wrists they’d roped to a wooden crossbeam (poor wretch),
as he too stumbled toward the distant rise. But what
had this to do with where I found myself? Everything,
I guess. Or nothing, Depending on the view. True, the rot
of the beholder went deep, deep, but deeper went the blessing:
the thought that God had spared the first from death, but not
the other, who among the trees had begged his father not to drink
the cup. All that history in a blink, as the one went on to populate
a nation, while the other –nailed to that wood—rose from the stink
of death, promising to lift us with him. I looked around
the church, knowing what I know of death: the death of mother,
father, friends, the death of promise, of vision run aground,
the death of self, of all we might have been, the death of that ideal other,
the bitter end of all. Nada, zip. Except for that loop in time, when
something gave: a blip of light across the mind’s dark eye, if you
can call it that. But what, if not a good man going under? Then
“How We Fall” by Claire Bateman
"Nobody does a swan dive
bleeding or weeping;
we fall clawing the air
as if to climb it
all the way back;
we fall shrieking, unraveling,
all angles & knobby joints,
all stutter & putter,
our teeth rattling,
our hair fanning out like flames;
we fall foaming at the mouth
with hypothesis & self-argument;
we fall mutely,
hoarding our breath
as if breath withheld
make a difference.
And it's as if the falling
has a mind of its own,
episodic, all fits & starts,
overlapping time zones & air pockets
so that sometimes a faller seems to arrive
just prior to departure,
& other times a faller seems to be merely
hovering in mid-air
like Bugs Bunny,
unaware that he's left
the edge of the cliff behind.
Some of us even fall
from the inside out
or the outside in,
the soul preceding the body
or the body the soul,
the trajectories describing
all kinds of arcs & parabolas,
disregarding every rule of descent,
demolishing every point of etiquette"