For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious

Saturday, 25 May 2019

The Gospel of the Last Days

Prologue to the Sonnets 
(La Vita Rinata, L'Epifania, La Passione e Morte, L'Ascensione)

Dante met Beatrice in the street
And I another girl did meet.
My art with his I won’t compare,
But she with Beatrice, yes, I dare.
The poet saw once, fiery red
Love a cherub by her bed:
But when the Comedy he wrote
Beatrice stood high upon the float
And was the flesh that God became
And was fair Love, God’s own blest Name.
But what if Beatrice had not died,
If Dante found his love had lied,
Had flowed and ebbed and seeped away
Into soft sands and did not stay?
Would he have thrown into the air
His hands in anger and despair?
Or would fierce Love, that angel dread,
Have took the poet’s hand and led
To where, its human form displayed
It hung slow dying disarrayed?
Imagination, Blake once said,
Is blest Christ’s Body, heaven-sped.
We read well our divinity
When loving we His Image see;  
But when His Spirit flees from us
Love dies as surely die He must
And where God made His glorious nest
Appears a girl just like the rest.
Now are we asked if Love’s a lie
Or steep ascended to the sky,
If we will our own bliss betray
Or wait for Him all our short stay.
Dante the answer knew and Blake,
Not to lose faith, for Jesus’ sake,
Nor cynic turn our soul to sell
And take the easy way to Hell.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Stubborn Lives

The truth has to be melted out of our stubborn lives by suffering. Nothing speaks the truth, nothing tells us how things really are, nothing forces us to know what we do not want to know except pain. And this is how the gods declare their love.

- Aeschylus, Oresteia.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

L'Ascensione

Can scorched doors of perception be rehung?
Chains of time, molten, were reforged a ring
That Lord its bearer walks 'neath every sun.
A furnace, blown hot in hell's harrowing

With love's late breath, made liquid history's core:
Fashioned to freedom by fire of burnt flesh
Sorrow times seven has tempered mixed ore,
Clean bathed and bright is it lifted now fresh -

Ring, hammered by God, smith naked in sweat,
(Lo the anvil his will, his nerves, his brain)
Wear then, crushed soul who pay death's hard debt;
A world forsook is thine. With iron rod reign.

Yet opened wounds depart to poem's haut throne,
Steel pen that gashed its way through flesh and bone

Sharp tears the sonnet's sky, rent flesh scarred soars
By burnt leaves named wide everlasting doors.

Monday, 13 May 2019

Two Dreams


Twice have I dreamt of you by night.
The first time you were climbing up the stair –
I close behind – you, to my mind
Not quite inciting me to follow you,
Nor yet displeased, something of warning,
Something of danger in your enigmatic look
As much in silence as your words
That made me careful of presumption
Careful to walk too thoughtless after you,
To assume that in the room above there lay
Unguarded welcome, a setting by
Of courtesy’s sharp distance:
You have been so in waking life,
And so, in uncertainty, have I.

The second dream was in a dining hall
Busy with people, sitting ready, chattering
The food not served. One place was empty,
The one beside you, and without looking round
Knowing me there still shy and undecided
Whether to sit or to forbear
Your hand lay once, twice, gently on the seat.
It quite compelled, as if I was all yours,
But yet it did not tell me you were mine.
It said – sit down, without a fuss,
Without love’s ostentation, without
A demonstration. Be quite content.
Sit quiet, happy, and await my pleasure
And if I turn and smile on you
When at my leisure – well, perhaps that’s all
You will receive. But you are mine in ways
The other men are not: although I am not yours,
Not in the way you want. And sad to say
You are in waking life so, every waking day.
And so in certainty am I.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Even In Our Sleep

He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep
Pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart,
And in our own despair, against our will,
Comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.

Aeschylus: from the Agamemnon.

Monday, 6 May 2019

Sarum Office: Psalmody for Matins during Eastertide

The cursus (or order for running through the Psalter) differs in Sarum Matins during Eastertide, compared to the rest of the year. I've pasted in the Eastertide cursus for Sarum Matins in the table below (psalms are numbered new style, as per Coverdale) - courtesy of Dr William Renwick who generously provided me with this information.

What I'm about to say isn't exact, but during Easter week one runs through the usual Sunday Matins and Sunday Prime psalms more or less consecutively. Then, during weeks 1-4 of Sundays after Easter, one says three psalms of the appointed twelve Matins psalms for that day of the week, so on the four Mondays of Eastertide one runs through the twelve psalms one would normally say on a single Monday. The only day that doesn't get this treatment is Saturday which is mostly occupied by the office of St Mary in Eastertide.



Sun
Mon
Tues
Wed
Thurs
Fri
Sat
Easter
Sunday
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
19
20
21
23
24
26
1st Sunday after Easter
27
28
29
39
40
41
53
55
56
69
70
71
81
82
83
98
99
100
2nd Sunday after Easter
30
31
32
42
43
44
57
58
59
72
73
74
84
85
86
Office of BVM
3rd Sunday after Easter
33
34
35
45
46
47
60
61
62
75
76
77
87
88
89
4th Sunday after Easter
36
37
38
48
49
50
64
65
66
78
79
80
92
94
96
Rogation Sunday
27
28
29
Office of BVM
53
55
56
Asc
Day
-
-

A query: when they were coming up with their bright ideas for lightening the psalm cursus for clerics in the early twentieth century and again in the 1960s, didn't anyone consider this as a good starting point for a revision for Matins that could have left the day hours more or less intact, perhaps also cutting down on the length of Lauds a little and spreading the long Psalm 119 over the week from Prime-None instead of over a single day? A four or five week cycle for Matins could have covered the entire traditional liturgical year, which (apart from Lent) is mostly made up of four or five week blocks: think of the liturgical months from August to November, Advent, Eastertide etc., and even Septuagesima added to Lent makes up two blocks of four or five weeks depending on whether one includes Holy Week in the count. This is what a conservative revision could have looked like, and wouldn't have been such a radical departure. In fact all that would have been needed was a slim volume detailing which antiphons to use for the psalms on these days: everything else (but everything) could have been left untouched.

A Blackbird of Shere