Friday, May 16, 2008

Elegy


St. Michael's Church, Bowness-on-Solway, Cumbria

"Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mold'ring heap,
Each in his narrow cell forever laid,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep."


--Excerpt from "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" by Thomas Gray, c. 1742-1750

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

The first violets of spring



O wind, where have you been,
That you blow so sweet?
Among the violets
Which blossom at your feet.

The honeysuckle waits
For Summer and for heat.
But violets in the chilly Spring
Make the turf so sweet.

--Christina Rossetti

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

This Joyful Eastertide

This joyful Eastertide,
Away with sin and sorrow!
My Love, the Crucified,
Hath sprung to life this morrow.

Had Christ, that once was slain,
Ne'er burst his three-day prison,
Our faith had been in vain:
But now is Christ arisen,
arisen,
arisen,
ARISEN!

Death's flood hath lost his chill,
Since Jesus crossed the river;
Lover of souls, from ill
My passing soul deliver.

Had Christ, that once was slain,
ne'er burst his three-day prison,
our faith had been in vain;
but now is Christ arisen,
arisen,
arisen,
ARISEN!

My flesh in hope shall rest,
And for a season slumber;
Till trump from east to west
Shall wake the dead in number.

Had Christ, that once was slain,
Ne'er burst his three-day prison,
Our faith had been in vain;
But now is Christ arisen,
arisen,
arisen,
ARISEN!

--G. R. Woodward, 1894

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Magnificat

"My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For he has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever."

--Luke 1:46b-55

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne'er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
'Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

I'm weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile:
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.
--Anonymous, from the collection of Joshua Smith, New Hampshire, 1784


(For a most beautiful rendition of this hymn, check out the CD Faire is the Heaven, which also features magnificent works by Herbert Howells, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Benjamin Britten, and the like!)

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Nursery rhymes

One of our family's favorite nursery rhymes comes from the book, Catch Me and Kiss Me and Say it Again by Clyde and Wendy Watson (though I'm not sure if it originated in that book, or if it's an older rhyme). My parents recited it to my brother and I when we were small, and recently when I did an extended baby-sitting stint for three very small children, we enjoyed pulling out this old rhyme again. It was a joy to see my mom with two small toddlers on her lap, and everyone giggling uncontrollably! :)

To recite the rhyme properly, you need at least one small child on your knees. To start out, bounce them on your knees sedately in time with the rhyme, as if they were riding a horse.
Clip, clop, clipitty-clop,
Ride a cock-horse to the fair!
All of the people along the way
Look up to see who's there.

Giddy-up, Dobbin, Giddy-up, hey!
Let's go a little bit faster.
Trit-trot, trit-trot,
The little horse minds his master.
At this point, let your "horse" go wild!
All of a sudden, a-gallop, a-gallop,
Something has made him take fright!
Up and down and all over the place,
Hold on with all your might!
And now the horse calms down again.
Whoa, there, whoa, Dobbin,
Here's the fair at last.
Corey shall have a cranberry tart,
And you shall have sweet green grass!
And there you have it -- guaranteed to elicit cries of "Do that again!" :)

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Psalm 131

My heart is not proud, O Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, put your hope in the LORD
both now and forevermore.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

The caterpillar


I find among the poems of Schiller
No mention of the caterpillar,
Nor can I find one anywhere
In Petrarch or in Baudelaire,
So here I sit in extra session
To give my personal impression.
The caterpillar, as it's called,
Is often hairy, seldom bald;
It looks as if it never shaves;
When as it walks, it walks in waves;
And from the cradle to the chrysalis
It's utterly speechless, songless, whistleless.


--from The Private Dining Room by Ogden Nash, published 1953

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday

Psalm 51:1-17

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; in your great compassion blot out my offenses.
Wash me through and through from my wickedness and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Against you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.
And so you are justified when you speak and upright in your judgment.
Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth, a sinner from my mother's womb.
For behold, you look for truth deep within me, and will make me understand wisdom secretly.
Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; wash me and I shall be clean indeed.
Make me hear of joy and gladness, that the body you have broken may rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence and take not your holy Spirit from me.
Give me the joy of your saving help again and sustain me with your bountiful spirit.
I shall teach your ways to the wicked, and sinners shall return to you.
Deliver me from death, O God, and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness, O God of my salvation.
Open my lips, O Lord, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice, but you take no delight in burnt-offerings.
The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

February dusk

"The light is fading from the day,
The rest is darkness and dismay."


--From "The Iron Tonic: Or, a Winter Afternoon in Lonely Valley" by Edward Gorey, published 1969

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Monday, January 29, 2007

In praise of the cat


"For I will consider my cat Jeoffrey,
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 this way.
For this is done by wreathing his whole body seven times round, with elegant quickness.
For he knows that God is his Savior.
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.
For which I take occasion to bless Almighty God."


--excerpts from "Jubilate Agno," by Christopher Smart, c. 1756 - 1763

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Pining for spring...

...and it's only January!

"Here Primrose, Cowslips, Roses, Lilies blow
With Violets and Pinks that void perfumes:
Whose beauteous leaves o'erlaid with Honey Dew,
And Chanting birds Chirp out sweet Music true."

--from "Upon Wedlock, and Death of Children" by Edward Taylor, c. 1682

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