Tag Archives: poetry

John Keble

As part of my weekly discipline related to Morning and Evening Prayer, I have recently resumed reading poems from The Christian Year by the Rev. Dr. John Keble (1792-1866).

Over several decades, Keble wrote a poem for each Sunday of the church year, for all of the red-letter feasts, and for many of the major and minor feast days such as feasts of the apostles and certain days during holy seasons.

The poems are Victorian in splendor, dense in imagery, Wordsworthian in structure, and wholly satisfying after several reads.

And I’ve decided that I’m going to share some of them from time to time.

Here is the poem for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity (which this year will be in late September, but I’m reading it anyhow):

Poem XXXII

From far, from eve and morning
And yon twelve-winded sky,
The stuff of life to knit me
Blew hither: here am I.

Now — for a breath I tarry
Nor yet disperse apart —
Take my hand quick and tell me,
What have you in your heart.

Speak now, and I will answer;
How shall I help you, say;
Ere to the wind’s twelve quarters
I take my endless way.

Poem XXXII
A Shropshire Lad
by A. E. Housman

The Winter Solstice

Darkness fights, willing the days grow slender
as winter’s chill grasps the land.
Wings have long-since whisked birds away.
The Cardinal, the Mallard, the mourning dove —
Some brave the long winter to come.

Far in the southern sky the sun ponders,
awaiting its inexorable march to promontory.
Darkness wins the day, blanketing the hours and
badgering child and woman and man
to withdraw into homes lamped by fire and filament.

Darkness fights and wins, until this long night
when the hills are still and the hope of new,
of gladdened dreams, of the orb come again
burns without ceasing in heart and hearth.

The creatures of the sky know. Sparrows rest
their song, but espy the eastern glow and
train practiced eyes on the purple horizon.

So too the soul. Darkness fights, but shall not win.
Solstice, annual friend, welcome, and bring promise
yet again.

Jeffrey Richard Carter
Saint Louis
December 2018


I thought I might try my hand at a bit of poetry for the winter solstice. And I’m not displeased with the outcome.

This was written on Monday evening this (17 December 2018) after I returned from Chicago and saw some ducks and some cardinals along the way home. I found myself thinking about how these birds stay. And then my niece Anna mentioned the solstice at supper. And I’d been thinking about writing about the solstice anyhow!

My 2019 is going to include a more purposeful decision to write with practice and thought. Starting with a bit of poetry as the new year begins . . . well, it kicks the practice into reality.

A poem

The Day of Wrath / Dies Iræ

BY AMBROSE BIERCE

Day of Satan’s painful duty!
Earth shall vanish, hot and sooty;
So says Virtue, so says Beauty.

Ah! what terror shall be shaping
When the Judge the truth’s undraping—
Cats from every bag escaping!

Now the trumpet’s invocation
Calls the dead to condemnation;
All receive an invitation.

Death and Nature now are quaking,
And the late lamented, waking,
In their breezy shrouds are shaking.

Lo! the Ledger’s leaves are stirring,
And the Clerk, to them referring,
Makes it awkward for the erring.

When the Judge appears in session,
We shall all attend confession,
Loudly preaching non-suppression.

How shall I then make romances
Mitigating circumstances?
Even the just must take their chances.

King whose majesty amazes,
Save thou him who sings thy praises;
Fountain, quench my private blazes.

Pray remember, sacred Saviour,
Mine the playful hand that gave your
Death-blow. Pardon such behavior.

Seeking me, fatigue assailed thee,
Calvary’s outlook naught availed thee;
Now ’twere cruel if I failed thee.

Righteous judge and learnèd brother,
Pray thy prejudices smother
Ere we meet to try each other.

Sighs of guilt my conscience gushes,
And my face vermilion flushes;
Spare me for my pretty blushes.

Thief and harlot, when repenting,
Thou forgavest—complimenting
Me with sign of like relenting.

If too bold is my petition
I’ll receive with due submission
My dismissal—from perdition.

When thy sheep thou hast selected
From the goats, may I, respected,
Stand amongst them undetected.

When offenders are indited,
And with trial-flames ignited,
Elsewhere I’ll attend if cited.

Ashen-hearted, prone and prayerful,
When of death I see the air full,
Lest I perish too be careful.

On that day of lamentation,
When, to enjoy the conflagration,
Men come forth, O be not cruel:
Spare me, Lord—make them thy fuel.

 

Composing again

It’s Friday evening.  I have spent the day indoors save for a journey to the Central West End for a brunch with one of my most amazing students.

And this afternoon, after I got the office cleaned and did some laundry, and in between coachings of two senior students at the Kawai in my front hall, I set about composing.

With little effort and high spirits, I have set today two Sara Teasdale texts, “Tree of Life” and “The Coin.”

I shall sing both of these a week from tonight on the Webster University faculty composers concert.

I suppose it’s a good thing that I’m actually writing them this weekend . . . .

Tomorrow should find me with one more of these to go.  All three are linked by a simple motive.  And all three are with oboe!

This is my first stab at art song, at secular composition (although I’ve made plenty of arrangements), and at working with solo voice and solo instrument.  I’m having fun!