Cloud-puffball, torn tufts, tossed pillows ' flaunt forth, then chevy on an air-
built thoroughfare: heaven-roysterers, in gay-gangs ' they throng; they glitter in marches.
Down roughcast, down dazzling whitewash, ' wherever an elm arches,
Shivelights and shadowtackle in long ' lashes lace, lance, and pair.
Delightfully the bright wind boisterous ' ropes, wrestles, beats earth bare
Of yestertempest’s creases; in pool and rut peel parches
Squandering ooze to squeezed ' dough, crust, dust; stanches, starches
Squadroned masks and manmarks ' treadmire toil there
Footfretted in it. Million-fuelèd, ' nature’s bonfire burns on.
But quench her bonniest, dearest ' to her, her clearest-selvèd spark
Man, how fast his firedint, ' his mark on mind, is gone!
Both are in an unfathomable, all is in an enormous dark
Drowned. O pity and indig ' nation! Manshape, that shone
Sheer off, disseveral, a star, ' death blots black out; nor mark
Is any of him at all so stark
But vastness blurs and time ' beats level. Enough! the Resurrection,
A heart’s-clarion! Away grief’s gasping, ' joyless days, dejection.
Across my foundering deck shone
A beacon, an eternal beam. ' Flesh fade, and mortal trash
Fall to the residuary worm; ' world’s wildfire, leave but ash:
In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is, ' since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, ' patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
Is immortal diamond.

-- Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1844-89


I am, in general, not very good at appreciating poetry. I love beautiful language, but I'm also an impatient reader; I read very quickly, and I want to catch my meaning on the fly, not have to tease it out by lingering on every sentence. However, there are a few poets that get through to me more often than not, and Hopkins is one of them. (The others, for the record, are Donne, Herbert, and Erin Noteboom Bow.)

There's something so fantastically sensuous and vivid about Hopkins: he writes like a synaesthete (I wonder if he was?). And lines like "sheer off, disseveral, a star... but vastness blurs and time beats level" send shivers right through me, even when I'm not entirely sure what he means by it. But he gets something in his poetry that few religious writers in my experience really have -- the wild, uncontainable, passionate, burning glory of God. His poetry always makes me think back to my favorite parts of Isaiah and Ezekiel, where the prophet witnesses "the appearance of the likeness of the glory of God" and is completely thunderstruck, jelly-kneed, down on his face in awe because it's so huge and alien and overwhelming. There's nothing in science fiction or fantasy to compare to a scene like that; and yet some of my favorite SF&F has moments that approach or evoke it.

This is rough and random because I've had a long day, but I hope you get some idea of what I'm trying to say...?
Did you know that Easter was not in fact a borrowed pagan holiday? I did not know this -- I myself had swallowed the line that Christianity took it over from some pagan spring festival. Hat tip to Jeff Overstreet for this one.

Also in the spirit of the season, [ profile] tree_and_leaf pointed me to this fine article by John Polkinghorne on Motivated Belief and the Stringent Search for Truth. Which in turn reminded me of this poem, "Guard at the Sepulcher" by Edwin Markham:

I was a Roman soldier in my prime;
Now age is on me, and the yoke of time.
I saw your Risen Christ, for I am he
Who reached the hyssop to Him on the tree,
And I am one of two who watched beside
The sepulcher of Him we crucified.

All that last night I watched with sleepless eyes;
Great stars arose and crept across the skies.
The world was all too still for mortal rest,
For pitiless thoughts were busy in the breast.
The night was long, so long it seemed at last
I had grown old and a long life had passed.
Far off, the hills of Moab, touched with light,
Were swimming in the hallow of the night.
I saw Jerusalem all wrapped in cloud,
Stretched like a dead thing folded in a shroud.

Once in the pauses of our whispered talk
I heard a something on the garden walk.
Perhaps it was a crisp leaf lightly stirred --
Perhaps the dream-note of a waking bird.
Then suddenly an angel, burning white,
Came down with earthquake in the breaking light,
And rolled the great stone from the sepulcher,
Mixing the morning with a scent of myrrh.
And lo, the Dead had risen with the day:
The Man of Mystery had gone His way!

Years have I wandered, carrying my shame;
Now let the tooth of time eat out my name.
For we, who all the wonder might have told,
Kept silence, for our mouths were stopt with gold.
I recorded this for [ profile] kalquessa's "Errantry" project, in which she asked her friends to make MP3s or Voice Posts of themselves reading the poem. Unfortunately, I was unable to get past the first three stanzas before I got an error message and the whole thing shut down. I tried again and the same thing happened, so I had to give up and take what I could get.

I also apologize for the terrible quality of my voice -- I'm still getting over a cold. But for what it's worth, here's my entry:

Contentment is the understanding that if I am not satisfied with what I have,
I will never be satisfied with what I want.

I want to feel happy and confident about my writing. I want to find an agent who is excited about my work. I want to see my books in print. But even without any of those things, I have a God who is faithful, and there is no excuse whatsoever for me not to be content.

Thou mastering me
God! giver of breath and bread;
World's strand, sway of the sea;
Lord of living and dead;
Thou hast bound bones and veins in me, fastened
me flesh,
And after it almost unmade, what with dread,
Thy doing: and dost thou touch me afresh?
Over again I feel thy finger and find thee.

-- From "The Wreck of the Deutschland" by Gerard Manley Hopkins

*goes back to revising the opening pages of Indigo, just in case*
Anyone who's read my poetry will know that I am no great shakes as a poet. I have a further confession to make: I am no great shakes as a reader of poetry, either. Having long ago formed the bad but persistent habit of speed-reading everything, I lack the focused, patient attention necessary to savour and appreciate most poems. The novel, not poetry, is my natural element.

That being said, however, I find that there are still a few poems, and poets, that rise up and smack me upside the head with their rich, evocative, powerful language. So, in spite of my general philistine preference for prose, there is nonetheless a well-loved copy of the complete works of Gerard Manley Hopkins on my bookshelf, I can quote bits of George Herbert and John Donne, and I continue to read Erin Noteboom's poetry blog on a regular basis.

Just tonight, I was reminded of one of my favorite poems of all time -- a poem that first came to my attention in high school English class, where my resistance to it should have been at its highest. Not only a poem, but a poem by a Canadian author, a poem about Canada even -- normally I wouldn't have given it a second glance. But the language in this poem was so gorgeous it just riveted me, and twenty years later it still makes my bones vibrate. Go read it:

Laurentian Shield by F.R. Scott
Gacked from [ profile] mctabby by way of [ profile] hedda62, a poem you wrote for me, all unwittingly.

Here it is... )

Courtesy of the Amazing Poem Generator.

*wipes away tear* It's so beautiful.
Gacked from [ profile] lilypiper, who received it in e-mail. It was just too brilliant not to share:

Shakespearean Style

O proud left foot, that ventures quick within
Then soon upon a backward journey lithe.
Anon, once more the gesture, then begin:
Command sinistral pedestal to writhe.
Commence thou then the fervid Hokey-Poke.
A mad gyration, hips in wanton swirl.
To spin! A wilde release from heaven's yoke.
Blessed dervish! Surely canst go, girl.
The Hoke, the poke -- banish now thy doubt
Verily, I say, 'tis what it's all about.

All I can say is -- HEE!!!

ETA: Thanks to [ profile] ambyr, who informed me of the correct author and source of this poem: Jeff Brechlin, who wrote it as the winning entry in a weekly Washington Post contest in 2003.


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