There Is No Loss
There is no loss — though human history
Provides the world a failing memory
Of beauties made, of triumphs won through pain —
For there is One by whom all these remain.
There is no ill, no hurt, no misery,
nor evil power holding empery.
All mortal fear is swallowed up in awe,
All ill intent bent by the Lion's paw.
This is the end: the Lamb's Bride and the Son
Shall be two Bodies ever bound as one,
And, in the light of all creation's laud,
The Bride shall smile and know Almighty God.
[written 28 June 1993]
This was written in response to the poem "Losses" from v.73, #3, of The Lyric. While it is not one of my better works in terms of formal strength, creative metaphor, and general communication of the ideas, the basic idea is sound, that even though history forgets many accomplishments these are not lost because God remembers and directs all things toward a specific purpose.
The form is relatively simplistic, quatrains of iambic pentameter with an aabb rhyming pattern, and some of the rhymes are rather forced (and often only approximate). The use of iambic pentameter fits the elevation of the topic and its argumentative nature, and the use of rhyming couplets fits the argumentative/didactic nature; however, overall the lyrical strength does not rise to the excellence of the subject.
There is a somewhat subtle parallelism both within each couplet and within each pair of couplets in a stanza, vaguely reminiscent of Biblic Hebrew poetry. This is strongest in the second couplet of the second stanza where there is nearly a repetition of the thought. However, the preceding list of three things in one line and the next line being used for the fourth thing matches the form of parallelism. "no loss" contrasts "failing" and "history" and "memory" are parallel concepts; "Bride" and "Son" are "two Bodies" and "Bride" implies union; "light" and "laud" are parallel to joy ("smile") and knowledge/intimacy ("light" includes a sense of casting out darkness/sadness and making truth apparent, praise expresses joy and relationship, one participates in greatness of the admired via praise). The parallelism between couplets may be more subtle. In the first stanza, the second couplet declares what is not lost and that there is a memory which is not "failing"; in the second stanza, the list of appearances which are not ultimately true is contrasted with a higher truth, in particular, "empery" of evil is contrasted with the sovereignty of the Lion (king of beasts and standard symbol of Christ's kingly role); in the last stanza, there is a repetition of the concept of union of "Bride" and "Son"/"God".
I especially like "All ill intent bent by the Lion's paw." as the rhyme of the stressed syllable of "intent" and the unstressed "bent" combined with a steady flowing sense from starting the previous words with soft vowels (and the consonnance of "all" and "ill") fits the forceful bending. This effect seems to be further enhanced by the previous line's constrasting of fear and awe. In addition, since the effect is generated by a paw, there is a sense of light exertion (expressing how powerful the Lion actually is) and perhaps a gentleness, tenderness, and itimacy/involvement/condescension comparable to a human's laying on of a hand.
The conclusion that the final purpose is a kind of marital union between the Church and God incarnate reasonably Biblical also displays the author's romantic inclinations.
The Marks of Thomas
My God, my God, why am I left alone?
Why are my pleas for love so long ignored?
Others have called to you and been restored;
they trusted in you and were called your own.
How is it then that my whole life is sown
with pain as if for me the seed was stored?
Onto the ground like water I am poured.
I'm pierced with pain and feel my every bone.
I beg of you, my God and hope, be near
and hold as precious these harsh pleading sounds.
Heal now my hurtings and my fears relieve!
"Listen, my child, and know that you are dear.
Within your own life I have set my wounds,
so you might see them, feel them and believe."
[completed 1 February 1994]
This was written for a friend who experienced significant emotional suffering, for whom Psalm 22 (on which it is based) was particularly comforting and significant.
The paralleling of Psalm 22 in the first eleven lines should be very obvious. The conclusion (and title, "Marks" being another term for stigmata) plays on the apostle Thomas' demanding to feel the wounds of Christ in order to believe, and represents the concept of God's difficult mercy and strange providence.
The Petrarchan sonnet form fits what is being said. The abbaabba rhyming pattern fits a broken yet repeating cry of pain (a Shakespearean sonnet's rhyming pattern would have been softer and less repetative by not rhyming adjacent lines in the first portion and using different rhymes, more regular by having the rhyme for each line placed at a fixed distance), and the cdecde fits the summary plea and the parallel response. The parallelism of each pair of lines, largely a result of imitating the Psalm, makes the conclusion of the plea in an odd line more powerful, setting up an anticipation which waits for a response which may not come. In a sense, the expected response does not come; the next line is not parallel to the immediately preceding line and the answer is not healing but that the wounds are a purposeful expression of love.
I am reasonably happy with this writing. Not only did it provide some comfort to a friend, but it also does well in paralleling Psalm 22, using form to express the content, and expressing the idea that even pain can be a blessing. (Some of the blessing aspect relies on an implicit understanding of stigmata as a special honor and union with Christ.)
"The I am brought me forth before all that was made
as the helpmate of God, at his side while he works,
to delight and rejoice, every day, his beloved,
to rejoice in his world and to love those he loved."
Holy witnessing binds, as all couples in kirks,
and the Spirit that joins does that Union invade;
so the Three are still One--not created nor made--,
and their Being is Love, this the source of God's works,
for the love of the One flows out through the Beloved.
Through the Word was all made. God said "Let there be life."
Then the fish filled the sea and the birds filled the air
and the plants took to soil with the life on the land.
From the dust of the ground, by the love of his hand,
in the image of God he created the pair.
From the bone of man's side was begotten man's wife,
and as Eve she was named as the mother of life.
So the two become one, may none treat this as air;
by the Lord they are joined for their life in his land.
In the fullness of time the light entered the world,
and the life that was light became flesh while divine.
By his death to win life, perfect will he expressed;
by his goodness his bride is in righteousness dressed.
Now his table is set with his meat and mixed wine,
and his banner of love over us is unfurled.
We now worship the One who has conquered the world;
he, the Living who died, weds us with the Divine.
Thus all nations are blessed, and God's love is expressed.
[completed 19 June 1994)
This is one of my more artificial verse writings in the sense of using form to abstractly affirm the content (contrasting naturally matching sound and sense). Formal aspects represent pairing and the number three. Each pair of lines show parallelism (even across stanzas; the unpaired last line may give a sense of both of eternal continuance of the blessing and a wrapping of the whole back to the original love within God expressed at the start of the work), each line divides firmly into two portions, and, of course, rhyme is a pairing (furthermore the third set of three lines uses word repetition for rhyming, affirming a coming together/pairing). The anapestic meter is based on three syllables, the abcabcabc rhyming pattern has three rhymes of three lines, and there are three stanzas. This matches the coupling/unitive and Trinitarian themes.
The content may be viewed as speculative theology. The Son is identified with Wisdom of Proverbs 8:22-31 in the first stanza; mankind is presented as an image of the Father and the begotten Son, creative ("mother of life") and lovingly united, in the second stanza; the third stanza joins the Begetting and creation by the incarnation of the Son and the marriage of man with God. (The use of Christ's title from Revelation of the Living One is a play on words for Eve which has a similar etymology. This has the subtle hint of Christ as female, linking back to the reference to Wisdom in the first stanza (as does the reference to Proverbs 9:2 with meat and mixed wine), and hinting at a complex, mysterious interrelation of things. Christ is the bridegroom (male) but also the Wisdom/the "mother of life" (female).)
Overall I am somewhat proud of this work for its artifice (I think it is the best of these writings in terms of appropriateness and subtle cleverness of form), its romantic content, its expression of love as unitive and creative/begetting and of the echoed themes (creation, the forming of Eve, and the incarnation echoing the eternal Begetting; the love within God echoed in the love between husband and wife and the love of Christ and the Church).
The Lament for Saul
Saul asked of him how of the least should lead
of baby Benjamin, small Matri's mote,
the son of Kish, that Saul should lift this load
and fight the foreign foe, their menace meet.
Yet for impatient pride he paid his peace;
he lost the Lord's good Spirit, drove to stones
his first son's friend, whose playing brought repose,
and Saul and son both fell to Philistines.
No deeds could David's streams of tears restrain.
He mourned the mighty fallen in the fields,
their warrior's weapons broken as their bones.
The lambs were lost or scattered from their folds,
the grain was gone; the gardens, bare of beans,
yet shepherds shield their people through their pain.
[completed 24 August 1994)
In terms of form, this verse uses iambic pentameter with (sometime approximate) analyzed rhyme with one ordinary rhyme and two (also sometimes approximate) alliterative pairs per line (sometimes crossing the mid-line "division"). There is also some similarity to the parallelism of Biblical Hebrew poetry. The rhyme pattern looks like ababcdcdefgfge (if one takes the consonnant matching as the primary rhyme for the analyzed rhymes) or abbaabbacabbac (if one takes the vowel sounds as primary), with the ordinary rhyme enclosing the portion about David's reaction. The use of primarily analyzed rhyme avoids the uplifting effect of ordinary rhyme (which is less fitting for the subject) and makes the alliteration more prominent. (The one ordinary rhyme is separated by four lines and rhymes on the last line; this makes the effect subtle and yet provides a good emphasis of the last line and encloses the last six lines a little like a Petrarchan sonnet.)
The content is not especially remarkable, being mostly a summary of the story of Saul. Lines 1 through 4 refer to 1 Samuel 9:21. "drove to stones" refers to diving David to live in caves. Lines 10 and 11 derive from 2 Samuel 1:27 ("How the mighty have fallen/and the weapons of war perished!", ESV), the end of David's lament. Lines 12 and 13 are poetic hyperbole expressing desolation after the defeat of Israel's army. The last line can be taken in two ways, that true shepherds protectively cover their people while suffering or do so by means of their suffering; the latter has a clearly Christological application while the former applies to David's action.
The original version had "asked of God" (which was changed both to be more accurate, since Saul directly asked Samuel this question, and to sound better) and "fight the foreign foe" was "fight the armored foe" (referencing the Philistine's greater supply of arms and armor). The latter change might sound slightly better but is at best a modest improvement. The use of the p sound for both alliterations in line 5 may give a slight impression of the puffing up of pride.
I am inclined to think the alliteration was an excessive constraint in that it sometimes give a sing-song feeling. However, it almost certainly helped form the work and in some places the extra emphasis seems fitting. (Line 11 benefits both from the emphasis and from the approximation of alliteration where the slightly broken expectation may match the broken weapons and bones.) Overall, I am not as happy with it as I am with my other use of analyzed rhyme ("A Courtly Dream"), which seems to have better imagery and perhaps be more heart-felt.
Pulchritude and Virtue
"But he who lovelinesse within
Hath found, all outward loathes,
For he who colour loves, and skinne,
Loves but their oldest clothes."
John Donne, "The Undertaking"
Remembrance woven into older clothes--
Fair form and tone and piercing symmetries,
These bring to mind what no true lover loathes:
Faith, hope, and love, the truth which finds and frees.
Who would despise bright flowers, clouds, and trees,
And what reflects their Maker's eyes like these?
Yet how much more when human form is met
With human virtue and those gifts divine!
The Sacrament, our food on table set,
Joins earth and God, reminds and bids us dine;
So flesh and virtue in our minds combine
That beauties joined might act as bread and wine.
But as the bread and wine cover the flesh
And soul and Godhood of our dear High King,
So often fleshly flaws with virtues mesh
And truer beauty's hidden by a wing.
So let us praise much more the better thing,
Yet not despise that good which makes hearts sing.
[completed 11 June 1996)
Obviously, this was an argument against a strict application of the quoted statement by John Donne. The ababbb rhyme pattern is a bit unusual, but the abab portion matches Donne's poem and the couplet provides a closing argument (similar to the closing couplet of a Shakespearean sonnet). By also rhyming with the previous line, a greater sense of continuity seems to be provided (that the closing argument is not disjoint but a natural progression of the previous four lines) and there appears to be a sense of rising higher and higher, as if each ab represents an upward step and the closing bb a leap into flight. (This may be enhanced by the possibly "lower" nature of the initial rhyming words: "clothes"/"loathes" vs. "symmetries"/"frees"/"trees"/"these", "met"/"set" vs. "divine"/"dine"/"combine"/"wine", "flesh"/"mesh" vs. "King"/"wing"/"better thing"/"sing".)
The three stanzas form three part of the argument: first, that ordinary fleshly beauty reflects and reminds one of a higher beauty (such beauty reminding one of the cardinal virtues and truth and worldly beauty declaring the glory of God), the second stanza makes an analogy between the union of fleshly beauty with the truer beauty of virtue and the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, the third stanza concludes the argument by recognizing that the higher beauty of virtue is not always associated with the more outward beauty but that such is not a reason to totally despise the lesser beauty. (Incidentally, "hidden by a wing" seems to be a nod at the seraphim hiding their faces with their wings in the presence of God. Also, I am not absolutely commited to the implied view of the Lord's Supper, though I do take a more literal stance than Calvinists.)
Some minor changes were made shortly after completion: "dearest King" was changed to "dear High King" on 13 June 1996 (providing a better meaning in not considering other kings and emphasizing his exalted state while retaining the affection) and "one sing" was changed to "hearts sing" on 14 June 1996 (providing a better sound and avoiding the formality and less emotional nature of "one".
Christiana Leaving the Night
I walked alone that melancholy lane
and felt my darkness press upon the earth.
Chilled but unshaking hung my weary limbs,
not even downcast eyes could see my worth.
Behind me came that man whose voice is peace.
Wrapped in his woolen coat, he made me warm
and hastened with his strong arm's gentle push;
fierce wind and flashing air declared a storm.
Still trembling, he comforted my moans.
My upturned eyes too tightly closed for tears,
"My love, look up!" his fierce, his kind command;
seeing his starry skies consumed my fears.
[completed in 2002??]
In case it is not clear from the title character's name, the text, and its designation as "Theological Verse", this is a somewhat allegorical presentation of a Christian being saved, from judgment but primarily from an internal darkness and lack of life. It is not clear when this was written; "completed in 2002??" was taken from a file containing my verse writings. (I would otherwise have guessed before 2000 since I did not think there was that long of a gap between "Gawain's Guilt-Girdle", the next most recent, and this writing.) I recall that I was somewhat sad and close to crying, so I sat in a walk-in closet and imagined this cold, lonely, depressed scene and the rest flowed naturally. I actually did turn my head up with my eyes closed to suppress tears.
In terms of form, the rhyming of lines two and four in each stanza with consonnance of in the last syllables for lines one and three provides a less forceful tone. (This approximates abab rhyme but the consonnance is less forceful than a rhyme, particularly as the latter consonnant sounds of the last syllables only somewhat nearly match.) The true rhyme provides a somewhat greater emphasis on the last word and line of each stanza, so her "worth" is especially low, the "storm" is especially dangerous, and her "fears" are completely consumed.
The heavy use of l (and somewhat less so of n) in the first line seems to add to the sense of dull heaviness ("alone" is emphasized not only by the l and ending the first half of the phrase but also by consonnance with the the last word of the line). The rhyme in "darkness press" seems to emphasize the pressing down both by the rhyme and by rhyming the immediately preceding unstressed syllable with the stressed "press". In general, the sounds of the first stanza seem to have a muted nature yet the last line seems to have a more forceful tone of self-accusation (partially from the meanings of "not even" and "downcast", but the effect also seems to come from the stress on "down" and the somewhat forceful sound of "eyes" intensified by stress and the somewhat by merging of the "ast" sound of the previous syllable with its weak stress).
The second stanza generally continues the softness of the first, but the softness is one of comfort and peace rather than gloom. The sound (and perhaps visual) similarity of "voice" and "peace" as stressed syllables may particularly emphasize peace (beyond ending a line). The sounds of the first two lines seem to provide a warmth, partially from the m sounds but also w (perhaps even further visually) and vowel sounds. The third line seems to start out faster (perhaps the low value of "and", the compressed pronounciation of "hastened" which also lacks a strong starting consonnant almost alliterating with "and", and the stress on the otherwise weak "with" makes this seem to read faster). This line almost wants to scan ˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ ´ ´ ˘˘´; the last five syllables emphasizing both the power (with a near spondee) and the gentle force (with a near anapest). The fourth line presents a sharper energy with its r sounds and assonance/near rhymes yet ends with the completing rhyme and the m in "storm" may moderate the fierceness.
The last stanza seems to start with conflicting sounds with strong consonnants (t, r, f, and hard-c) and soft consonnants (s, m, b, and l), perhaps reflecting her trembling, the contradictions of her continued lack of feeling secure despite his comforting and of her looking upward but with eyes closed. The third line begins with soft consonnant and vowel sounds while the latter portion has a forcefulness from the repeated "his", sharper consonnant sounds (f, k, hard-c), and the strong vowels sounds of the stressed "fierce" and "kind". Yet the line closes with the softer yet still intent sound of "ommand" (the hard-c is tied somewhat to the k in "kind"; this alliteration also unites these words which seem a strange combination to many). The prevalence of s in the last line may have a softening effect on the predominantly harsh consonnants (t, r, k, hard-c, and f) but perhaps with a more according sense (perhaps hinted with the two joining of s with a harsher consonnant: st and sk) than the conflicting sense of the first lines of the stanza.
The first stanza seems to express well her state of despair. She is traveling an established path of melancholy (whether established by her own habits or by the outer world is not considered). She feels loneliness, recognizes her inner darkness, and regrets its imposition on the outside world. She is cold and tired but so cold and tired that she does not shiver, a nearly lifeless state. Her eyes look downward, as natural for one tired and depressed, but also inward as she sees her worth as subterrean, truly negative self-worth.
The first line of the second stanza is reminiscent of first sonnet from Sonnets from the Portuguese ("So weeping, how a mystic Shape did move / Behind me, and drew me backward by the hair: / And a voice said in mastery, while I strove,— / 'Guess now who holds thee?'—'Death,' I said. But, there, / The silver answer rang,—'Not Death, but Love.'"). "whose voice is peace" is partially a reference to Jesus' calming of the Sea of Gallilee but applies to the general idea of a powerful protector speaking words of comfort such that just the assurance of his nearness is restful. "Wrapped in his woolen coat" references her being covered with Christ, the Lamb of God, as well as having the simpler meaning of generous, loving protection and comfort. "made me warm" both expresses the comfort and references a return of life; Christ's mastery and direct, intentional involvement is emphasized by using "he" as the subject rather than the coat. His forceful hurrying of her from the danger of the storm presents Christ as saving from judgment with power, forcefulness, and tenderness. The hurrying also points to the urgency of the concern (cf. "now is the day of salvation", 2 Corinthians 6:2). The "fierce wind and flashing air" represent revelation (both special and general) declaring a coming judgment; although not intended, "wind" could represent the Spirit (i.e., special revelation) while the "flashing air" could represent the visible indications (i.e., general revelation). (The intention was merely the signs of a coming storm.)
The final stanza deals with her still feeling insecure, cold, and in pain even though sufficiently enlivened to shake and moan. Her head has been raised (from "downcast eyes" to "upturned eyes") but her eyes are closed to prevent crying. (This is somewhat reminiscent of Sonnet IX from Sonnets from the Portuguese, where E.B.B. refers to her tears, sighs, "those infrequent smiles which fail to live / For all thy adjurations", etc. as things that would "soil thy purple" and breathe "poison on thy Venice-glass".) With a fierceness that will not tolerate disobedience and a tenderness that affirms his love, Christ commands her to open her eyes even though that means tears will flow. "look up" may be seen as a comforting reminder of her partial obedience (her eyes were already turned upward) as well as a demand for full obedience. When she sees the glory of the stars (declaring his power, sovereignty, providence, and love of and ability to create beauty) as a token of what he wishes to share with her, more glorious than the best diamond engagement ring, she is freed to love without reservation (cf. "perfect love casts out fear", 1 John 4:18). (Incidentally, that the stars are visible indicates that the "storm"/judgment is past whether positionally or temporally.)
As a whole, I think this is the best of these writings. This may be partially from it being later (so that my skill was a little more developed), but the heart-felt sentiment, relative lack of artifice (but certainly not a lack of using sound and rhythm to communicate or of form), and somewhat creative imagery seem to contribute substantially to this belief.