Archive for ‘Religious’

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

At Saint Patrick’s Purgatory* attributed to Donnchadh mor O’Dala

Pity me on my pilgrimage to Loch Derg!
O King of the churches and the bells—
bewailing your sores and your wounds,
but not a tear can I squeeze from my eyes!

Not moisten an eye
after so much sin!
Pity me, O King! What shall I do
with a heart that seeks only its own ease?

Without sorrow or softening in my heart,
bewailing my faults without repenting them!
Patrick the high priest never thought
that he would reach God in this way.

O lone son of Calpurn—since I name him—
O Virgin Mary, how sad is my lot!—
he was never seen as long as he was in this life
without the track of tears from his eyes.

In a narrow, hard, stone-wall cell
I lie after all my sinful pride—
O woe, why cannot I weep a tear!—
and I buried alive in the grave.

On the day of Doom we shall weep heavily,
both clergy and laity;
the tear that is not dropped in time,
none heeds in the world beyond.

I shall have you go naked, go unfed,
body of mine, father of sin,
for if you are turned Hellwards
little shall I reck your agony tonight.

O only begotten Son by whom all men were made,
who shunned not the death by three wounds,
pity me on my pilgrimage to Loch Derg
and I with a heart not softer than a stone!

*”St Patrick’s Purgatory is an ancient pilgrimage site on Station Island in Lough Derg, County Donegal, Ireland. According to legend, the site dates from the fifth century, when Christ showed Saint patrick a cave, sometimes referred to as a pit or a well, on Station Island that was an entrance to Purgatory” (from Wikipedia).


Date: c1244 (original in Irish); 1938 (translation in English)

By: Donnchadh mor O’Dala (fl. c1244)

Translated by: Seán Proinsias Ó Faoláin (1900-1991)

Monday, 10 February 2020

A Drop of Sea-Water by Mahmoūd Shabestarī

Behold how this drop of sea-water
Has taken so many forms and names;
It has existed as mist, cloud, rain, dew, and mud,
Then plant, animal, and Perfect man;
And yet it was a drop of water
From which these things appeared.
Even so this universe of reason, soul, heavens, and bodies,
Was but a drop of water in its beginning and ending.

…When a wave strikes it, the world vanishes;
And when the appointed time comes to heaven and stars,
Their being is lost in not being.

From: Shabestarī, Mahmoūd and Lederer, Florence (ed.), The Secret Rose Garden of Sa’d ud din Mahmūd Shabistarī, rendered from the Persian with an Introduction, 1920, John Murray: London, p. 36.

Date: c1311 (original in Persian), 1920 (translation in English)

By: Mahmoūd Shabestarī (1288–1340)

Translated by: Florence Lederer (18??-19??)

Monday, 20 January 2020

San Miguel de la Tumba by Gonzalo de Berceo

San Miguel de la Tumba is a convent vast and wide;
The sea encircles it around, and groans on every side;
It is a wild and dangerous place, and many woes betide
The monks who in that burial place in penitence abide.
Within those dark monastic walls, amid the ocean flood
Of pious fasting monks there dwelt a holy brotherhood;
To the Madonna’s glory there an altar high was placed
And a rich and costly image the sacred altar graced.
Exalted high upon a throne, the Virgin Mother smiled,
And as the custom is, she held within her arms the Child;
The kings and wisemen of the East were kneeling by her side;
Attended was she like a queen whom God had sanctified.

Descending low before her face a screen of feathers hung,–
A moscader or fan for flies, ’tis called in vulgar tongue;
From the feathers of the peacock’s wing ’twas fashioned bright and fair,
And glistened like the heaven above when all its stars are there.
It chanced that for the people’s sins, fell lightning’s blasting stroke;
Forth from all four sacred walls the flames consuming broke;
The sacred robes were all consumed, missal and holy book;
And hardly with their lives the monks their crumbling walls forsook.

But though the desolating flame raged fearfully and wild,
It did not reach the Virgin Queen, it did not reach the Child;
It did not reach the feathery screen before her face that shone,
Nor injured in a farthing’s worth the image or the throne.
The image it did not consume, it did not burn the screen;
Even in the value of a hair they were not hurt, I ween;
Not even the smoke did reach them, nor injure more the shrine
Than the bishop, hight Don Tello, has been hurt by hand of mine


Date: 13th century (original in Spanish); 1844 (translation in English)

By: Gonzalo de Berceo (c1197-before 1264)

Translated by: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

Saturday, 18 January 2020

The Home of the Heart by Muktabai

Where never darkness comes my home I’ve made;
There my delightsome lodging ever find.
That perfect shelter cannot fail our need;
Going and coming trouble us no more.
Beyond all vision and above all spheres,
He, our delight, our inmost sould indwells.
He, Mukta says, is our heart’s only home.

From: Macnicol, Margaret (ed.), Poems by Indian Women, Selected and Rendered by Various Translators, 1923, Association Press: Calcutta and Oxford University Press: London, p. 47.

Date: 13th century (original in Marathi); 1923 (translation in English)

By: Muktabai (1279-1297)

Translated by: Margaret Grant Campbell Macnicol (18??-19??) and D. K. Laddu (?-?)

Friday, 17 January 2020

A Satyr by Elizabeth Tipper

As Dungeons are for Criminals prepar’d,
Tyburn and Gyves too is their just Reward;
So Satyr’s Lash dipt, poison’d in Disgrace,
Is fit to Scourge the Vice of Human Race.
Did not the Lamb of God, with Sacred Terror,
Reprove all Pharisaic Sins and Error?
Where’s then my Muse? Does my Poetick Vein!
Want Skill or Courage for this useful Strain?
Baptismal Vows engage Heroick Minds,
Women are valiant, tho’ of different Kinds,
And tho’ my Sex is weak, my Heart’s not so:
Lead on my Chief, I fear not where I go.
Instruct me LORD, I wait for thye Command,
Without it I dare stir nor Foot or Hand.
I begg’d again, and then my LORD reply’d,
My Precepts and Example be your Guide;
Go follow them. Strait then I call’d to mind
His Golden Rule, propitious left behind:
First cast away the Beam that hides the Light
Of thine own Eye, deluded Hypocrite;
Which, once remov’d, thou better may’st discern
The little Mote thy Brother does concern,
And with more reason ask to pull it out,
When thy clear Light dispels his darker Doubt:
But if black Vice thy Life it self betray,
And thou pretend’st to Guide the perfect Way,
‘Tis like a blind Man raving in a Heat,
Inspir’d by some ridiculous Conceit,
He’s able to lead all that go astray;
His Tongue crys out, his Feet quite miss the way;
Sometimes his Steps are right, but rarely so;
Still with invective Bawls, You falsely go.
Should this his Conduct be by Prudence try’d,
Would he be thought a Madman or a Guide?
Our Saviour, e’re such Work he did begin,
Ask’d, Which of you convinces me of Sin?
And must his spotless Life a Pattern be
Imitable for such a Worm as me?
The great Example I can never reach,
Alas! I want time more to Watch than Preach.
My Self is Task sufficient to look o’re,
I find no Moment where I need explore
The Faults of others, but my own deplore.
And now I beg, since my Design has mist,
Make me true Christian, tho’ no Satyrist.

From: Tipper, Elizabeth, The Pilgrim’s Viaticum: Or, The Destitute, but not Forlorn. Being a Divine Poem, digested from Meditations Upon the Holy Scripture, 1698, J. Wilkins: London, pp. 71-72.

Date: 1698

By: Elizabeth Tipper (fl. 1693-1698)

Friday, 27 December 2019

On the Thirteenth Day of Christmas My True Love Phoned Me Up . . . by Dave Calder

Well, I suppose I should be grateful, you’ve obviously gone
to a lot of trouble and expense – or maybe off your head.
Yes, I did like the birds – the small ones anyway were fun
if rather messy, but now the hens have roosted on my bed
and the rest are nested on the wardrobe. It’s hard to sleep
with all that cooing, let alone the cackling of the geese
whose eggs are everywhere, but mostly in a broken smelly heap
on the sofa. No, why should I mind? I can’t get any peace
anywhere – the lounge is full of drummers thumping tom-toms
and sprawling lords crashed out from manic leaping. The
kitchen is crammed with cows and milkmaids and smells of a million stink-bombs
and enough sour milk to last a year. The pipers? I’d forgotten them –
they were no trouble, I paid them and they went. But I can’t get rid
of these young ladies. They won’t stop dancing or turn the music down
and they’re always in the bathroom, squealing as they skid
across the flooded floor. No, I don’t need a plumber round,
it’s just the swans – where else can they swim? Poor things,
I think they’re going mad, like me. When I went to wash my
hands one ate the soap, another swallowed the gold rings.
And the pear tree died. Too dry. So thanks for nothing, love. Goodbye.

From: Calder, Dave, A Big Bunch of Poems, 2010, Other Publications, Liverpool, p. [unnumbered]

Date: 2010

By: Dave Calder (19??- )

Thursday, 26 December 2019

Boxing Day by Vern Rutsala

In the mud we
begin to understand.
Fictions fall away—
old skin, old hair,

old midnight pledges
scale in wet light.
Whatever was following
has caught up.

It is with us now.
Old vacancy, old tramp
riding the train
whistles, old ugly

come to visit,
old bastard Daddy
crazy drunk, warbling
hello and hacking

like a bullfrog.
We are his favorites.
His dark pockets
are stuffed with gifts—

Christmas candy matted
with lint and tobacco
is peeled out like ore
and it is just for us.

From: Rutsala, Vern, “Boxing Day” in Poetry, January 1972, p. 193.

Date: 1972

By: Vern Rutsala (1934-2014)

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Christmas Comes But Once a Year by Thomas Miller

Those Christmas bells as sweetly chime,
As on the day when first they rung
So merrily in the olden time,
And far and wide their music flung:
Shaking the tall grey ivied tower,
With all their deep melodious power:
They still proclaim to every ear,
Old Christmas comes but once a year.

Then he came singing through the woods,
And plucked the holly bright and green;
Pulled here and there the ivy buds;
Was sometimes hidden, sometimes seen —
Half-buried ‘neath the mistletoe,
His long beard hung with flakes of snow;
And still he ever carolled clear,
Old Christmas comes but once a year.

He merrily came in days of old,
When roads were few, and ways were foul,
Now staggered, — now some ditty trolled,
Now drank deep from his wassail bowl;
His holly silvered o’er with frost.
Nor never once his way he lost,
For reeling here and reeling there,
Old Christmas comes but once a year.

The hall was then with holly crowned,
‘Twas on the wild-deer’s antlers placed;
It hemmed the battered armour round,
And every ancient trophy graced.
It decked the boar’s head, tusked and grim,
The wassail bowl wreathed to the brim.
A summer-green hung everywhere,
For Christmas comes but once a year.

His jaded steed the armed knight
Reigned up before the abbey gate;
By all assisted to alight,
From humble monk, to abbot great.
They placed his lance behind the door,
His armour on the rush-strewn floor;
And then brought out the best of cheer,
For Christmas comes but once a year.

The maiden then, in quaint attire,
Loosed from her head the silken hood,
And danced before the yule-clog fire —
The crackling monarch of the wood.
Helmet and shield flashed back the blaze,
In lines of light, like summer rays,
While music sounded loud and clear,
For Christmas comes but once a year.

What, though upon his hoary head,
Have fallen many a winter’s snow,
His wreath is still as green and red
As ‘t was a thousand years ago.
For what has he to do with care?
His wassail bowl and old arm-chair
Are ever standing ready there,
For Christmas comes but once a year.

No marvel Christmas lives so long,
He never knew but merry hours,
His nights were spent with mirth and song,
In happy homes, and princely bowers;
Was greeted both by serf and lord,
And seated at the festal board;
While every voice cried “Welcome here,”
Old Christmas comes but once a year.

But what care we for days of old,
The knights whose arms have turned to rust,
Their grim boars’ heads, and pasties cold,
Their castles crumbled into dust?
Never did sweeter faces go,
Blushing beneath the mistletoe,
Than are to-night assembled here,
For Christmas comes but once a year.

For those old times are dead and gone,
And those who hailed them passed away,
Yet still there lingers many a one,
To welcome in old Christmas Day.
The poor will many a care forget,
The debtor think not of his debt;
But, as they each enjoy their cheer,
Wish it was Christmas all the year.

And still around those good old times
We hang like friends full loth to part,
We listen to the simple rhymes
Which somehow sink into the heart,
“Half musical, half melancholy,”
Like childish smiles that still are holy,
A masquer’s face dimmed with a tear,
For Christmas comes but once a year.

The bells which usher in that morn,
Have ever drawn my mind away
To Bethlehem, where Christ was born,
And the low stable where He lay,
In which the large-eyed oxen fed;
To Mary bowing low her head,
And looking down with love sincere,
Such thoughts bring Christmas once a year.

At early day the youthful voice,
Heard singing on from door to door,
Makes the responding heart rejoice,
To know the children of the poor
For once are happy all day long;
We smile and listen to the song,
The burthen still remote or near,
“Old Christmas comes but once a year.”

Upon a gayer happier scene,
Never did holly berries peer,
Or ivy throw its trailing green,
On brighter forms than there are here,
Nor Christmas in his old arm-chair
Smile upon lips and brows more fair,
Then let us sing amid our cheer,
Old Christmas still comes once a year.

From: Vizetelly, Henry (ed.), Christmas with the Poets, a Collection of Songs, Carols, and Verses, Relating to the Festival of Christmas, from the Anglo-Normal Period to the Present Time, 1852, David Bogue: London, pp. 164-168.

Date: 1852

By: Thomas Miller (1807-1874)

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Christmas Mail by Theodore J. (Ted) Kooser

Cards in each mailbox,
angel, manger, star and lamb,
as the rural carrier,
driving the snowy roads,
hears from her bundles
the plaintive bleating of sheep,
the shuffle of sandals,
the clopping of camels.
At stop after stop,
she opens the little tin door
and places deep in the shadows
the shepherds and wise men,
the donkeys lank and weary,
the cow who chews and muses.
And from her Styrofoam cup,
white as a star and perched
on the dashboard, leading her
ever into the distance,
there is a hint of hazelnut,
and then a touch of myrrh.


Date: 2012

By: Theodore J. (Ted) Kooser (1939- )

Monday, 23 December 2019

Letter Spoken in Wind by Rachel Galvin

Today we walked the inlet Nybøl Nor
remembering how to tread on frozen snow.
Ate cold sloeberries

that tasted of wind—a white pucker—
spat their sour pits in snow. Along
the horizon, a line of windmills dissolved

into a white field. Your voice
on the phone, a gesund auf dein keppele
you blessed my head. Six months now

since I’ve seen you. There are
traces of you here, your curls still dark
and long, your woven dove,

the room you stayed in: send your syllables,
I am swimming below the tidemark.
Words shed overcoats, come

to me undressed, slender-limbed, they have no
letters yet. It is the festival
of lights, I have no

candles. I light one for each night,
pray on a row
of nine lighthouses.


Date: 2009

By: Rachel Galvin (1972- )