Numbered Sonnet Opus 2 #3

Alas, my lady, what is happiness?
For music, dancing, wit, and jesting fade,
And even beauty pales as time grows less,
As do all mortal joys that God has made.
But weighty conversation with dear friends,
And peaceful silence, swaddling with its hush,
Because they seem to serve eternal ends,
Do not so quickly dim beneath Time’s brush.
Still, as the starlight fades as dawn draws nigh,
And tongues find subtler scents as hunger wanes,
Our souls were made to taste the joys on high,
For all that sense is dulled by sin’s black stains.
But even so, I cannot but protest:
Alas, my lady, what is happiness?

Back in high school, I began an (execrable) sonnet beginning with the line “Alas, my lady, what is happiness?” And apparently I finished it, but when I reorganized my (digital) poetry-related files sometime in college I thought, from my brief glance at it, that I hadn’t finished it, and so decided to thoroughly revise it, just so I could get one more piece out of my “unfinished projects” collection without completely discarding it.

About two years ago, I thought of a concept for a “reimagining” of the sonnet, completely changing everything about it except the form and the first line, and started into writing it. But my thoughts ran dry, and the poem lay essentially untouched (except for a slight revision that also added one line, that fall) until earlier this month, when browsing through my unfinished poems I happened on it and thought of how I could continue it. Getting that thought down turned fairly easily into finishing the poem.

I earnestly welcome your comments, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments), follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things), or get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

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“Gardens”

The gospel begins in a glorious garden.
For love they daily labored, the lightest of loads,
Their efforts governed by one solitary rule.
But teased and tempted, they transgressed, and failed the test,
Dooming all their descendants to so disobey,
Binding every baby born to share the bitter blame.

Another garden, of a moonlight evening,
Saw the Second Adam’s anguished sorrow, sighing, speak
And heard his humble, heartfelt prayer as hours grew short
Till the ill-bought betrayer brought his brutal band
To bind and drag him down to meet the dreadful doom
Which he, our righteous Champion, now chose to face.

Later, after he died our death, his dust was laid
In grief within a borrowed garden rock-cut grave,
But when Mary, still mourning, came to embalm him,
An angel, glorious, announced the awesome truth:
The Christ had risen in utter triumph from the tomb.

When all his plans at last are fully accomplished,
This wretched, weary world made new, we are assured,
The temple where our Lord will always dwell with us
Will sit within the splendor of a garden city.

I began this poem in the middle of last month when I thought of the concept for the first two stanzas, intending it to be for Good Friday. Then I ran into difficulty, and when I returned to it I had forgotten what meter I was in, so I had to adjust what I wrote in that sitting to match the rest; I also found that I had written a poem as suited to Eastertide as to Holy Week. So I dithered as to when to post it, and settled on today.

As always, I earnestly welcome your comments, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments), follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things), or get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

“Psalm 17”

Give ear, O Lord, and hear my earnest plea;
Come listen to my prayer, uphold my cause;
Establish righteousness upon the earth.
You know my heart, my thoughts, by day and night;
You see my foes accuse me without cause,
For by your law, the word you speak on high,
You kept my feet from ways of violent men,
From slipping from the safety of your paths.

O God, you who alone can answer prayer,
Bend down your ear to me to hear my call;
Show forth again the glory of your grace,
Savior of all who hide themselves in you.
Oh, shelter me beneath your mighty wings
From those surrounding me who seek my life:
The arrogant have sought me, tracked me down,
And lie in ambush, ready now to pounce.

Rise up, O Lord; rebuke my wicked foes,
Who only care for what they may acquire,
Their wealth amassed to pass on to their heirs,
But give no thought to righteousness—
Subdue them, so that they must bow the knee
And yield their lives before your holy name.

But as for me, my eyes shall see your face,
Your shining, everlasting righteousness;
Asleep or waking, and in life or death,
For me, to see your glory is enough.

This poem is the seventeenth in my series of verse paraphrases of the Psalms. I began this project in 2012, starting with the first Psalm, and have worked on one Psalm at a time; I began this poem soon after finishing my setting of Psalm 16, in August of last year, but because I put it down and worked on other things for several months I didn’t finish it until last month.

I earnestly welcome your comments, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments), follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things), or get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

“Carmel”

How long must we still dither, hedge our bets?
The fallen flames leap high, and burn so bright—
Despite our best attempts to douse the wood,
To soak the sacrifice, and drown the stone,
And frenzied prayers to gods who’d do our will,
Our self-inflicted wounds accomplished nothing.
The sign is clear: The Lord alone is God!
Why will we not repent, nor bend our knee
Before our Maker and our rightful King?

I’ve always found the Bible’s story of Elijah to be both a fascinating story and a fertile source of lessons applicable to the world today. (Which is, I suspect, part of why I’m so fond of Mendelssohn’s oratorio.) I began this poem back in 2016, when the first two lines flew into my head, but I didn’t get any farther until I took it up again earlier this month and finished it. And then it occurred to me that it would be a good fit to post in this, the first week of Lent.

As always, I earnestly welcome your comments, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments), follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things), or get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

“The King shall come”

The King shall come, when men have proved their worst,
Into the squalor of their ceaseless war
To prove God righteous, merciful, and just,
And lead from shame into a way of peace.

The King has come, announced by herald hosts,
And by his life, his sacrificial death,
And taking up his life again in might
Begun a kingdom that shall never end.

The King shall come when every knee has bent
And every foe surrendered to his rule,
Greeted with acclamation by his folk,
To sit down on his rightful throne on Earth.

I wrote this poem about this time last year, but at that time decided to postpone posting it here until this Advent, since I filled last Advent with my series on the O Antiphons. I tried to distill my understanding of the various subjects of the Advent season, which I meditated on in three prior posts in 2012, briefly into verse with some definite structure.

I earnestly welcome your comments, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments), follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things), or get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

“Psalm 16”

Protect me, God, my chosen hiding place!
As I have said, you are my only good,
And all my joy is in your holy ones
Whose lives show forth your glory in the land—
But those who leave the truth for other gods
Shall surely always see their sorrows grow,
So I will make no offerings to them,
Nor shall I even speak their names aloud.

Lord, you in grace have given me a share
Within your kingdom and among your folk,
And even welcomed me within your house;
Your will and law securely hold my cause,
And you assigned a pleasant place to me.
I praise you, Lord, for showing me your way;
Even at night my heart repeats your words,
And while you always stand at my right hand,
Nothing can move me or shall make me fall.

Even my flesh is safe within your care;
You will not let me slip out from your hand
To fall into the silence of the grave,
Nor suffer rot to touch your Righteous One,
And so my heart and tongue rejoice with praise.
For you will show the road of life to me,
The path to meet you, where is utmost joy,
And grant me pleasure for uncounted days.

A Summer Day (Eduardo Leon Garrido)

This poem is the sixteenth in my series of verse paraphrases of the Psalms. I began this project in 2012, starting with the first Psalm, and have worked on one Psalm at a time; I began this poem soon after finishing my setting of Psalm 15, back in February, but didn’t finish it until earlier this month.

As always, I earnestly welcome your comments, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments), follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things), or get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

“Crowds”

“Hosanna! Savior, hail!” the masses cried
To greet their rightful King, though in their hearts
They shouted more to strain the chafing bonds
That long-oppressive Rome had laid on them
Than from true fealty to God’s anointed.

Not one week later, these same thronging crowds,
Incited by their leaders’ selfish plots
And stirred up into frenzied lust for blood,
Now clamored for their King to be condemned,
Abused, accursed, and put to gruesome death.

As he trudged through the streets, and up the hill,
Then hung in agony for his last hours,
The multitudes passed by to mock his end
Or stood to shout more scorn, but he was silent,
Suffering the bitter fate he chose
Without complaint, and even speaking grace
To those who tortured him before he died.

At last he breathed his final mortal breath
And cried his work’s completion to the sky;
An earthquake marked the opening of the way
That greater multitudes thereafter tread
Who have been, by his sufferings, brought to peace.

Photograph of Golgotha by an unknown photographer

I had long intended to write a poem for Good Friday, or at least for Holy Week, as in several of the last few years, but the first glimmers of an idea for the above only came to me less than a week ago.

As always, I earnestly welcome your comments, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments), follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things), or get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.