“Sublimation”

“Go, hang these just-washed sheets out on the line.
Though last night’s snowdrifts rise above your knees,
The creek out back is silent, frozen solid,
And underneath the morning’s brilliant blue
The lazy, bitter breeze will burn your cheek,
The sun shines bright, so ere the evening falls
These cloths, though sopping now, will be as dry
As Sinai’s sandy, scorching wilderness.”

In the same way, if God will smile on me
With the bright sunshine of his countenance,
Though I feel sin and failures weigh me down
Like leaden chains, or thick and soaking wool,
They’ll lift from me, and pass away like dew,
As light as down, and all shall work his praise.

March by Isaac Levitan
The opening phrases of this poem came to me last month when I suddenly found myself thinking about sublimation by which water and ice pass away on sunny days even in winter’s bitter cold, and also about the spiritual, psychological, or alchemical sense of the term. And I found the alternate voice I found for the first lines interesting, and was minded to continue. I finished the poem earlier this week.

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.

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“Psalm 14”

The wicked person, in his senseless folly,
Says, to calm himself, there is no God.
And all are, like this, full of wicked deeds,
Their minds unfit and bent by love of sin;
There is not one who knows and does the right. Continue reading

“Veni, O Adonai”

O Lord of Hosts, you rule your chosen people
With a deft and mighty outstretched hand,
And have since long before that famous day
You spoke to Moses from the burning bush;
You struck their foes with plagues, then brought them forth
From Egypt, where they lived in slavery,
Then dry-shod through the Sea. On Sinai’s peak
You showed your majesty in smoke and thunder,
And in such an awesome, fearsome, voice
That all who heard it fell and cried with dread
You spoke your law, that all might know your ways.
Now, Lord, your people cry again in anguish,
Laboring under the selfish rule
Of those who hate you: Come deliver us,
Show forth your righteousness, bring low the proud,
And grant your chosen saints to hear your voice.

This is a verse expansion or meditation on the second of the O Antiphons; my poem on the first appeared here last week, and I hope to finish poems based on all seven before Christmas.

Moses on Mount Sinai by Jean-Léon Gérôme

As always, I earnestly welcome your questions, suggestions, or other comments 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); get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing; or follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things). You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

“Veni, O Sapientia”

O living Wisdom, more than merely wise
But Whom all who are truly wise must love,
Your speaking brought the universe to being,
And made time begin its ceaseless pace;
You understand all things in perfect truth,
From galaxies too far to see from Earth,
To particles too quick and small to know,
To every thought a man has ever dreamed,
And knew them all before you made the first.
And all these things are under your control,
So everything must happen as you say,
According to your word and to your plan,
More perfect than a note that’s just in tune.
Come, Wisdom, teach our hearts and mortal minds
To know and always walk in prudent paths,
To shed our folly, and hereafter live
As wiser people, following your ways.

This is a verse expansion or meditation on the first of the O Antiphons (since I relied far more heavily on both the English translation in Wikipedia and the standard Neale-et-al hymn text than on the Latin, I hesitate to call it a translation); I plan to continue on to all of the other six of the antiphons (starting with “Veni, O Adonai”), and post my expanded poetry throughout this Advent season.

As always, I earnestly welcome your questions, suggestions, or other comments 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); get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing; or follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things). You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

“Deo gratias”

“Thanks be to God!” let all my being say:
For light, and eyes to see it, breath of life,
Abundant water running clean and clear,
The harvest’s bounty, stars on high so fair,
Friendship’s warmth and kindness, family’s love,
The glory of the ever-changing earth,
And so much more—but let me not forget
That God deserves my greatest thanks of all
For the great mercy he has daily shown
To this unworthy sinner, in his grace
Accepting me, forgiving my offenses
(More each hour), and with his sworn assurance
Promising a lasting share in Christ.

Thanksgiving (Jennie Augusta Brownscombe)
I’ve had the beginning of this bouncing around in my head for several weeks, ever since I first tried to think about writing a poem for the week of Thanksgiving. But every time, it seemed, I tried to sit down to write any more of it, some distraction intervened, so I didn’t finish it until today.

As always, I earnestly welcome your questions, suggestions, or other comments 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); get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing; or follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things). You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

“Psalm 12”

All those who love your ways, O Lord, are dead,
And every man who spoke the truth is gone,
For cheerful flattery gilds every tongue,
And every mouth lies to its nearest friends.

Come quickly, Sovereign Lord, and make an end:
Let every tongue that flatters be no more,
And stop forever every lip that boasts
In triumph that it need obey no lord.

“My ear has heard the needy,” says the Lord,
“And I have seen those who oppress the poor,
So I will quickly come to rescue them,
To stand a shield from those who wish them harm.”

And unlike mortal lies, God’s words are perfect;
Much like silver tested seven times,
In which no hint or speck of dross remains,
All that our Lord has said is without flaw.

Ah, Lord, our Lord, our hearts will trust in you,
For though the wicked liars strut and crow
And hold abominations up for praise,
We know you keep us safe from them forever.

Sodom and Gomorrah by John Martin

This poem is the twelfth 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 wrote this poem in one sitting immediately after finishing my setting of Psalm 11, in mid-September.

As always, I earnestly welcome your questions, suggestions, or other comments 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); get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing; or follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things). You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

“Psalm 11”

God is my chosen shelter from all woe;
In vain the craven bid me flee, saying,
“The wicked stand in ambush for the just,
With readied bows and secret plans afoot!
Who can resist them? Therefore rise and run,
Take hidden refuge in the desert hills
Just like a startled songbird seeks its nest.
Has even God’s good government now failed?
With what he he promised seeming now undone,
What can we do? What can he do?” they say.

But God sits, holy, on his throne above,
Within his temple hearing all our prayers.
There is not one on earth he does not see;
Their hidden ways, the secrets of their hearts,
And all their deeds lie open to his thought.
Because the Lord is righteous, a just Judge,
He concentrates to keep the righteous safe,
But stares with hatred on all evil-doers,
And for those who delight in violent deeds
Prepares this just and fitting punishment:

Since they have burned with zeal for wickedness,
Fire, coals, and sulfur’s stink shall rain on them,
With only desert winds for their relief,
A dry and scorching heat that has no end.
Not so, however, for those God protects;
Our righteous Lord loves justice. In his court
Those who are upright in his sight shall stand,
Secure from harm and unafraid of threats;
Within his temple they shall see his face.

An den Wassern Babylons by Gebhard Fugel

This poem is the eleventh 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 10 in June, and finished it earlier this week.

As always, I earnestly welcome your questions, suggestions, or other comments 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); get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing; or follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things). You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.