Hymn: “O God, our Help in ages past”

Continuing my series on great old hymns, today I’d like to focus our attention on another familiar (and so much-neglected nowadays in my experience) favorite. Continue reading

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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.

“Hodie decennis”

Ten years, ten years today, since first we met,
God’s gracious gift I scarcely saw at first
But since have learned to treasure more than gold.
And though the swiftly rushing stream of Time
Would wash those cherished memories away
And so, pretending royalty, dissolve
That golden thread, I will not have it so
And, while God lends me strength, resist that tide
And fondly hold your memory in mind.
Still, better far than holding fast alone
Would be to spin new strands into that cord
(As first changed cloth to silver, then to gold)
Again and yet again, as time flies by,
That friendship may yet thrive for decades more
Until its final flowering at last
upon the heavenly and eternal shore.

On the day after Labor Day, 2006, I had my first Latin class at Calvin, in which I met some of my dearest friends. (By numeric date, ten years ago yesterday; by day of the week, ten years ago today.) When I realized the milestone last week, I wrote this poem. I had hoped to translate it to Latin as well, as would be most fitting to honor my Latin classmates, but while I had little trouble (given helpful software) creating a prose rendering, fitting it into the traditional meter of Latin verse proved beyond me, particularly in the time before today. The title I gave the poem for this post is the first two words of its Latin prose translation.

The New Scholar by Ralph Hedley

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.

“Milestone”

The earth has once more circled round the sun;
Another birthday draws, too quickly, near.
The year has passed—and what have I to show?—
In countless fleetingly unnoticed moments.
But when I sometimes most “come to myself,”
I cry, “God help me!” from these troubled depths:
Do not permit my soul to stumble on
Along that wide and straight and smooth-paved road
Without a single turn or mile-marker,
Toward which, unless I watch with vigilance,
My mortal steps most naturally tend,
Nor run until the point of weariness
Around in fruitless circles—paths of thought
That I cannot, of my own will, escape,
No matter how I strive to concentrate
On “things above,” to put those out of mind.
Oh, that this year I might do better:
See the moments left—prepared—for me,
And what to do, with courage to obey,
As they approach, not only in regret.

This coming Monday is my birthday. I wanted to have a new poem to mark the occasion, as I have once before. Fortunately, I had the opening lines come to me earlier this week, followed later by more thoughts tangentially related to milestones that worked their way into the remainder of the poem.

As always, I earnestly welcome your (further) comments, suggestions, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. If you liked this, you can follow this blog, which includes one of my poems nearly every Friday, or read other poems I’ve written (perhaps starting with those linked from one of the “archive” installments, since the full archive is by now, at over two hundred poems, somewhat daunting). You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

This poem is also mirrored on my wiki.

“I’ve often wondered”

I’ve often wondered: What if I’d been born
In decades, centuries before this age?
For I am nearly always out of sorts,
Bewildered as to where my path might lie,
And finding values, culture of times past
To resonate more strongly than today’s.

But then the Spirit brings this truth to mind:
The Lord, who made me, does not make mistakes;
In wisdom weaving all of history,
He works all to his glory and the good.
And neither this unsettled present age,
Nor any other, is my final home:
I know the Maker made me for himself,
And so of course my fickle heart is restless here
Until I find my lasting rest in him.

This poem … coalesced … this week from yet another recurrence of the opening thought, and then from remembering the famous line from Augustine.

As always, I earnestly welcome your comments, suggestions (perhaps of a real title for this poem?), questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. (In other words, if you liked this poem, or you didn’t like it, or it made you think of something, or … please leave a comment to let me know.) If you liked this, you can follow this blog, which includes one of my poems every Friday, or read other poems I’ve written here on my blog (starting with those linked from one of the “archive ” installments, since the full archive is by now, at well over a hundred poems, somewhat daunting); I’d especially like to know, as part of my preparations for a collection, which poems you think are my best. You may also share it with others, subject to my sharing policy.

This poem is also archived on my wiki.

Time Travel in the Shine Cycle

A few places in the narrative of the Shine Cycle, my planned series of fantasy novels, the ordinary linear flow of time is not quite sufficient. And so, for the purposes of the Shine Cycle, I posit the occasional existence of time travel.

I assume that if a physical, mechanical, chemical, or electromagnetic time machine is possible, it is prohibitively complicated and expensive by several orders of magnitude. And, while I reserve the right to have A Better Idea, I’m writing under the working assumption that such a machine is impossible. Instead of using a machine, time travel in the Shine Cycle is always achieved through applied metaphysics, with several limitations. Continue reading

“Do you remember”

Each Friday I post one of my poems.

Do you remember how we used to sit
In silence, there, beside an open door?
Such happy hours were they, those days gone by,
Though far more bittersweet than then I knew;
But now, alack! those days have fled away—
And, ever as when dearest friends depart,
Now we have parted to our separate ways
And I have wandered long in timeless thought,
I find parts of my heart were left behind.

I wrote this a few weeks ago, perhaps after a dream brought this memory to mind.

As always, I earnestly welcome your comments, suggestions (perhaps of a real title for this poem), questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. You can also read other poems I’ve written here on my blog.

This poem is also posted on my wiki.