The Portrait by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

This is her picture as she was:
It seems a thing to wonder on,
As though mine image in the glass
Should tarry when myself am gone.
I gaze until she seems to stir,—
Until mine eyes almost aver
That now, even now, the sweet lips part
To breathe the words of the sweet heart:—
And yet the earth is over her.

Alas! even such the thin-drawn ray
That makes the prison-depths more rude,—
The drip of water night and day
Giving a tongue to solitude.
Yet only this, of love's whole prize,
Remains; save what in mournful guise
Takes counsel with my soul alone,—
Save what is secret and unknown,
Below the earth, above the skies.

In painting her I shrin'd her face
Mid mystic trees, where light falls in
Hardly at all; a covert place
Where you might think to find a din
Of doubtful talk, and a live flame
Wandering, and many a shape whose name
Not itself knoweth, and old dew,
And your own footsteps meeting you,
And all things going as they came.

A deep dim wood; and there she stands
As in that wood that day: for so
Was the still movement of her hands
And such the pure line's gracious flow.
And passing fair the type must seem,
Unknown the presence and the dream.
'Tis she: though of herself, alas!
Less than her shadow on the grass
Or than her image in the stream.

That day we met there, I and she
One with the other all alone;
And we were blithe; yet memory
Saddens those hours, as when the moon
Looks upon daylight. And with her
I stoop'd to drink the spring-water,
Athirst where other waters sprang;
And where the echo is, she sang,—
My soul another echo there.

But when that hour my soul won strength
For words whose silence wastes and kills,
Dull raindrops smote us, and at length
Thunder'd the heat within the hills.
That eve I spoke those words again
Beside the pelted window-pane;
And there she hearken'd what I said,
With under-glances that survey'd
The empty pastures blind with rain.

Next day the memories of these things,
Like leaves through which a bird has flown,
Still vibrated with Love's warm wings;
Till I must make them all my own
And paint this picture. So, 'twixt ease
Of talk and sweet long silences,
She stood among the plants in bloom
At windows of a summer room,
To feign the shadow of the trees.

And as I wrought, while all above
And all around was fragrant air,
In the sick burthen of my love
It seem'd each sun-thrill'd blossom there
Beat like a heart among the leaves.
O heart that never beats nor heaves,
In that one darkness lying still,
What now to thee my love's great will
Or the fine web the sunshine weaves?

For now doth daylight disavow
Those days,—nought left to see or hear.
Only in solemn whispers now
At night-time these things reach mine ear;
When the leaf-shadows at a breath
Shrink in the road, and all the heath,
Forest and water, far and wide,
In limpid starlight glorified,
Lie like the mystery of death.

Last night at last I could have slept,
And yet delay'd my sleep till dawn,
Still wandering. Then it was I wept:
For unawares I came upon
Those glades where once she walk'd with me:
And as I stood there suddenly,
All wan with traversing the night,
Upon the desolate verge of light
Yearn'd loud the iron-bosom'd sea.

Even so, where Heaven holds breath and hears
The beating heart of Love's own breast,—
Where round the secret of all spheres
All angels lay their wings to rest,—
How shall my soul stand rapt and aw'd,
When, by the new birth borne abroad
Throughout the music of the suns,
It enters in her soul at once
And knows the silence there for God!

Here with her face doth memory sit
Meanwhile, and wait the day's decline,
Till other eyes shall look from it,
Eyes of the spirit's Palestine,
Even than the old gaze tenderer:
While hopes and aims long lost with her
Stand round her image side by side,
Like tombs of pilgrims that have died
About the Holy Sepulchre.

Painting: Ophelia by Arthur Hughes 1863 (Public Domain)

The Unknown Soldier

One sharp pain. One utterance of surprise. Oh.
He leaves no great philosophies. There are no medals, no headstone.
Only a few strings left attached to this world.

Letters in government files
The sacrifice a mother makes to prove her relation to the boy whose life is opened up on paper
for a pension she is denied.

Is it invasion to hang on their every word --  
the words of intimacy and filial love in these letters?
I am his family too and he is mine.

These strings scribbled on cheap, creased stationery
little ways of knowing a great deal (though I knew him
without knowing it all my life ).

Apologizing for his handwriting and blaming his pen.
Butter from a country doctor as he sits in a hospital bed.
No letters from home yet.

Despair in one string, bravado in another;
A book sent home to remember him by and
I'm a tuff buck now.

Have brother plant these pair seeds
They be big as a fist and
From Vermont.
 
He spells as he spoke:
haint, dast, Upstate I be
The book cost me dear.

The last string of words
money sent home for mother's new house
never be afraid to ask, I gladly go without.

He is my muse and my relation
All these years later a picture is found
and we look the same.

I've known him and I have no doubts.
Never question God's creative force,
or His happy coincidences.

The heavens open sometimes
and the saints speak and pray --
happy for reunion.



Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.

2 Corinthians 5:8

For Further Reading:

DO THE SAINTS PRAY FOR US?

WHY SAINTS PRAY FOR US

THE BIBLE SUPPORTS PRAYING TO THE SAINTS

Vastness by Alfred Lord Tennyson

MANY a hearth upon our dark globe sighs after many a vanish’d face,
Many a planet by many a sun may roll with the dust of a vanish’d race.
II.
Raving politics, never at rest—as this poor earth’s pale history runs,—
What is it all but a trouble of ants in the gleam of a million million of suns?
III.
Lies upon this side, lies upon that side, truthless violence mourn’d by the Wise,
Thousands of voices drowning his own in a popular torrent of lies upon lies;
IV.
Stately purposes, valour in battle, glorious annals of army and fleet,
Death for the right cause, death for the wrong cause, trumpets of victory, groans of defeat;
V.
Innocence seethed in her mother’s milk, and Charity setting the martyr aflame;
Thraldom who walks with the banner of Freedom, and recks not to ruin a realm in her name.
VI.
Faith at her zenith, or all but lost in the gloom of doubts that darken the schools;
Craft with a bunch of all-heal in her hand, follow’d up by her vassal legion of fools;
VII.
Trade flying over a thousand seas with her spice and her vintage, her silk and her corn;
Desolate offing, sailorless harbours, famishing populace, wharves forlorn;
VIII.
Star of the morning, Hope in the sunrise; gloom of the evening, Life at a close;
Pleasure who flaunts on her wide downway with her flying robe and her poison’d rose;
IX.
Pain, that has crawl’d from the corpse of Pleasure, a worm which writhes all day, and at night
Stirs up again in the heart of the sleeper, and stings him back to the curse of the light;
X.
Wealth with his wines and his wedded harlots; honest Poverty, bare to the bone;
Opulent Avarice, lean as Poverty; Flattery gilding the rift in a throne;
XI.
Fame blowing out from her golden trumpet a jubilant challenge to Time and to Fate;
Slander, her shadow, sowing the nettle on all the laurel’d graves of the Great;
XII.
Love for the maiden, crown’d with marriage, no regrets for aught that has been,
Household happiness, gracious children, debtless competence, golden mean;
XIII.
National hatreds of whole generations, and pigmy spites of the village spire;
Vows that will last to the last death-ruckle, and vows that are snapt in a moment of fire;
XIV.
He that has lived for the lust of the minute, and died in the doing it, flesh without mind;
He that has nail’d all flesh to the Cross, till Self died out in the love of his kind;
XV.
Spring and Summer and Autumn and Winter, and all these old revolutions of earth;
All new-old revolutions of Empire—change of the tide—what is all of it worth?
XVI.
What the philosophies, all the sciences, poesy, varying voices of prayer?
All that is noblest, all that is basest, all that is filthy with all that is fair?
XVII.
What is it all, if we all of us end but in being our own corpse-coffins at last,
Swallow’d in Vastness, lost in Silence, drown’d in the deeps of a meaningless Past?
XVIII.
What but a murmur of gnats in the gloom, or a moment’s anger of bees in their hive?—
.     .     .     .     .
Peace, let it be! for I loved him, and love him for ever: the dead are not dead but alive.

THE LIVING AND THE DEAD AND ALFRED LORD TENNYSON

Writing as a Search for Wisdom

THE POET by ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON
The poet in a golden clime was born,
     With golden stars above;
Dower’d with the hate of hate, the scorn of scorn,
         The love of love.

He saw thro’ life and death, thro’ good and ill,
     He saw thro’ his own soul.
The marvel of the everlasting will,
         An open scroll,

Before him lay; with echoing feet he threaded
     The secretest walks of fame:
The viewless arrows of his thoughts were headed
         And wing’d with flame,

Like Indian reeds blown from his silver tongue,
     And of so fierce a flight,
From Calpe unto Caucasus they sung,
         Filling with light

And vagrant melodies the winds which bore
     Them earthward till they lit;
Then, like the arrow-seeds of the field flower,
         The fruitful wit

Cleaving took root, and springing forth anew
     Where’er they fell, behold,
Like to the mother plant in semblance, grew
         A flower all gold,

And bravely furnish’d all abroad to fling
     The winged shafts of truth,
To throng with stately blooms the breathing spring
         Of Hope and Youth.

So many minds did gird their orbs with beams,
     Tho’ one did fling the fire;
Heaven flow’d upon the soul in many dreams
         Of high desire.

Thus truth was multiplied on truth, the world
     Like one great garden show’d,
And thro’ the wreaths of floating dark up-curl’d,
         Rare sunrise flow’d.

And Freedom rear’d in that august sunrise
     Her beautiful bold brow,
When rites and forms before his burning eyes
         Melted like snow.

There was no blood upon her maiden robes
     Sunn’d by those orient skies;
But round about the circles of the globes
         Of her keen eyes

And in her raiment’s hem was traced in flame
     WISDOM, a name to shake
All evil dreams of power–a sacred name.
         And when she spake,

Her words did gather thunder as they ran,
     And as the lightning to the thunder
Which follows it, riving the spirit of man,
         Making earth wonder,

So was their meaning to her words. No sword
     Of wrath her right arm whirl’d,
But one poor poet’s scroll, and with his word
         She shook the world.

Sunday at Middlemay Farm

IMG_4252A few weeks ago I visited with a lady who rescued a cream-colored dairy goat from a farmer who had bred the goat multiple times. No problem there, but when the goat waddled out of her cozy, straw-filled stall into the main section of the sweet-smelling barn I saw right away why this woman had felt the creature needed to live with her.

The goat had deformed front hooves that caused her to walk on her knees. She also had a huge under-bite which made her look funny. My first thought was that most people would have put this animal down at birth. Instead the farmers bred her multiple times (maybe a financial necessity) before agreeing to give the goat away.

At this point when the lady was telling me the story  the goat had come up beside me, giving me soulful look. It leaned in like a Golden Retriever would waiting to be petted. The lady told me that many adults and children have found peace and some healing from emotional wounds just by sitting with this little beam of sunshine. Who is to say that her life doesn’t matter?

For you have formed my inward parts: you have covered me in my mother’s womb.

I will praise you; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works; and that my soul knows right well.

My frame was not hid from you, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

Your eyes did see my substance, being yet unformed; and in your book they were all written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.

How precious also are your thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!

Psalm 139:13-17

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Pray for New York

 

 

Ring Out Wild Bells by Alfred Tennyson

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Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow;
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

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Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife,
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweet manners, purer laws.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

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***“Ring Out, Wild Bells” is a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Published in 1850, the year he was appointed Poet Laureate, it forms part of In Memoriam, Tennyson’s elegy to Arthur Henry Hallam, his sister’s fiancé who died at the age of twenty-two. Wikipedia

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The Tenafly Road Series
“Characters so deep you follow them into the abyss, hoping to come out unscathed, but never returning the same. They will haunt me forever.”

I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day (the story behind the song)

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

Merry Christmas!

The Return of the Heroes (In Honor of Veterans)

When late I sang sad was my voice,

Sad were the shows around me with deafening noises of hatred
and smoke of war;

In the midst of the conflict, the heroes, I stood,

Or pass’d with slow step through the wounded and dying.

 

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But now I sing not war,

Nor the measur’d march of soldiers, nor the tents of camps,

Nor the regiments hastily coming up deploying in line of battle;

No more the sad, unnatural shows of war.

 

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Ask’d room those flush’d immortal ranks, the first forth-stepping
armies?

Ask room alas the ghastly ranks, the armies dread that follow’d.

(Pass, pass, ye proud brigades, with your tramping sinewy legs,

With your shoulders young and strong, with your knapsacks and
your muskets;

How elate I stood and watch’d you, where starting off you
march’d.

Pass—then rattle drums again,

For an army heaves in sight, O another gathering army,

Swarming, trailing on the rear, O you dread accruing army,

O you regiments so piteous, with your mortal diarrhoea, with your
fever,

O my land’s maim’d darlings, with the plenteous bloody bandage
and the crutch,

Lo, your pallid army follows.)

Walt Whitman

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Sunday at Middlemay Farm

Grand Is the Seen

Grand is the seen, the light, to me–grand are the sky and stars,

IMG_9163
Grand is the earth, and grand are lasting time and space,
And grand their laws, so multiform, puzzling, evolutionary;

IMG_9169
But grander far the unseen soul of me, comprehending, endowing all those,
Lighting the light, the sky and stars, delving the earth, sailing the sea,

IMG_9250
(What were all those, indeed, without thee, unseen soul? of what amount without thee?)
More evolutionary, vast, puzzling, O my soul!
More multiform far–more lasting thou than they.

by Walt Whitman

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Sunday at Middlemay Farm

“Ask the animals, and they will teach you,

IMG_9042

or the birds of the air, and they will tell you;

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or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you.

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Which of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” (Job 12:7-10)

 

HAVE A PEACEFUL WEEK!