Tuesday, November 29, 2011

give praise, see the angel

One moment of complaining: I hate being sick. I caught some sort of head cold-fever from my brother over Thanksgiving, and I was pretty feverish on the bus ride back to Philly. Eight hours on a bus when you're healthy is no fun; when you're sick, it's just awful. In any case, I'm apparently a bad blogger, because this thing hasn't been updated in a while. I will write a real post soon, but here, have some Thanksgiving and Advent poetry to hold you over.   

A List of Praises
Anne Porter

Give praise with psalms that tell the trees to sing,
Give praise with Gospel choirs in storefront churches,
Mad with the joy of the Sabbath, 
Give praise with the babble of infants, who wake with the sun,
Give praise with children chanting their skip-rope rhymes, 
A poetry not in books, a vagrant mischievous poetry 
living wild on the Streets through generations of children.

Give praise with the sound of the milk-train far away 
With its mutter of wheels and long-drawn-out sweet whistle
As it speeds through the fields of sleep at three in the morning,
Give praise with the immense and peaceful sigh
Of the wind in the pinewoods, 
At night give praise with starry silences. 

Give praise with the skirling of seagulls 
And the rattle and flap of sails 
And gongs of buoys rocked by the sea-swell
Out in the shipping-lanes beyond the harbor. 
Give praise with the humpback whales, 
Huge in the ocean they sing to one another.
Give praise with the rasp and sizzle of crickets, katydids and cicadas, 
Give praise with hum of bees, 
Give praise with the little peepers who live near water.
When they fill the marsh with a shimmer of bell-like cries
We know that the winter is over. 

Give praise with mockingbirds, day's nightingales.
Hour by hour they sing in the crepe myrtle 
And glossy tulip trees
On quiet side streets in southern towns.
Give praise with the rippling speech
Of the eider-duck and her ducklings
As they paddle their way downstream
In the red-gold morning 
On Restiguche, their cold river,
Salmon river, 
Wilderness river. 

Give praise with the whitethroat sparrow.
Far, far from the cities, 
Far even from the towns, 
With piercing innocence 
He sings in the spruce-tree tops,
Always four notes 
And four notes only. 

Give praise with water, 
With storms of rain and thunder 
And the small rains that sparkle as they dry,
And the faint floating ocean roar 
That fills the seaside villages, 
And the clear brooks that travel down the mountains 

And with this poem, a leaf on the vast flood,
And with the angels in that other country. 
Advent is my favorite liturgical season, but it's hard to find Advent poems instead of Christmas ones. Here's one I found on Maggi Dawn's blog. She's an Anglican (really Anglican, because she's English) priest.
Edwin Muir (1887-1959)

The angel and the girl are met, 
Earth was the only meeting place,
For the embodied never yet
Travelled beyond the shore of space.
The eternal spirits in freedom go. 

See, they have come together, see,
While the destroying minutes flow,
Each reflects the other's face
Till heaven in hers and earth in his
Shine steady there. He's come to her
From far beyond the farthest star,
Feathered through time. Immediacy
of strangest strangeness is the bliss
That from their limbs all movement takes.
Yet the increasing rapture brings
So great a wonder that it makes
Each feather tremble on his wings. 

Outside the window footsteps fall
Into the ordinary day
And with the sun along the wall
Pursue their unreturning way
That was ordained in eternity.
Sound's perpetual roundabout
Rolls its numbered octaves out
And hoarsely grinds its battered tune. 

But through the endless afternoon
These neither speak nor movement make,
But stare into their deepening trance
As if their gaze would never break. 


  1. Eight hours on a bus while sick sounds pretty hellish; I hope you're feeling better by now. Thanks for the new poems!

    Advent is my favorite liturgical season, but it's hard to find Advent poems instead of Christmas ones.

    This is true.

    Of course, I took that line as a challenge, and started searching through the memory banks and even resorted to Google. And you're right: almost everything I came up with is a Christmas poem, with a scattering of Annunciation poems like this one-- well, to be fair, the Annunciation poems and songs are often used for Advent, and now we know why, there's so little else available.

    Here's a link to one of my favorite Advent songs:
    What Is the Crying At Jordan?
    (PDF sheet music; I won't quote the lyrics here because whoever owns the copyright seems to protect it to the death. I couldn't even find any video links for performances. But I've heard it sung as part of the "Advent Lessons and Carols" and it's very effective.)

    Of course, there's always George Herbert with "The Call." No specific seasonal references, but you can't get much more Advent-ish than this:

    COme, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
    Such a Way, as gives us breath:
    Such a Truth, as ends all strife:
    Such a Life, as killeth death.

    Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
    Such a Light, as shows a feast:
    Such a Feast, as mends in length:
    Such a Strength, as makes his guest.

    Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
    Such a Joy, as none can move:
    Such a Love, as none can part:
    Such a Heart, as joyes in love.

    Happy Advent!

  2. I just wanted to add that I really enjoy your posting these. (And your other, non-poetry posts too, of course!)

    Hope you're feeling better.