Five Sonnets

I.

You think that we who do not shout and shake

Our first at God when youth or bravery die

Have colder blood or hearts less apt to ache

Than yours who rail. I know you do. Yet why?

You have what sorrow always longs to find,

Someone to blame, some enemy in chief;

Anger’s the anesthetic of the mind,

It does men good, it fumes away their grief.

We feel the stroke like you; so far our fate

Is equal. After that, for us begin

Half-hopeless labours, learning not to hate,

And then to want, and then (perhaps) to win

A high, unearthly comfort, angel’s food,

That seems at first mockery to flesh and blood.

 

II.

There’s a repose, a safety (even a taste

Of something like revenge?) in fixed despair

Which we’re forbidden. We have to rise with haste

And start to climb what seems a crazy stair.

Our Consolation (for we are consoled,

So much of us, I mean, as may be left

After the dreadful process has unrolled)

For one bereavement makes us more bereft.

It asks for all we have, to the last shred;

Read Dante, who had known its best and worst –

He was bereaved and he was comforted

— No one denies it, comforted – but first

Down to the frozen center, up the vast

Mountain of pain, from world to world, he passed.

 

III.

Of this we’re certain; no one who dared knock

At heaven’s door for earthly comfort found

Even a door – only smooth, endless rock,

And save the echo of his cry no sound.

It’s dangerous to listen; you’ll begin

To fancy that those echoes (hope can play

Pitiful tricks) are answers from within;

Far better to turn, grimly sane, away.

Heaven cannot thus, Earth cannot ever, give

The thing we want. We ask what isn’t there

And by our asking water and make live

That very part of love which must despair

And die and go down cold into the earth

Before there’s talk of springtime and rebirth.

 

IV.

Pitch your demand heaven-high and they’ll be met.

Ask for the Morning Star and take (thrown in)

Your earthly love. Why, yes; but how to set

One’s foot on the first rung, how to begin?

The silence of one voice upon our ears

Beats like the waves; the coloured morning seems

A lying brag; the face we loved appears

Fainter each night, or ghastlier, in our dreams.

“that long way round which Dante trod was meant

For mighty saints and mystics not for me,”

So Nature cried. Yet if we once assent

To Nature’s voice, we shall be like the bee

That booms against the window-pane for hours

Thinking that the way to reach the laden flowers.

 

V.

‘If we could speak to her,’ my doctor said,

‘And told her, “Not that way! All, all in vain

You weary out wings and bruise your head,”

Might she not answer, buzzing at the pane,

“Let queens and mystics and religious bees

Talk of such inconceivables as glass;

the blunt lay worker flies at what she sees,

Look there – ahead, ahead – the flowers, the grass!”

We catch her in a handkerchief (who knows

What rage she feels, what terror, what despair?)

And shake her out – and gaily out she goes

Where quivering flowers and thick in summer air,

To drink their hearts. But left to her own will

She would have died upon the window-sill.

 

– C.S. Lewis

Advertisements

Poison

Even thou canst give me neither thought nor thing,

Were it the priceless pearl hid in the land,

Which, if I fix thereon a greedy gaze,

Becomes not poison that doth burn and cling;

Their own bad look my foolish eyes doth daze,

They see the gift, see not the giving hand—

From the living root the apple dead I wring.

–George MacDonald, A Book of Strife in the Form of The Diary of an Old Soul

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/a-book-of-strife-in-the-form-of-the-diary-of-an-old-soul/id499797732?mt=11

This material may be protected by copyright.

Manalive

“Inglewood,” said Michael Moon, “have you ever heard that I am a blackguard?”

“I haven’t heard it, and I don’t believe it,” answered Inglewood, after an odd pause. “But I have heard you were–what they call rather wild.”

“If you have heard that I am wild, you can contradict the rumour,” said Moon, with an extraordinary calm; “I am tame. I am quite tame; I am about the tamest beast that crawls. I drink too much of the same kind of whisky at the same time every night. I even drink about the same amount too much. I go to the same number of public-houses. I meet the same damned women with mauve faces. I hear the same number of dirty stories– generally the same dirty stories. You may assure my friends, Inglewood, that you see before you a person whom civilization has thoroughly tamed.”

“Christ confound it!” cried out Moon, suddenly clutching the empty claret bottle, “this is about the thinnest and filthiest wine I ever uncorked, and it’s the only drink I have really enjoyed for nine years. I was never wild until just ten minutes ago.” And he sent the bottle whizzing, a wheel of glass, far away beyond the garden into the road, where, in the profound evening silence, they could even hear it break and part upon the stones.

“Moon,” said Arthur Inglewood, rather huskily, “you mustn’t be so bitter about it. Everyone has to take the world as he finds it; of course one often finds it a bit dull–”

“That fellow doesn’t,” said Michael decisively; “I mean that fellow Smith. I have a fancy there’s some method in his madness. It looks as if he could turn into a sort of wonderland any minute by taking one step out of the plain road. Who would have thought of that trapdoor? Who would have thought that this cursed colonial claret could taste quite nice among the chimney-pots? Perhaps that is the real key of fairyland. Perhaps Nosey Gould’s beastly little Empire Cigarettes ought only to be smoked on stilts, or something of that sort. Perhaps Mrs. Duke’s cold leg of mutton would seem quite appetizing at the top of a tree. Perhaps even my damned, dirty, monotonous drizzle of Old Bill Whisky–”

– G.K. Chesterton

Trouble

“When Rogers had thanked God, he rose, took my hand, and said:—

“Mr Walton, you WILL preach now. I thank God for the good we shall all get from the trouble you have gone through.”

“I ought to be the better for it,” I answered.

“You WILL be the better for it,” he returned. “I believe I’ve allus been the better for any trouble as ever I had to go through with. I couldn’t quite say the same for every bit of good luck I had; leastways, I consider trouble the best luck a man can have. And I wish you a good night, sir. Thank God! again.”

“But, Rogers, you don’t mean it would be good for us to have bad luck always, do you? You shouldn’t be pleased at what’s come to me now, in that case.”

“No, sir, sartinly not.”

“How can you say, then, that bad luck is the best luck?”

“I mean the bad luck that comes to us—not the bad luck that doesn’t come. But you’re right, sir. Good luck or bad luck’s both best when HE sends ’em, as He allus does. In fac’, sir, there is no bad luck but what comes out o’ the man hisself. The rest’s all good.”

Excerpt From

Annals of a Quiet Neighbourhood

George MacDonald

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/annals-of-a-quiet-neighbourhood/id501016131?mt=11

This material may be protected by copyright.

The Only Comfort

God is the only comfort. He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies. Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion. Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger—according to the way you react to it. And we have reacted the wrong way. . . Of course, I quite agree that the Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it begins in the dismay I have been describing, and it is no use at all trying to go on to that comfort without first going through that dismay. In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth—only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.

From Mere Christianity

Compiled in Words to Live By

What Ought to Be

“THE really courageous man is he who defies tyrannies young as the morning and superstitions fresh as the first flowers. The only true free-thinker is he whose intellect is as much free from the future as from the past. He cares as little for what will be as for what has been; he cares only for what ought to be. And for my present purpose I specially insist on this abstract independence. If I am to discuss what is wrong, one of the first things that are wrong is this: the deep and silent modern assumption that past things have become impossible. There is one metaphor of which the moderns are very fond; they are always saying, “You can’t put the clock back.” The simple and obvious answer is “You can.” A clock, being a piece of human construction, can be restored by the human finger to any figure or hour. In the same way society, being a piece of human construction, can be reconstructed upon any plan that has ever existed.”

~G.K. Chesterton: “What’s Wrong with the World,” Part One, Chap. IV─Fear of the Past.

Broken Down Poetry

“I went home very quietly, as I say, thinking about the strange elements that not only combine to make life, but must be combined in our idea of life, before we can form a true theory about it. Now-a-days, the vulgar notion of what is life-like in any annals is to be realised by sternly excluding everything but the commonplace; and the means, at least, are often attained, with this much of the end as well—that the appearance life bears to vulgar minds is represented with a wonderful degree of success. But I believe that this is, at least, quite as unreal a mode of representing life as the other extreme, wherein the unlikely, the romantic, and the uncommon predominate. I doubt whether there is a single history—if one could only get at the whole of it—in which there is not a considerable admixture of the unlikely become fact, including a few strange coincidences; of the uncommon, which, although striking at first, has grown common from familiarity with its presence as our own; with even, at least, some one more or less rosy touch of what we call the romantic.

My own conviction is, that the poetry is far the deepest in us, and that the prose is only broken-down poetry;

and likewise that to this our lives correspond. The poetic region is the true one, and just, THEREFORE, the incredible one to the lower order of mind; for although every mind is capable of the truth, or rather capable of becoming capable of the truth, there may lie ages between its capacity and the truth. As you will hear some people read poetry so that no mortal could tell it was poetry, so do some people read their own lives and those of others.”

Excerpt From

Annals of a Quiet Neighbourhood

George MacDonald

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/annals-of-a-quiet-neighbourhood/id501016131?mt=11

This material may be protected by copyright.