In Which Men do not go Mad by Dreaming

Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason…Perhaps the strongest case of all is…that only one great English poet went mad, Cowper. And he was definitely driven mad by logic, by the ugly and alien logic of predestination. Poetry was not the disease, but the medicine; poetry partly kept him in health. He could sometimes forget the red and thirsty hell to which his hideous necessitarianism dragged him among the wide waters and the white flat lilies of the Ouse. He was damned by John Calvin; he was almost saved by John Gilpin…

Critics are much madder than poets…Though St. John the evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creature so wild as one of his own commentators…

Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion…The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.

– G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, pp. 18-22.

In Which We Feel Less Confused

Friend Remy offers here an explanation of an e.e cummings Christmas poem. Not sure what I think of it critically, but his exposition did succeed in mitigating my annoyance at being presented with a sudoku puzzle in the shape of a poem (hopefully Remy won’t read this).

In any event, read Remy’s article.

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Hymn After Dying

(Lyric on a theme of Prudentius)

The Soul is torn from the Flesh it encompasses
Rotting to dust, abandoned as God
“Eli, Eli lama sabachthanai?”
Crying descends as the soul into clouds

As our first father died, as his body was broken
As the mother of all was born from his side
As Abraham, Israel: Chosen of God
Disobedient, broken, pruned from the tree
Burned down to dust by the breath of the serpent
An offering of blood for the grafting of nations

So the soul which is shorn of the flesh it encompasses
Yearns for the day when it finally is whole
When Adam in love is united with Eve
When Abram, as Abraham, fathers the world
When the Church, in her millions, without spot or wrinkle
Stands at the altar to join with her Lord
The souls of the dead, of flesh uncorrupted
At their nuptial feast will lie down with the Lamb

copyright 2005 j. bennett carnahan jr

Spinning lovers lie in bounded time…

…break movement
and look on you, my dayspring,
lost in constant awe
of tears whose voices move
in perfect harmony and color,
shading these fingertips with light
and angel incense glistening:
A prism, softened
after the sun has set
upon this browned altar.

copyright 2002 j. bennett carnahan jr.

Dieu Li Vult

Urban II Preaches the Crusade

November;
The stones of Claremont frosted gray,
And Christendom assembled there
Divided.
The shepherd flaming in his robes
Stood forth and urged upon his sheep
A holy war.
He spoke of Saracens, temples, fame:
He spoke and Christendom arose
United.
With solemn power he raised his arms
And looked upon his war-like flock.
“God wills it!”
He called with voice of stern command.
A thousand voices thundered back
With bloody might
“God wills it!”

copyright 2000 by j. bennett carnahan jr

(Medieval Sourcebook: The First Crusade)

Ithaca Looks to Lazarus for Water

Here Ulysses, with his dread cries,
mounts the shore with sudden sackings
pricking in his thighs.

And yet this ground lies fallow
and the ministrations of its thrumming
hold the seeds in pious furrows.
Here are shells, cracked with dying;
sharp and mad like a coffin’s price.

And still, lifting up,
the surpliced crane calls the dust to wonder:
If the dog had withered sooner,
would there yet be a realm to plunder?

Copyright 2006 j. bennett carnahan, jr.

Imago Domini

These eyes
Twin suns eclipsed,
Reflect the terror of the stars that dance
Before the mighty face of God
As they in joy
And perfect fear
Draw solace from their savior’s breath.
So then
Her eyes,
As mirrors veiled,
Reflect in faded hues
The face of Christ, Jehovah God
Incarnate in her tarnished lord.

Copyright 2002 j. bennett carnahan, jr.