Category: Poetry (Page 1 of 3)

All Souls’ Day

November wind flies swift and strong and cool
Across the crystalline blue lake of sky,
And strews without a clear design or rule
The leaves that so magnificently die.

As splendidly as for a bridal trail,
They tumble, orange, pale gold, spicy red,
And in a gentle tribute lightly sail
Around these stones that mark the sleeping dead.

Some, like small towers, witnessing the losses
Of those who could spare half a fortune’s worth;
Some, sweetly carved with angels or with crosses;
Some, lowly, worn, and sunk into the earth;

But over all, a solemn silence lies,
Thick, heavy, peaceful, like a holy veil,
Unbroken by vain fears and stormy sighs
That thunder round the earth’s embattled pale.

Here, no one worries any more if life
Ne’er granted them success or wealth or fame,
Thinks on the outcome of their weary strife,
Minds mortal talk—to them, ‘tis all the same.

One thing alone is of importance here:
Did these souls, sprung from out the Father’s hand,
Direct their flight up through earth’s little sphere
Home toward His light, the destiny He planned?

If so, they have no more to grieve or dread;
Their earthly quest fulfilled, they now are free,
Or will be soon, for even to the dead
He grants the grace to reach full purity.

And whether plunged in His ecstatic sea
Or passing first through purifying rain,
They’ve gained the priceless pearl, eternity
In His embrace—for which all loss is gain.

Then, too, they rest awaiting even more,
Full, endless life not only for the soul,
For ‘tis their Lord’s design unaltered for
Man’s flesh and spirit that they form one whole.

The day will dawn; the veil o’er all their tombs
Will by a hand on high be rent asunder;
His own will rise as from some poor bedrooms,
Ring out their grateful praise while angels wonder.

One day I too will lie beneath this field,
Desires and fears of mortal life long gone;
What then I’ll find and be remains concealed,
And yet it’s pleasant to reflect upon,

That in my tangled life, the only care
That won’t be borne leaf-like on winds of time
Is following the souls gone safely there,
True home, true life, dear country, hope sublime.

So now I kneel upon their sacred ground,
My mortal mind half grasping all of this,
And lift my suffrage for those laid all round,
To speed their passage to their Father’s bliss.

O great Redeemer, by Whose gift we hold
A hope so full of immortality,
Grant them, and us, when flesh’s fire grows cold,
Your unveiled Face for evermore to see!

Of Rain and Ropes

The soil of earth is parched and cracked,

The dust of earth runs dry;

The sandstorms on the barren sands,

Unblocked, beat hard and sigh.

 

The souls of earth are parched and thin,

Blown fast with pains and fears,

And still run dry in barren lives

Not whole enough for tears.

 

For while we shun the beat of rain,

Our soil shall be dry,

Devoid of sweetness, life, and grace,

A desert made of our own place,

The poison in a sickened face

Not well enough to cry.

 

My heart, like dirt, is drenched from clouds

Of present falling pain,

That saturate my helpless soul

With tears like winter rain;

 

But though it drink this shower cold

Until its soil floats free,

And melts away beneath the flood,

Dissolves as in the sea,

 

I had rather die of precious loss—

Blest ill to perish of!—

Than die like those in deserts bare,

Not well enough to weep or care,

Who gave to life a mere blank stare

And never learned to love.

 

What sky shone bright for ever?

What field stayed e’er in bloom?

What house so noble, high and strong

That Time proved not its doom?

 

E’en should the house or field stand

As long as should the world,

That too must crumble, slip and fall,

Down Time’s swift river whirled.

 

So no love that we joy on earth

Can be had free of tears,

But ever anguish is the cost,

For all things must sometime be lost

That come with passing years.

 

But by the Love that burns through wounds

In hands and feet and side,

Why should our souls then die of thirst

Because we never cried?

 

On earth the souls that never weep

I envy nothing of;

These souls cannot keep all they know,

For everything must come and go;

Their looks of stone can only show

They never learned to love.

 

But I will cherish every grace

That finds me through the years,

And when it passes on again,

I’ll honor it with tears.

 

For we shed e’en our hottest tears

Not as those who lack hope,

But we climb through this toilsome life

As a man climbs up a rope.

 

Though it be steep, and hard to cling,

And too easy to fall,

Above the rope must yet be bound,

Which speaks to us of solid ground,

And in our hope that this be found,

We climb the cliffside’s wall.

 

What’s at the top, no man can see,

Nor heart nor mind conceive,

Wherefore some climbers have denied

A top at all, and dropped and died

All rather than believe.

 

But though my clinging hands may bleed,

I still climb up with hope,

For when I nearly fail, a balm

Comes down and heals each bloody palm

From up above the rope.

 

And when I hear the shrieking winds

That blast my rope about,

Beyond their wails I hear a Voice

That overspeaks my doubt:

 

“Though it be steep, and hard to cling,

And too easy to fall,

I made the way for all your kind

Your joy by tears in faith to find,

Leave then your unbelief behind—

With Me you find your all.”

 

And then I look up wondering,

My heart leaps—could it be?—

All that I’ve lost throughout the climb,

Could it be waiting all the time,

Up at the top for me?

 

“Them you will find, but seek Me first,

And closely heed My call,

The heart that’s given first to Me

Can love the rest most perfectly,

Now take My Hand, though you can’t see—

In Me you find your all.”

 

So in the storm of bloody tears,

His words our hearts defend,

For in that Voice we recognize

The presence of a Friend.

Sunday by the Sea

I went to church down by the seacoast far;

After the bell rang, prayerful spirits fled:

The notes that sprang out from the steel guitar,

They bounced around like balls inside my head,

And all rolled off down some meandering way

Where neither ear nor tongue nor mind could follow;

Weary and vexed, my thoughts floated astray,

My hungry heart all overstuffed yet hollow.

No sense in all this jangling earthly show

Of Who it is behind that curtain dwells,

Whose might and glory round the planet go,

More so than solar fire or ocean swells.

Though folk come here with hearts pure as they can,

Yet this music draws man’s worship to man.

 

Two hours later, I made for the line

Where foaming breakers rush to meet the sand,

The burbling, tinkling shallows, clear and fine,

With softest breath of melting bubbles spanned.

And out beyond them, rumbling from the deep,

Great waves like organs swell their booming strain,

The mighty rhythm of their crash and leap—

How ancient and ageless the sea’s refrain.

Each sound keeps steady measure in its place,

And in sweet, solemn harmony they blend,

Forever singing canticles of grace,

Of unprobed wonder, glory without end.

On contemplation’s tide my heart floats free,

On the immortal music of the sea.

 

Oh, that the melodies we play and sing

In His house—He Whose Hand brought forth the waves—

Gave off a little of that hallowed ring

That man’s soul, hungering to worship, craves!

Patterns of steady grace would join the sounds,

That all our hearts and tongues might pray in song,

Harmonies like the waves that roll their rounds,

Made, by their very order, sweet and strong.

Their task, to lift the mortal mind and heart

On contemplation’s tide to the Divine,

Him Who in might and beauty reigns apart,

Yet deigns to dwell here veiled in bread and wine.

So may we learn in our own artistry

A lesson from the music of the sea.

The Aviator’s Reply

See original poem by Daniel Whitehead Hicky

No intimacy with the deeps of stars
Or meteors can mortal beings know.
Though engines lift this dusty flesh of ours
Through air, to heaven’s shores they cannot go.

I know my Lord prepares my home on high,
Fair beyond even skies of purest light,
Meanwhile, though I may be glad to fly,
I’ll be content on firm ground to alight.

Enchanted Glass

All we upon this earth are flooded round

By blinding sunbeams of Reality,

And yet our vision’s by our weakness bound,

So none takes in their blaze entirely.

 

But each receives some part, and we must work

To share the light among us as we may,

Burn off deceit and all confusion’s murk,

Pour forth the Truth, a white-gold noontime ray.

 

So we reflect it with small plates of glass,

And we call words these mirrors that we wield,

Given to us that we might freely pass

The beams in wisdom through thought’s motley field.

 

Then, with these words, a strange enchanting art

May turn them to reflect another way,

Beaming realities into the heart

By casting keener lights in subtle play,

 

An indirect beam, aimed at spirit’s sight,

A message in the language of the soul,

And we call verse this deep ecstatic light,

This piercing vision of the unseen whole.

 

In thoughtfulness and beauty it reveals

The knowledge that eludes our mundane speech,

Things every human heart by instinct feels,

But, while we think in prose, stay out of reach.

 

We plainly see the way a ship’s designed,

Of wood or iron, moved by fuel or sails,

But in poetic light, we further find

That it plows over dim and flooded vales

 

Like some magician’s chariot through the sky,

Yet wobbles there, fragile uncertain guest

Skirting a world’s surface, humble and shy,

In water-realms a little human nest;

 

Yet bravely it traverses the abyss

As if to leave the very world behind—

Contemplative reflections such as this

In everything a poem’s light can find.

 

Then let us use it to make bright and plain

The glory that all things hold deep in store,

And give the lie to those who would maintain

Our world is chemicals and nothing more.

 

To catch the rarest lights, let us arrange

Our words exquisitely, as if in dance,

Nor garble them into disorder strange

In shallow hope to startle some stray glance.

 

And if we use it with all care and grace,

Its power may burn through our spirits’ eyes

A light from high beyond the depths of space,

And leave us thankful, and a bit more wise.

Queen of Peace

White ocean-star, of radiance serene,
Still pool all diamond-clear and filled with light,
Enclosed garden where fairer Eden’s seen,

Bright tower, mountain-firm, in every fight
Immovable by raging of the foe,
Who guard and guide God’s servants through the night,

O Lady, look with love on us below,
Amid the fierce insanity of earth;
Too little peace do we who dwell here know.

My heart, like a small whirlwind from my birth
Of longings, pains, impulses, follies, fears,
Has of sweet stillness a deep, hungry dearth.

Wild winds of turmoil and storms of tears
Beset my way, and all my brethren’s ways,
And none knows how long till the tempest clears.

And all around us fierce contentions blaze,
From vicious, cruel hearts the fires abound,
As if to swallow earth in blackened days.

And we, in struggling, ourselves confound;
Our shadowed minds can’t find what makes for peace;
We helpless sheep, our bleats to heaven sound.

O shining Mother! bring us God’s release,
His saving mercy and His gracious power,
That Heaven’s light on poor earth may increase.

O you, who in the long-appointed hour
Gave us the Prince of Peace, hope’s burning star,
And give us still His grace’s golden shower,

O you who felt His cross’ crushing bar,
But deep down kept that radiance serene,
O show us where that peace and sweetness are.

Your flaming heart all sunlike, blessed Queen,
Beams warmly round us with celestial glow,
Pierces our darkness with its fire-rays keen.

And out from it, a strong and golden flow
Pours round and floods all souls who linger near;
‘Tis peace, joy, love, and freedom that run so.

For you, filled with your Son, make wondrous clear
That those who let Him fill their empty space
Will have the only Light that guides men here.

I see Him as I gaze upon your face,
My Queen, my Mother, bright with peace and grace.

To our Lady of Lourdes

High above earth’s wastes of mire,
‘Mid the scintillating stars,
You shine with the fairest fire,
Purest daughter born of ours;
Once a veiled light in our midst,
Now a beacon from the height,
Would you thin our murk and mist
From the heavens with your light?

No, your light is love’s warm flame,
Living, potent, surging out;
‘Twas on its account you came
Through the shadows round about:
To a hollow bare and bleak,
In the year’s gray, dreary time,
Sickened souls you came to seek
And heal with your light sublime.

By your humble messenger,
Frail flesh housing strength of grace,
You caused slumb’ring hearts to stir
From the night with piercing rays.
Those who hearkened and drew near
Found, at your feet, mercy’s spring,
Heav’nly water running clear,
Poured for flesh’s suffering.

But still more, your burning soul
Yearned to cure their spirits’ ills,
By love’s fire to make them whole,
Cleanse their hearts, make straight their wills.
Your bright hands reached down to pull
Men out from sin’s foul night,
Tear them free, and see them full
Of your Son’s celestial light!

Still you labor ceaselessly
For your children in the night,
O bright Queen, may I too be
Cleansed and healed and set aright!
So let me, like Bernadette,
Bear your blessed rays afar,
That all lost souls may come yet
Where your Son is, where you are!

The Home-lights

As wanderers in weary dark
Look up to see the glow
Of lamps in windows of their town
And feel its nearness so,

Or sailors on long voyages
Strain eyes for their own land,
And hail with joy the twinkling port
That tells them ‘tis at hand,

So I, when wand’ring weary as
Some soul on road or foam,
Look out into the evening sky
To see lights of my home.

For there it is, where I belong,
And where I look to be;
A worn traveler here, I lift
Eyes thither eagerly.

For wheresoever I go here,
‘Tis never truly far
From my true home; so I recall
When I behold a star.

No rolling dark of stormy clouds
Can stain or smear their glow.
Their fair power safeguards my heart
From ugliness below.

No dark of sorrow on the way
Can their beauty obscure,
And lights of joys inflame me to
Look upward more and more,

Up to the splendid lights of home,
The guiding glow sublime,
The fullness of all radiance,
Rest past the road of time.

For there—let it set me alight—
He is, Who fills my heart,
My great Beloved Lover Who
Is all my joy, my part.

There, too, my Mother sweet and fair,
Star-lily bright and pure,
And all my blessed brethren who
Have gone this way before.

All this I see when I look up
Into the evening sky,
And feel fresh strength to love and live,
For I live and know why.

When earthly sun veils o’er the lights,
I’ll hold them in my mind,
That they may light me from within,
Help me my way to find.

To reach my shining home at last
No toil will I spare,
Nor other wanderers to aid,
Till all reach fullness there.

I’ll See You Soon

When last I saw your face,

When last we spoke, and laughed, and sighed,

We told each other, “Yes, I’ll see you soon”—

But now the miles sprawl out wide,

The cruel dividing space.

 

Now Practicality,

From her unyielding lofty seat,

Stirs all our heartstrings in a bitter tune,

Decreeing that we may not meet,

For space bars you from me.

 

In sorrow now I look

Across the misty sea of Time,

Straining to see our next meeting ahead,

But from the ocean only climb

Dim phantoms tempest-shook.

 

Naught’s certain on these waves;

On them I cannot rest my heart;

What floats on Chance too often sinks like lead.

And yet while we remain apart,

My pain still healing craves.

 

A heart must have a rock,

A solid place on which to rest.

Is there no cure for restless spirits’ ache,

No stay for hearts too sorely pressed

By wind’s rush and wave’s knock?

 

A voice I now hear call,

Not from the waves, but o’er them high:

“Recall you not that I too, on the lake,

Knew stormy waters rising high,

And bade the tempest fall?

 

“I know the storm you face,

The turbulence of chance and change,

Shaking and stealing what you hold so dear.

To Me your tears are nothing strange,

The state of all your race.

 

“A rock of rest you seek—

Know that you have this refuge sure.

I am the rock unchanged; the beacon clear

Is my Heart’s fire, burning for

The weary and the weak.

 

“Take courage; know you this:

Your voyage harsh will not be long,

One day’s brave sailing, and your coast you reach,

Splendors unshaken—o, be strong!—

And you’ll find those you miss.

 

“So while you ride the waves,

Keep near to Me, your rock, your light,

And I will keep you, bring you over each

High swell, mad gust, dark shade of night.

I am the One Who saves.”

 

One moment through the storm

I glimpse a flash, a piercing glow,

A gleam from high hills of eternity,

And Him Whom we need faith to know,

For we see not His form.

 

‘Tis fleeting, yet its ray

Burns like the lightning through my soul,

Not chasing sorrow’s dark away from me,

But firing me for a goal—

This, this will constant stay.

 

The sea remains the sea,

And fierce the voyage I must make,

But its tumult will not make me afraid.

Though wild swell may steal or break

All we know presently,

 

We are not of the sea,

But boldly press on toward the land,

Given to us by the great promise made

By Him Who could on water stand

And from it sets us free.

 

So storms of grief shall cease

Ere long, for it’s not long we sail;

My dear, I tell you—yes, I’ll see you soon.

Our blessed Beacon will not fail;

‘Tis He is our sure peace.

 

Then let our hearts be strong

Upon the course that forward lies,

Our gaze fixed on our homeland past the moon;

For when we look through Heaven’s eyes,

‘Tis never really long.

 

Advent

Quietly the frozen earth
Pregnant with its seedlings lies;
Quietly the waters rest,
Still and reverent in their ice.

Fluting birdsong now is stilled,
And the insects’ rasping choir;
Softer voice of plaintive wind
Sends its calls to heaven higher.

Autumn’s flaming glories now
Have dropped, faded, from the trees,
Which in plainness penitent
Raise gray hands in skyward pleas.

They echo sweet, solemn tunes
Of the organ and the bell,
Taking up our rising cry,
“O Veni Emmanuel!”

Now atop a purple stalk
Blooms a single fiery glow;
Soon another answers it,
Then the rose light burns to show

That this still and silent time
Brings a beatific reign;
Blest are all whose lamps are lit;
You who wait, wait not in vain.

You who’ve watched through darker night,
Trustful hearts awaiting Him,
See your waited Dayspring come,
Brightening skies that were dim.

You who wander in the night,
Who know not for whom to wait,
See the Son who brings a light
You could not anticipate.

You who shrink like beaten curs,
Thund’ring wrath for sins to flee,
See redemption come for you,
Like the dewfall, tenderly.

Set the fourth light burning now!
Brighten lamps and tune your strings,
Branches bring and winter flowers,
Find all fair and gladsome things;

Pray with hearts more earnest now,
Bright, hot, quiv’ring, like the flames,
Watching eagerly for Him
Whose Name is above all names.

All lights but reflect His light;
Every hope from Him derives;
Gladly we our watch have kept
For this time—when He arrives!

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