Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Cavalcade of Easter Sunday Sabbath Poetry: Wendell Berry, Annie Dillard, George Herbert, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Colin Meloy, Michael Nau, Rembrandt

Easter is best met with a shout. So with the deepest joy and revelry let us step through this maze of a chorus of poets aching with the first fruits of new life. No other word of introduction is necessary, other than to say that the Berry and Dillard poems are edited from significantly longer works, and that the poem after Rembrandt's masterpiece (an altered portion of which is the banner for this blog) is my own reflection on the painting, which I had the great gift of seeing in person two years ago at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia.

But on to more important things: on to good news.

Christ is risen!

- - - - - - -

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

By Wendell Berry

Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

- - - - - - -

Feast Days: Thanksgiving - Christmas

By Annie Dillard

Thanksgiving, creation:
outside the great American forest
is heaving up leaves and wood from the ground.
Inside I stand at the window, god,
with your name wrapped round my throat like a scarf.

. . .

I dreamed I woke in a garden.
Everywhere trees were growing;
everywhere flowers were growing,
and otters played in the stream, and grew.
Fruit hung down.

An egg at my feet
cracked, opened up,
and you stepped out,
perfect, intricate lover.

. . .

Woman, why weepest thou?
Whom seekest thou?

. . .

God send us the springtime lamb
minted and tied in thyme
and call us home, and bid us eat
and praise your name.

. . .

God empties himself
into the earth like a cloud.
God takes the substance, contours
of a man, and keeps them,
dying, rising, walking,
and still walking
wherever there is motion.

. . .

Shake hands. When I stand
the blood runs up.
On what bright wind
did god walk down?
Swaying under the snow,
reeling minutely,
revels the star-moss,

And to all you children out there with Easter bunnies
I would like to say this:
If they are chocolate, eat them.
If they are living, tuck them in your shirt.
There's always unseasonable weather.
Hose down the hutches.
For a special treat
to brighten up their winter
offer the early shoots of the wild American orchid,
the lady's-tresses,
in either of three varieties:
the slender, the hooded, or the nodding.

- - - - - - -


By George Herbert

Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Without delayes,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise:
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more just.

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy art.
The crosse taught all wood to resound his name,
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.

Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
Pleasant and long:
Or since all musick is but three parts vied
And multiplied;
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.

I got me flowers to straw they way;
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought'st thy sweets along with thee.

The Sunne arising in the East,
Though he give light, & th' East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many sunnes to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we misse:
There is but one, and that one ever.

- - - - - - -


Gerard Manley Hopkins

Break the box and shed the nard;
Stop not now to count the cost;
Hither bring pearl, opal, sard;
Reck not what the poor have lost;
Upon Christ throw all away:
Know ye, this is Easter Day.

Build His Church and deck His shrine,
Empty though it be on earth;
Ye have kept your choicest wine--
Let it flow for heavenly mirth;
Pluck the harp and breathe the horn:
Know ye not 'tis Easter morn?

Gather gladness from the skies;
Take a lesson from the ground;
Flowers do ope their heavenward eyes
And a Spring-time joy have found;
Earth throws Winter's robes away,
Decks herself for Easter Day.

Beauty now for ashes wear,
Perfumes for the garb of woe,
Chaplets for dishevelled hair,
Dances for sad footsteps slow;
Open wide your hearts that they
Let in joy this Easter Day.

Seek God's house in happy throng;
Crowded let His table be;
Mingle praises, prayer, and song,
Singing to the Trinity.
Henceforth let your souls alway
Make each morn an Easter Day.

- - - - - - -

Sons and Daughters

By Colin Meloy (of The Decemberists)

When we arrive, sons and daughters
We'll make our homes on the water
We'll build our walls aluminum
We'll fill our mouths with cinnamon, now

These currents pull us 'cross the border
Steady your boats, arms to shoulder
Till tides will pull our hull aground
Making this cold harbour now home

Take up your arm, sons and daughters
We will arise from the bunkers
By land, by sea, by dirigible
We'll leave our tracks untraceable, now

When we arrive, sons and daughters
We'll make our homes on the water
We'll build our walls aluminum
We'll fill our mouths with cinnamon


Here all the bombs fade away...
Here all the bombs fade away...
Here all the bombs fade away...
Here all the bombs fade away...

- - - - - - -


By Michael Nau (of Page France)

I will sing a song to you, and
You will shake the ground for me
And the birds and bees and old fruit trees
Will spit out songs like gushing streams

And Jesus will come through the ground so dirty
With worms in his hair and a hand so sturdy
To call us his magic, we call him worthy
Jesus came up through the ground so dirty

I will sing a song for you, and
You will stomp your feet for me
And the bears and bees and banana trees
Will play kazoos and tambourines

And Jesus will dance while we drink his wine
With soldiers and thieves and a sword in his side
And we will be joy and we will be right
Jesus will dance while we drink his wine

La la la la, la la la la...
La la la la, la la la la...

Jesus will come through the ground so dirty
With worms in his hair and a hand so sturdy
To call us his magic we call him worthy
Jesus came up through the ground so dirty...

- - - - - - -

Return of the Prodigal Son

There are faces in the darkness
Unscrapeable, candle-whispered
The sun’s shift, tiptoeing lean
And it is my face shrouded, black

There are eyes bent different ways
Impenetrably deep, pointed
Toward embrace or rejection
The hollowed shell of what should be

There are colors in the clothing
Orange cloaks and silver jewelry
A family key for who is whose
Not one not knowing the mishue

There are mistakes in memory
So forgetful through fallen time
Knees are broken like the necks of
Swine, shoes torn and slipped, head buried

There are smells unfit for a man
Trough feed and pagans intermixed
But family is pungency
Triumphant, merciful in taste

There are fits of tears surrendered
They fall like oil down Aaron’s beard
Like sprinkling an infant’s head
Drops expanding a forehead’s splash

There are hands each of another
There is no divorce of welcome
Every mother, every father
Running, running, running to meet

There are human beings embraced
In a love whose type is Father
We all, knees bruised, dung-stenched, done in
Stumble home, caught by rushing arms

There are father, son—and brother
In triune discord, jealousy
Like murky shadows on canvas
We know who we are, and we return


  1. Hello. I just wanted to thank you for posting the Wendell Berry's poem. I didn't know this author and already did a little research and downloaded some of his works. I appreciate it so much.