Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday Sabbath Poetry: Waldo Williams

I came across Waldo Williams at the end of The Poems of Rowan Williams, in which the Archbishop translates a handful of poems from various Welsh poets. Waldo Williams (should I just refer to each by his first name?), according to Rowan, "was perhaps the foremost poet of his generation in the Welsh language, a visionary pacifist whose moral and cultural influence was (and is) immense; he was a brilliant exponent of classical Welsh forms, though he could also write in a more 'free' style" (p. 24). Sometimes the poem I share has been something that has stuck with me for a while; this one I'll be living with in the coming weeks. The last sentence seems to share deep affinity with Yoder's famous passage about apocalyptic that serves as the epigraph of Hauerwas's With the Grain of the Universe: "the apocalypse of a glory pain lays bare."

Amen and amen.

- - - - - - -

Die Bibelforscher

For the Protestant martyrs of the Third Reich

By Waldo Williams (as translated from the Welsh by Rowan Williams)

Earth is a hard text to read; but the king
has put his message in our hands, for us to carry
sweating, whether the trumpets of his court
sound near or far. So for these men:
they were the bearers of the royal writ,
clinging to it through spite and hurts and wounding.

The earth's round fullness is not like a parable, where meaning
breaks through, a flash of lightning, in the humid, heavy dusk;
imagination will not conjure into flesh the depths
of fire and crystal sealed under castle walls of wax, but still
they keep their witness pure in Buchenwald,
pure in the crucible of hate penning them in.

They closed their eyes to doors that might have opened
if they had put their names to words of cowardice;
they took their stand, backs to the wall, face to face with savagery,
and died there, with their filth and piss flowing together,
arriving at the gates of heaven,
their fists still clenched on what the king had written.

Earth is a hard text to read. But what we can be certain of
is that screaming mob is insubstantial mist;
in the clear sky, the thundering assertions fade to nothing.
There the Lamb's song is sung, and what it celebrates
is the apocalypse of a glory
pain lays bare.

- - - - - - -

Prayer for Silence

Heal my noise, O God.
Drown the bayonet-
Fit tides of volume
Rising within the
Skull from chin to crown.

Silence my violence,
O God, within the
Gnarly thorns of your
Bloody shalom. Find
Me in paradise.

Be still all my wars,
Lion of Judah.
By an outstretched arm,
Sullied by nail's round
Socket, wash me clean.

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