Poems For Easter

The beauty of the word can be such a blessing during the celebration of Easter, and the poems below are by masters. Who else but T.S. Eliot could illuminate Good Friday, especially from his Four Quartets as a response to hollow, wasteland decay? Herbert’s poems for Easter have been beloved for centuries, and the way he traces “stone” through Scripture, history, and the reader’s heart is masterful for Holy Saturday. Finally, Updike’s “Seven Stanzas” forces us to remember that this is no myth on Resurrection Sunday – the laws of physics and carnal materiality conspire with divine grace. Tolle lege! My runner up would be “The Stones” by Wendell Berry. Pair your readings below with “Spiegel im Spiegel (Arvo Pärt).”

The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer’s art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam’s curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

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Epiphany: The Journey of the Magi

MagiThe poem The Journey of the Magi (1927) by T.S. Eliot.

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The way was deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.”
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires gong out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty, and charging high prices.:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we lead all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I have seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Eliot: Will the Aged Eagle Stretch Its Wings?

I’m probably a bit harsh to say that the only good thing about Ash Wednesday is the following poem by British poet T. S. Eliot, but after reading the moving words, perhaps you’ll see why I love the poem so much. For all those who dare not stretch their wings in their aged sickness, who do not dare to turn again, may Eliot’s words be a balm and soothing reminder of the Word without a word.

Ash Wednesday

T.S. Eliot

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?
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Couples Can’t Figure Out Monogamy

“Many young American couples can’t agree on whether they’ve decided to have sex only with each other, a new study shows.”REALLY?! Now, far be it from me to criticize just because I disagree, but this article didn’t come across as the pinnacle of scholarship or journalistic rigor. For example, when Marie Harvey, a professor of public health, said, “Couples have a hard time talking about these sorts of issues, and I would imagine for young people it’s even more difficult,” my initial impression of Harvey’s inductive skills doesn’t skyrocket. The whole article can be read here.

But perhaps more worrisome than the incompetence of the authors is the idiocy of the subjects of the investigation: “…married couples were no more likely than other couples to have an explicit monogamy agreement.” REALLY?! You can’t find a commitment to monogamy somewhere in your marriage vows?!

This is one of those where you either have to laugh or cry. It seems that the sexual revolution of the ’60s liberated us right out of reality and into some dystopic orgy of confusion. We’re living in Eliot’s Hollow Men world with hollow marriage promises. How does this kind of world end? “Not with a bang, but a whimper.”