Category Archives: Poetry

Why bother?

English: An image of Psalm 23 (King James' Ver...

English: An image of Psalm 23 (King James’ Version), frontispiece to the 1880 omnibus printing of The Sunday at Home. Scanned at 800 dpi. Français : Illustration du Psaume 23 (version autorisée par le roi Jacques), en frontispice de l’édition omnibus du Sunday at home. Version numérisée à 800 dpi. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My post The Book poses the question of why would I read the Bible if I don’t think all of it is true? Well,  I will talk about the spiritual side later, but even if you don’t believe in God at all, I think, reading the Bible is not the worst decision you can make.

There is beautiful poetry in the Bible.

Everyone (or almost everyone) knows Psalm 23. The Lord is my shepherd… with all its beautiful imagery. And ther are many, many more beautiful Psalms in this section of the Bible alone; some of my favourites are Psalms 23, Psalm 100 (mostly because I sang it in an amazing song once) and Psalm 103. But that is not the only poetry in the Bible, not even close to it. Lamentations are heartbreakingly hopeless and regretful (plus a very small section that is heartbreakingly hopeful) and the Song of Songs… well you really wouldn’t expect language like that in the Bible! But you can feel the love the lover and beloved have for each other and it is full of joy. Ecclesiastes also has some amazing poetry. Then there are the many canticles; the song that random people sing to God throughout the whole Bible, my favourite being the Magnificat, sung by Mary after the visit of the angel who told her she was going to have a child. Maybe it is because I have heard and sung it many times over the years but every time time I read her humble and yet joyful praise, I feel the same way. Powerful language is present throughout the Bible but it starts right at the beginning with Genesis 1. A beautiful poem on the beginning of the world and its beauty.

Many, many good stories

Whether you like romance or adventure or political thrillers, there is something for everyone in the Bible. There are battles (in too much detail for my taste, but maybe you like that sort of thing), bad Kings (who tyrannise their people and decide that the Law doesn’t apply to them), wise men who get killed for telling the truth – you can find the whole nadwidth of human idiocy and its results in here. My favourites are the story of Susanna (actually in the Apocrypha, for Protestants and part of Daniel for everyone else) who gets falsely accused of adultery and is on the verge of being killed when Daniel the prophet rushes to her rescue and identifies the true culprits (who tried to rape her in this legal thriller) and the story of Deborah who shows the men of her time what a true woman is capable of (gender issues are not all that new it turns out).

There is a lot of wisdom to be found

If you’ve never looked into a Bible you won’t know this but a lot of the sayings and phrases in English (and also German, and I’m sure in many other languages) are direct copies of things written in the Bible. It’s because they are just universally true. Especially Proverbs is a great source of these, but if you have the chance to read the Wisdom of Solomon (again the Apocrypha for Protestants) you will actually find a lot of Wisdom there.
A lot of it, and this is true for much of the Bible actually, makes you think, it challenges you on a deep level and you start to consider how something relates to your own life. I like the challenge and often find, that even if I disagree with something I can usually find a way to learn from it.

How many books can do all of the above? (If you do know one, please tell me because I’ll want to read it, too.) Even if you are not at all interested in spirituality or the existence of God, reading the Bible can enrich your life and help you to understand yourself and the world around you in a different way.

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Invictus (poem)

I talked about this poem yesterday and what the last line means to me. I thought it might be nice to share it with all of you. I think it’s one of the most powerful poems I have ever read; it is so empowering of the reader and when I first heard Luke recite it on One Tree Hill (yes, that is where I first heard about it, I know), I just had to look up the complete text. It has had a place of honour on my desktop background ever since.

Invictus

by William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

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Holy Pop

10 years ago I went to the World Youth Day of the Catholic Church in Toronto with my best friend and a group of people we didn’t know very well (she got married to one of them this year). While there we were introduced to English modern worship music for the first time. We hated it. we came up with a new descriptor for it: Holy Pop. One of the songs that we loved to hate was this:

It’s funny how things change. because now I am actually quite fond of this type of music (my friends are not going to be able to stop laughing at me when they read this). I have learned to love it. The repetitiveness that I used to ridicule is actually quite helpful in connecting to others, and the simpleness makes it easy to pick up. Still, there are some people who listen to this music recreationally and that is definitely not for me. For me to really enjoy this music there would have to be a little bit more substance to the texts although, there are some songs that do have that and I wish there were more. Because Holy Pop can be really good music. Listen to this:

or this:

It’s amazing! I can listen to this all day (when I don’t happen to feel like something more edgy, but then, there is a type of music for every mood). I am very grateful to have had the chance to get know Holy Pop (yes I still call it that) better and therefore to learn to love it’s finer points.

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My treasure chest

English: Stack of books in Gould's Book Arcade...

I read a lot. And I mean it; a lot. In an average week I probably read about 5 – 10 books ( it depends on the length of the books and how much I like them; books I like I finish a lot faster). Sometimes I read 4 books in a day but, of course, that is generally during the weekend. What kind of book I read depends on my mood and the books available, for example I might read a YA dystopian novel and the next one is a romance and the next science fiction… you get the point. I also like reading poetry and non-fiction; newspapers and essays (and blogs 😉  ). Because I read so much,the books sometimes blend into one another. I read books I like more than once (sometimes more than ten times although I have to really love those) but, as you can imagine, I forget a lot of them. Since my budget is limited, I also borrow a lot of the books I read and when I give them back, I can’t look at them again.

But every now and then I find a phrase, a poem or just a line that speaks to me in a special way. This can be anything. I want to keep these little treasures, where I can look at them again and again and again, some I learn by heart, some I just like re-reading. Some I share with my friends. So, almost 10 years ago, I started a sort of “quotes diary”. I call it my treasure chest and I use it almost every day. Not to write in, that doesn’t happen all that often and the rather thin book is just about halfway full, leaving lots of space for future findings, but to read in. Whenever I feel I need a break from thinking or worrying, I open my treasure chest and leaf through it until I find something that catches my eye that particular day/moment/situation. The book itself is not very beautiful, a dark blue with a maritime themed picture in the middle and an anchor in the bottom right corner (my grandmother who is a little obsessed with that kind of thing gave it to me) but that doesn’t matter in the slightest. I love this book. Let me share some of its treasures with you. There are a lot of quotes from the Bible in there and I guess in keeping with my blog’s theme I should choose some of those, but I am sure they will come up later and so I have decided on the following two:

Victor Hugo:

Do you know what these piles of ordure are, collected at the corners of streets, those carts of mud carried off at night from streets, the frightful barrels of the nightman, and the fetid streams of subterranean mud which the pavement conceals from you? All this is a flowering field, it is green grass, it is mint, thyme, and sage; it is game, it is cattle, it is the satisfying lowing of heavy kine; at night it is perfumed hay, it is gilded wheat, it is bread on your table, it is warm blood in your veins, it is health, it is joy, it is life.

I don’t know from which text this is an excerpt. I found it in a chemistry book on the environmental impact of sewage (yes, I am serious). It is such a great acclamation of the different forms that life can take and that they are all interconnected, my spirit lifts whenever I read it. Thank you, Victor Hugo!

Forgetmenot Flowers

Keith Douglas (died 6th June 1944):
 
Vergissmeinnicht
 
Three weeks gone and the combatants gone
returning over the nightmare ground
we found the place again and found
the soldier sprawling in the sun.
 
 The frowning barrel of his gun
overshadowing. As we came on
that day he hit my tank with one
like the entry of a clemon
 
Look. Here in the gunpit spoil
the dishonoured picture of his girl,
who has put: Steffi. Vergissmeinnicht.
in a copybook gothic script.
 
We see him almost with content,
abased and seeming to have paid
and mocked at by his own equipment
that’s hard and good when he’s decayed.
 
But she would weep to see today
How on his skin the swart flies move
the dust upon the paper eye
and the burst stomach like a cave.
 
For here the lover and killer are mingled
who had one body and one heart.
And death who has the soldier singled
has done the lover mortal hurt.
 

I find this poem amazing and touching because it brings home the horrors of war by humanising the enemy soldier and recognising, that killing the enemy is killing another human being. I think most soldiers very likely purposefully forget that because it is just too terrible to think about, and the fact that Keith Douglas was able to recognise it and feel it, makes me feel in awe of him. He must have been a great person, a good man and it is terrible that he had to die in a war, although at least this one was for a good cause. Every time I read this poem I am reminded that good people come in lots of shapes and disguises and that something beautiful (like this poem) can still be born from something terrible (the war).

I am always on the lookout for more so if you have a favourite poem, quote or other piece of writing, do share it with me.I am grateful that there are so many different ways of inspiration out there and every time I find something new, I am grateful again; for the unique ability of the human species to form beauty with simple words and the many. many  ingenious people in history who were able to use that ability to its highest.

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To Him We Shall Return

Capital, column and arch in Alhambra of Granad...

I found this amazing poem by Jalal al Din Muhammad Rumi (1207-1273 from Persia) which describes his thoughts on life after death and it is truly inspiring:

I died as a mineral and I became a plant,
I died as a plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was man.
Why should I fear?
When was I less for dying?
Yet, once more, I shall die as man
to soar with the angels blest.
But even from angelhood I must pass on: all except God doth perish.
When I have sacrificed my angel soul, I shall become what no mind e’er conceived.
Oh, let me not exist,
for non-existence proclaims in organ tones,

To Him We Shall Return

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Filed under body and soul, Famous Theologians, Islam, Life after Death, Other religions, Poetry, Resurrection

Prayer by St. Francis

English: Two candles in love. The flame is inv...

English: Two candles in love. The flame is inverted heart shape. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A beautiful prayer, written by St. Francis of Assisi, that I pray every morning:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred let me sow love, where there is injury let me sow pardon, where there is doubt let me sow faith, where there is despair let me give hope, where there is darkness, let me give light, where there is sadness let me give joy.

Oh divine Master, grant that I may not try to be comforted but to comfort, not try to be understood but to understand, not try to be loved but to love.

Because it is in giving that we are received, it is in forgiving that we are forgiven and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

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