12 November 2013

"The Only Glass that Would Not Break with that Unbearable Light"

To brighten your Tuesday, a lovely homage to Our Mother:

A Little Litany
by G.K. Chesterton

When God turned back eternity and was young,
Ancient of Days, grown little for your mirth
(As under the low arch the land is bright)
Peered through you, gate of heaven--and saw the earth.

Or shutting out his shining skies awhile
Built you about him for a house of gold
To see in pictured walls his storied world
Return upon him as a tale is told.

Or found his mirror there; the only glass
That would not break with that unbearable light
Till in a corner of the high dark house
God looked on God, as ghosts meet in the night.

Star of his morning; that unfallen star
In that strange starry overturn of space
When earth and sky changed places for an hour
And heaven looked upwards in a human face.

Or young on your strong knees and lifted up
Wisdom cried out, whose voice is in the street,
And more than twilight of twiformed cherubim
Made of his throne indeed a mercy-seat.

Or risen from play at your pale raiment's hem
God, grown adventurous from all time's repose,
Or your tall body climbed the ivory tower
And kissed upon your mouth the mystic rose.


Karen said...

Oh, that is too unbelievably beautiful! I used to not like poetry, maybe because I did not understand it, but it is beginning to intrigue me, this one especially. There are parts of it I do not understand. Does anyone know of a book on "getting" poetry? I would love to learn more.

Jane Chantal said...


I was enchanted by this lovely poem too. I hope you'll get some book recommendations by people more knowledgeable than I. In the meantime, a way to perhaps get a foothold might be to go to the website of "First Things" magazine and do a search using the word "poetry". When I did so, I quickly found an essay called "What's Wrong With Poetry?" by a writer named Gabriel Torretta, that yielded this:

"In the end, contemplation is what taught me to read poetry. I am a member of a Catholic religious order, and my life is a steady rhythm of psalms, Bible-reading, and Masses. That’s a lot of time spent praying with words someone else wrote, which at first seems hollow and impersonal. But there comes a point in the life of a young religious when everything changes; suddenly Christ shines through the text, and the ancient words of dead men become intimate missives between his soul and God. This is the gift of contemplation, the habit of seeing God by seeing the things of the world through His eyes.

Poetry requires the same habit of mind. Poetry tries to express an inexpressible aspect of reality by packing it into an impossibly small space so that the meaning of the words fold in on themselves, creating a pattern of layers that begins to resemble the contours of the real object in all of its dynamism. Even for unornamented poems, just reading the words is not enough; poetry offers an encounter with a living reality that the reader must open himself to. Contemplation is the habit of being open to this encounter."

Not bad for the first try, huh? :-) Anyway, best of luck!