Archive for April, 2013


Saint Catherine of Siena icon

Today is the Feast Day of St Catherine of Siena. She was canonized in 1461.  She is considered one of the two patron saints of Italy, the other being St. Francis. In 1999, she was named one of the patron saints of Europe. She is also the patron saint of  firefighters,  illness, miscarriages, nurses, people ridiculed for their piety, against sexual temptation and sick people. She lived from 1347-80, and was considered a mystic, a tertiary (layperson not in a religious order who has done good works but is allowed to wear certain items of that order) of the Dominican Order and a Doctor of the Church. According to this  iconography website, she was known for being a ” persuasive mediator who negotiated peace between Florence and the papacy [in the event called the War of the Eight Saints]and who was behind Pope Gregory XI’s decision to return the papal court to Rome after its long stay in Avignon,” thus ending the Great Schism. All of her mystical writings have been gathered in a book known as the Dialogues, which includes 381 letters and 26 prayers, which can be found here. It is through her mystical writings that artists got inspirations for paintings depicting her receiving the stigmata, her vision of symbolically marrying Christ, and him giving her Communion. In art, she is usually pictured with a crown of thorns, lilies and a book, or a heart (which refers to the legend that she switched hearts with Christ).

Alessandro Franchi and Gaetano Marinelli, The Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine, 1896

Alessandro Franchi and Gaetano Marinelli - The Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine - 1896

She was buried at Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, where the first painting is located. Well at least most of her is. According to this story from Wikipedia,

“The people of Siena wished to have St. Catherine’s body. A story is told of a miracle whereby they were partially successful: Knowing that they could not smuggle her whole body out of Rome, they decided to take only her head which they placed in a bag. When stopped by the Roman guards, they prayed to St Catherine to help them, confident that she would rather have her body (or at least part thereof) in Siena. When they opened the bag to show the guards, it appeared no longer to hold her head but to be full of rose petals. Once they got back to Siena they reopened the bag and her head was visible once more. Due to this story, St Catherine is often seen holding a rose. The incorruptible head and thumb were entombed in the Basilica of San Domenico, where they remain.”

Catherine of Siena was known to be anorexic, which seems to be an effect of her mystical visions and fasting to be closer to God. I found an interesting article on the subject today while looking for research material. For today and tomorrow’s poetry, I would like to use two prayers done by the saint.

My Nature is Fire

Prayer 12 (XXII)*

In your nature,

eternal Godhead,

I shall come to know my nature.

And what is my nature, boundless love?

It is fire,

because you are nothing but a fire of love.

And you have given humankind

a share in this nature,

for by the fire of love

you created us.

And so with all other people

and every created thing;

you made them out of love.

O ungrateful people!

What nature has your God given you?

His very own nature!

Are you not ashamed to cut yourself off from such a noble thing

through the guilt of deadly sin?

O eternal Trinity,

my sweet love!

You, light,

give us light.

You, wisdom,

give us wisdom.

You, supreme strength,

strengthen us.

Today, eternal God,

let our cloud be dissipated

so that we may perfectly know and follow your Truth

in truth,

with a free and simple heart.

God, come to our assistance!

Lord, make haste to help us!

Amen.

*Taken from The Prayers of Catherine of Siena. 2nd edition. Suzanne Noffke, OP, translator and editor.
(San Jose.: Authors Choice Press, 2001) (Roman numerals indicate the number of the prayer in
the critical edition of G. Cavallini).

Prayer of Saint Catherine of Siena to the Precious Blood of Jesus
Precious Blood,
Ocean of Divine Mercy:
Flow upon us!

Precious Blood,
Most pure Offering:
Procure us every Grace!

Precious Blood,
Hope and Refuge of sinners:
Atone for us!

Precious Blood,
Delight of holy souls:
Draw us! Amen.

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Happy Arbor Day 2013!

Cherry Trees near Kyoto, Japan

Today is Arbor Day, celebrated in the US and now all over the world, is usually placed on the last Friday in April (though the date depends on the region and best tree planting season). The holiday was first promoted, via the best newspaper of the day, by settler J. Sterling Morton and his wife after their move to the Nebraska Territory in 1854. According to the official Arbor Day Foundation History page,

“Morton not only advocated tree planting by individuals but also encouraged civilian groups and organizations to join in. His promotion of trees was further expanded when he became the secretary of the Nebraska Territory. On January 4, 1872, Morton first proposed a tree-planting holiday to be called ‘Arbor Day’ to the State Board of Agriculture. The holiday was scheduled for April 10th of that year, and it is estimated that more than one million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day.”

The first official Nebraska state Arbor Day was April 10, 1874 though it wasn’t legalized in the state until 1884. Finally the date of Morton’s birthday was selected as the official US holiday, April 22. The Arbor Day Foundation puts out a guidebook on how to celebrate the holiday and there are suggestions on the webpage as well. I especially liked this Nature Explore project I found off the Foundation’s website, which helps kids connect with nature, a collaboration with the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation, which helps fund outdoor classroom activities and provides information for families that want to start up nature programs on their own. The Foundation’s website also features a visual tree identification guide for the US.  Plus if you live in the US and join the Foundation, they send you 10 free trees to plant at your house or donate 10 trees to a National Forest that needs them.

Tree at Sunset

So naturally today’s poetry is about trees. I picked the first one because I liked the imagery and I have a soft spot for Frost. I had to memorize his poem The Road Not Taken in high school and is one of the few poems I can still remember by heart and remains one of my favorite poems ever. For the A.E. Housman poem, I liked the poem and I discovered the poet after posting his To An Athelete Dying Young for my Sports Poetry post a few days ago. The other two poems I’d not heard of but enjoyed the imagery of the poems. I would like to dedicate today’s post to my best friend Huma, as she loves trees and her birthday was this week.

Birches

by Robert Frost
When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay 
As ice-storms do.  Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain.  They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust--
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows--
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer.  He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground.  He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return.  Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

Loveliest   of Trees

by A. E. Housman
Loveliests of trees, the cherry now   
Is hung with bloom along the bough,   
And stands about the woodland ride   
Wearing white for Eastertide.   

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,   
And take from seventy springs a score,   
It only leaves me fifty more.   

And since to look at things in bloom   
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go   
To see the cherry hung with snow.

Song of   the Trees

by Mary   Colborne-Veel
1

We are the Trees.  
  Our dark and leafy glade  
Bands the bright earth with softer mysteries.  
Beneath us changed and tamed the seasons run:  
In burning zones, we build against the sun         
  Long centuries of shade.  

2

We are the Trees,  
  Who grow for man’s desire,  
Heat in our faithful hearts, and fruits that please.  
Dwelling beneath our tents, he lightly gains         
The few sufficiencies his life attains—  
  Shelter, and food, and fire.  

3

We are the Trees  
  That by great waters stand,  
By rills that murmur to our murmuring bees.         
And where, in tracts all desolate and waste,  
The palm-foot stays, man follows on, to taste  
  Springs in the desert sand.  

4

We are the Trees  
  Who travel where he goes         
Over the vast, inhuman, wandering seas.  
His tutors we, in that adventure brave—  
He launched with us upon the untried wave,  
  And now its mastery knows.  

5

We are the Trees          
  Who bear him company  
In life and death. His happy sylvan ease  
He wins through us; through us, his cities spread  
That like a forest guard his unfenced head  
  ’Gainst storm and bitter sky.          

6

We are the Trees.  
  On us the dying rest  
Their strange, sad eyes, in farewell messages.  
And we, his comrades still, since earth began,  
Wave mournful boughs above the grave of man,          
  And coffin his cold breast.

Trees   Need Not Walk the Earth

by   David Rosenthal
Trees need not walk the earth  
For beauty or for bread;  
Beauty will come to them  
Where they stand.  
Here among the children of the sap
Is no pride of ancestry:  
A birch may wear no less the morning  
Than an oak.  
Here are no heirlooms  
Save those of loveliness, 
In which each tree  
Is kingly in its heritage of grace.  
Here is but beauty’s wisdom  
In which all trees are wise.  
Trees need not walk the earth 
For beauty or for bread;  
Beauty will come to them  
In the rainbow—  
The sunlight—  
And the lilac-haunted rain;
And bread will come to them  
As beauty came:  
In the rainbow—  
In the sunlight—  
In the rain.

Library of Congress

My options for things to post today were pretty much Administrative Professionals Day (which I wholeheartedly support being on and knowing how vital they are in an office) or the International Mariachi Conference in Tucson, which I was only vaguely interested in. But then I stumbled upon this little gem. The Library of Congress was established on this date in 1800 by Congress, which is basically the National Library for the entire US. It was initially given a budget of $5000 and housed in the new Capitol Building until it had to be moved in 1814, when, according to the Library of Congress’s webpage,

“invading British troops set fire to the Capitol Building, burning and pillaging the contents of the small library. Within a month, retired President Thomas Jefferson offered his personal library as a replacement.In January 1815, Congress accepted Jefferson’s offer, appropriating $23,950 for his 6,487 books, and the foundation was laid for a great national library. The Jeffersonian concept of universality, the belief that all subjects are important to the library of the American legislature, is the philosophy and rationale behind the comprehensive collecting policies of today’s Library of Congress. Ainsworth Rand Spofford, Librarian of Congress from 1864 to 1897, applied Jefferson’s philosophy on a grand scale and built the Library into a national institution. Spofford was responsible for the copyright law of 1870, which required all copyright applicants to send to the Library two copies of their work.”

The library (Thomas Jefferson Building – exterior shot above) was rebuilt starting in 1886, due to the influx of books after the copyright law, and opened in 1897. “The unparalled current collection of more than 155 million items includes more than 35 million cataloged books and other print materials in 460 languages; more than 68 million manuscripts; the largest rare book collection in North America; and the world’s largest collection of legal materials, films, maps, sheet music and sound recordings.” The John Adams Building was the second construction of the Library of Congress and was opened in 1938, with the third ediface, the James Madison Memorial Building opening in 1980.

Main Reading Room, Thomas Jefferson Building – Library of Congress

Main Reading Room - Thomas Jefferson Building - LOC

There have been 13 Librarians of Congress since 1800, the current one, Dr. James Hadley Billington, starting in Sept 1987. For more information on him, check out his informational page. The Library of Congress sponsors several awards including the Poet Laureate of the US (my fav was Robert Pinsky, who did an excellent translation of Dante’s Inferno), the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, the National Book Festival Creative Achievement Award, and the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature (the current one is author Walter Dean Myers, the past two being Jon Scieszka and Katherine Paterson).

This webpage features the Inscriptions and Quotations in the 3 building of the Library of Congress. For the Bicentennial celebrations in 2000, they had an exhibition on The Wizard of Oz: An American Fairy Tale. Two of the current exhibits going at the Library of Congress include this one on The Gibson Girls, and this one on Danny Kaye (one of my favorite actor/comedians) and his wife/manager/songwriter Sylvia Fine. I have never been in the reading rooms of the Library of Congress, though I have attended the viewing of a couple silent movies with orchestra, at one of the buildings, when I was in high school.

Today’s poem is taken from a mural (entitled Emerson’s Uriel) done in the Poetry Gallery, featured in lunettes done on the south gallery of the Jefferson Building.

Uriel

by: Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

It fell in the ancient periods
Which the brooding soul surveys,
Or ever the wild Time coined itself
Into calendar months and days.
 
This was the lapse of Uriel,
Which in Paradise befell.
Once among the Pleiads walking,
Said overheard the young gods talking,
And the treason too long pent
To his ears was evident.
The young deities discussed
Laws of form and metre just,
Orb, quintessence, and sunbeams,
What subsisteth, and what seems.
One, with low tones that decide,
And doubt and reverend use defied,
With a look that solved the sphere,
And stirred the devils everywhere,
Gave his sentiment divine
Against the being of a line:
“Line in nature is not found,
Unit and universe are round;
In vain produced, all rays return,
Evil will bless, and ice will burn.”
As Uriel spoke with piercing eye,
A shudder ran around the sky;
The stern old war-gods shook their heads,
The seraphs frowned from myrtle-beds;
Seemed to the holy festival,
The rash word boded ill to all;
The balance-beam of Fate was bent;
The bonds of good and ill were rent;
Strong Hades could not keep his own,
But all slid to confusion.
 
A sad self-knowledge withering fell
On the beauty of Uriel.
In heaven once eminent, the god
Withdrew that hour into his cloud,
Whether doomed to long gyration
In the sea of generation,
Or by knowledge grown too bright
To hit the nerve of feebler sight.
Straightway a forgetting wind
Stole over the Celestial kind,
And their lips the secret kept,
If in ashes the fibre-seed slept.
But now and then truth-speaking things
Shamed the angels’ veiling wings,
And, shrilling from the solar course,
Or from fruit of chemic force,
Procession of a soul in matter,
Or the speeding change of water,
Or out of the good of evil born,
Came Uriel’s voice of cherub scorn;
And a blush tinged the upper sky,
And the gods shook, they knew not why.

Happy St George’s Day 2013

St George Crest

Today is St George’s Day, who is the patron saint of England. If you were in England now, you would be seeing this Google doodle (I wish we were).  According to above post, “St George has no direct relationship with England. He was Greek and became an officer in the Roman army, with the dragon episode placed somewhere in Libya.” Here are some factoid from the St. George’s Day official website: The date was selected in 1222, but “it wasn’t until 1348 that St George became the patron saint of England. In 1415, St George’s Day was declared a national feast day and holiday in England. However, the practice was ended at  the end of the 18th century, and it has since not been acknowledged as a national holiday. The hymn ‘Jerusalem’ was also sung on the 23rd April, or the nearest Sunday to that date, in churches across the nation [William Blake wrote the poem that was later turned into the hymn] .” For an explanation on why the holiday is not official anymore, check out this blog post.

I have surprisingly never heard of either of these poems, though to be fair, the writers were fairly prolific and most people have only heard of the really famous poems, like Sordello or The Ring and the Book for Browning and Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem and Prometheus Unbound for Shelley. Honestly though, I know them because of their wives and not so much for their own work. I will have to remedy that in the future.

Home Thoughts, From Abroad

By Robert Browning (1812 – 1889)

 

Oh, to be in England
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England-now!

And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops-at the bent spray’s edge-
That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children’s dower
-Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

Song to the men of England

By Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

Men of England, wherefore plough
For the lords who lay ye low?
Wherefore weave with toil and care
The rich robes your tyrants wear?

Wherefore feed and clothe and save,
From the cradle to the grave,
Those ungrateful drones who would
Drain your sweat -nay, drink your blood?

Wherefore, Bees of England, forge
Many a weapon, chain, and scourge,
That these stingless drones may spoil
The forced produce of your toil?

Have ye leisure, comfort, calm,
Shelter, food, love’s gentle balm?
Or what is it ye buy so dear
With your pain and with your fear?

The seed ye sow another reaps;
The wealth ye find another keeps;
The robes ye weave another wears;
The arms ye forge another bears.

Sow seed, -but let no tyrant reap;
Find wealth, -let no imposter heap;
Weave robes, -let not the idle wear;
Forge arms, in your defence to bear.

Shrink to your cellars, holes, and cells;
In halls ye deck another dwells.
Why shake the chains ye wrought? Ye see
The steel ye tempered glance on ye.

With plough and spade and hoe and loom,
Trace your grave, and build your tomb,
And weave your winding-sheet, till fair
England be your sepulchre!

Sports Poetry

This weekend just flew by and I didn’t really feel like I had a break. Consequently, I spent hardly any time on the computer, except when I was addictively playing TERA, which I somehow can’t get enough of. I have created my fifth character, but deleted one, so is more like my fourth. I really need two characters per server to provide enough materials (potions, armor etc) for each. So therefore, I have not posted any poetry since last Wed, though I posted an extra one that day. So in keeping with the National Poetry Month posts, this set of poems is dedicated to sports. I honestly picked this topic because the football (soccer) team my hubby and I support, Liverpool, has gotten in a bit of bother after one its star players bit a Chelsea player. I didn’t watch the game because the time difference is now eight hrs instead of five, and I don’t relish getting up at 5am to watch the game. Plus I work early on Sunday mornings which makes me less likely to get up. The offending player, Luis Suarez, has since been fined and suspended three games. I am a new fan to football, well since I married my husband seven years ago, though it was probably two years after we got married before I really started to pay attention to it. Soccer and Ice Hockey are the only two sports I really like to watch (preferably live), with the exception of some college American Football games as I was raised on that and try to keep up with some teams. I do occasionally like to watch a live baseball game, which is a lot easier as Phoenix has an ice hockey and a baseball team. They’ve also just gotten a Minor-League Soccer team, the Phoenix FC Wolves. My hubby and I are hoping to catch a live home game in June, and at some point in the future, I would like to see an LA Galaxy game.

I’ve heard of the first poem before but not read it, and I just liked the look of the other three ones. I do not watch golf (I only like mini-golf), but I did attend part of a Pro-Am tour when I was at St. Andrews.

To An   Athlete Dying Young

by A. E. Housman
The time you won your town the race   
We chaired you through the market-place;   
Man and boy stood cheering by,   
And home we brought you shoulder-high.   

To-day, the road all runners come,     
Shoulder-high we bring you home,   
And set you at your threshold down,   
Townsman of a stiller town.   

Smart lad, to slip betimes away   
From fields where glory does not stay,  
And early though the laurel grows   
It withers quicker than the rose.   

Eyes the shady night has shut   
Cannot see the record cut,   
And silence sounds no worse than cheers  
After earth has stopped the ears:   

Now you will not swell the rout   
Of lads that wore their honours out,   
Runners whom renown outran   
And the name died before the man.  

So set, before its echoes fade,   
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,   
And hold to the low lintel up   
The still-defended challenge-cup.   

And round that early-laurelled head 
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,   
And find unwithered on its curls   
The garland briefer than a girl's.
 

 

A Boy   Juggling a Soccer Ball

by   Christopher Merrill
   after practice: right foot
to left foot, stepping forward and back, 
   to right foot and left foot,
and left foot up to his thigh, holding 
   it on his thigh as he twists
around in a circle, until it rolls 
   down the inside of his leg,
like a tickle of sweat, not catching 
   and tapping on the soft
side of his foot, and juggling
   once, twice, three times,
hopping on one foot like a jump-roper 
   in the gym, now trapping
and holding the ball in midair, 
   balancing it on the instep
of his weak left foot, stepping forward 
   and forward and back, then
lifting it overhead until it hangs there; 
   and squaring off his body,
he keeps the ball aloft with a nudge 
   of his neck, heading it
from side to side, softer and softer, 
   like a dying refrain,
until the ball, slowing, balances 
   itself on his hairline,
the hot sun and sweat filling his eyes 
   as he jiggles this way
and that, then flicking it up gently, 
   hunching his shoulders
and tilting his head back, he traps it 
   in the hollow of his neck,
and bending at the waist, sees his shadow, 
   his dangling T-shirt, the bent
blades of brown grass in summer heat; 
   and relaxing, the ball slipping
down his back. . .and missing his foot.

   He wheels around, he marches 
over the ball, as if it were a rock
   he stumbled into, and pressing
his left foot against it, he pushes it
   against the inside of his right 
until it pops into the air, is heeled
   over his head--the rainbow!-- 
and settles on his extended thigh before
   rolling over his knee and down 
his shin, so he can juggle it again
   from his left foot to his right foot
--and right foot to left foot to thigh--
   as he wanders, on the last day
of summer, around the empty field.
 

 

A True Champion by Stephen Timothy Farrell

It’s the British Open, year two thousand and three,
It was played at St. Georges, for all to see.

A wonderful links, such a masterful test,
It invited such players – who proved to be best.

The course looked worn; its tracks were old,
Who knew such a story was about to unfold.
While thousands of spectators looked on – they saw,
The top golfers in the world give it their all.

As their balls flew high, then descending to land,
Most ended up – in the rough or the sand.

They struggled and grinded – they competed to win,
But after two days, most players would grin,
For two rounds at St. Georges were now completed,
The rules were clear – The field must be depleted.

The weekend was here and the final field was set,
Who would win was still – anyone’s bet.
By end of day three, what did the leader board ring?
Names like Woods and Garcia, Love, Bjorn and Singh.

Of all these big names, surely, one would prevail,
Or could we be looking at a David and Goliath tale.

To beat all the obstacles and still quell,
Takes nerves of steel and patience as well.

For most of the day a rookie would lead,
Until the back nine when he began to bleed.

But up and down for par, on the final hole,
Was good enough to meet his goal.

Ben Curtis has posted at one under par, That’s the best in the clubhouse, on this day so far.

It appears as Thomas Bjorn will win – OH WAIT,
A double bogey on sixteen has just sealed his fate.

So the Claret Jug – goes to Ben Curtis this year,
He’s the champion golfer for all to revere.

Poem on Lou Gehrig’s   Award

                                                               

by John Kiernan

Appeared: Lou   Gehrig Trophy (07-04-1939)

To   LOU GEHRIG

We’ve been to the wars together;
We took our foes as they came;
And always you were the leader,
And ever you played the game.
Idol of cheering millions,
Records are yours by sheaves;
Iron of frame they hailed you
Decked you with laurel leaves.
But higher than that we hold you,
We who have known you best;
Knowing the way you came through
Every human test.
Let this be a silent token
Of lasting Friendship’s gleam,
And all that we’ve left unspoken;
Your Pals of the Yankees Team.

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