Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Good Book - Melanie

I'm doing book store inventory this snowy morning, listening to a station I've created on Pandora out of my favorite sixties folk and folk-rock singers. One of these is Melanie Safka -- usually referred to just as "Melanie" -- whose albums I owned in vinyl format. This song came up, and although it's not my favorite of hers, on this snowy New Year's Eve morning I felt like sharing it. It is a prayer, a prayer of one of the purist voices of the hippie movement. Its yearning for the God who was speculated "Dead!" on Time Magazine's cover a few years before is palpable.

CLICK HERE for YouTube rendition of GOOD BOOK.

Poor little hairy kids out on their own
They run to the festival to show that
They were one
They've fallen in love with all human kind
So tell them You love them
So they don't change their mind.

Write us a book of instructions or signs
And if it's been written
Then give us more time
Recite a poem or sing us a song
And tell us You love us
So we don't feel alone.

And it's sad that we weren't born
Like horses and sheep
To know where we're goin', to know
What we need
But You've written the music
So we'll sing along
But tell us You love us
So we don't feel alone

Give the poet a poem and the singer a song
And then tell us You love us
So we don't feel alone.

Monday, December 28, 2009

On reading Spoon River Anthology as a sixty-something

Photo courtesy of Spencer Fields, spencer0413, from publicity for a Spoon River Anthology performance.

There's no decent resale value to a copy of Spoon River Anthology that I acquired, so I'm putting it in my Goodwill box. But before I do that to any literary work, I have to crack it open and give it some attention. Perhaps I will want to add it to my own collection -- although in this case the copy in question is a tired-looking mass market paperback so it's not likely even if I really love the poems. I spend so much time book-hunting that I can afford to be pickier about the aesthetics of the books I put on my own shelves. Another copy of any book I fancy is pretty much guaranteed to come along, and in better condition, once I start looking.

Spoon River Anthology is seriously a downer! I did not remember that from my youthful reading of it. The voices that speak from the Spoon River cemetery are venal, hypocritical, bitter, and nasty for the most part, at least the ones in the first third of the book. Masters' characters remind me, oddly enough, of Stephen King's, in their extremely flawed humanity. And while you expect that in horror fiction, it's a bit of a shock in poetry.
This one's funny.

Roger Heston

- by Edgar Lee Masters (from Spoon River Anthology)

Oh many times did Ernest Hyde and I
Argue about the freedom of the will.
My favorite metaphor was Prickett's cow
Roped out to grass, and free you know as far
As the length of the rope.
One day while arguing so, watching the cow
Pull at the rope to get beyond the circle
Which she had eaten bare,
Out came the stake, and tossing up her head,
She ran for us.
"What's that, free-will or what?" said Ernest, running.
I fell just as she gored me to my death.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I've been catching up on Minute Meditations from the Popes, a daybook compiled of short quotes from the popes of the 20th century. From Dec. 10:
Nazareth is the school in which one can begin to understand the life of Jesus: the school of the Gospel. Here one learns to watch, to listen, to meditate, and to penetrate the most profound and mysterious meaning of this manifestation of the Son of God.
Abortion has been weighing on my mind. I'm not sure how meditation on the Holy Family will help, but I am going to try today to pray for how in the coming year I might best be a witness to Christ against this profound scourge on the land.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Father Barron on "Gran Torino" (SPOILERS)

My sister Marguerite has made me a fan of Father Robert Barron and his Word on Fire ministries. Fr. Barron is doing a bang-up job of viewing the culture and the media through the lens of the gospel.
He's got a very Alberionian spirit, although he is not a Pauline.

Here's his YouTube piece on "Gran Torino", a movie I loved.
And here's one response he got to it, sure proof that his work is bearing wonderful fruit:

Father Barron –

I found your web site somewhat
by accident. Actually I
found you when looking for video about “Gran
Torino”. I do believe with God
there are no coincidences.

I wanted
to let you know that you have
inspired in me something I had lost. Your
commentaries have re-ignited a
curiosity and love for God and the Catholic

Thank you for not
speaking down to me. Thank you for using
technology to spread God’s message.

I have found spirituality as a
recovering alcoholic. Thank you for
helping me to find my Catholicism.

Warmest regards,

Dave S.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Those Anglo-Saxons knew how to compose poems about Christ!

I had a roaring good time in the Kennett Square Resale Book Shoppe yesterday. My Big Find was a copy of a book that I did not even know existed - a compilation of poems by Frank Sheed of Sheed and Ward Publishing. I've been a Sheed aficionado since Marty Helgesen recommended him years ago. I can't count the number of times I've given away copies of his Theology and Sanity -- a book whose title even his own staff once misspelled, writing it as Theology and Sanctity. He had to point out to them that his carefully chosen title reflected the main theme of the book, namely that it's a matter of sanity, not sanctity, to understand reality as God has revealed it and the Catholic Church teaches it.

The unknown (to me) book of Sheed's I found is Poetry and Life: An Anthology of English Catholic Poetry compiled by Sheed. Opening its pages at home, I immediately re-acquainted myself with a piece of Anglo-Saxon poetry that I absolutely loved when I wore a younger girl's clothes. We were well met in Newark, like an old friend I'd fallen out of touch with. I reproduce it for your enjoyment:

"It was long ago, / I yet remember,
that I was hewn down / at the wood's end
torn from my place. / They took me there, strong foes,
they set me up as a gazing-stock, / bade me lift on high their felons.
Men bore me on their shoulders, / till on a hill they set me,
many foes fastened me there. / Then I saw mankind's Lord
swiftly come with courage, / for He willed to mount on me.

Then dared I not, / against the Lord's word,
bend or break, / when I saw
the earth trembling. / I might there
have felled all my foes, / but I stood fast.
Then He stripped Himself, the young Hero, / that was God Almighty,
strong and firm-hearted / He mounted the mean gibbet;
noble-hearted in the sight of many / He would set free mankind.

I shook when the Prince clasped me, / but I durst not bow to earth,
fall to the ground, / but must needs stand fast.
A rood I was raised aloft, / I lifted the mighty King,
Lord of Heaven, / I durst not bend.
They drove me through with dark nails, / on me the marks are plain,
wide wounds of hate. / I durst not harm any of them.

They mocked us both together. / I was all wet with blood
poured from the Man's side / when He had sent forth His soul.

There on the hill / I underwent
many bitter things. / I saw the God of Hosts
sorely stretched out. / Darkness there
had wrapped in clouds / the Ruler's Body,
its fair radiance. / A shadow went forth
wan under clouds. / All creation wept,
bewailed the King's death, / Christ on the rood.

But there came from afar / eager nobles
to Him all alone; / I beheld all that.
Sore was I troubled with sorrows, / but I bent down to the hands of the men
humbly, with hearty will. / There they took Almighty God,
lifted Him down from the heavy pain. / They left me standing
wet with blood; / I was all wounded with shafts.

They laid Him down, limb-weary; / they stood at His body's head;
they gazed on Him, Heaven's Lord, / and He rested there awhile,
tired from the great strife. / They began to make His grave
in the sight of His foes. / They carved it from the bright stone,
they laid in it the Lord of Hosts. / They began to sing a sorrow-song
alone in the evening tide. / Then they went away,
weary away from the great crowd. / With a few He rested there.

(from The Dream of the Rood, 8th century, author unknown)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Muslim clerics issue a fatwah against the movie "2012"

This just makes me laugh. Conservative Muslim clerics in Indonesia are calling the movie "2012" a "provocation against Islam."

Why? Because director Roland Emmerich pointedly did NOT destroy a desired iconic holy site of Islam in the film out of fear of Muslim reaction. Emmerich did not want to end up like filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, killed and then nearly de-capitated by an irate Muslim jihadist on the streets of Amsterdam.

But of course, he had no such qualms about having the Vatican topple over on groups of Catholics gathered in prayer in St. Peter's Square. Or destroying Rio de Janeiro's iconic Christ the Redeemer statue.

Ain't it nice to be to be able to make your point safely about the uselessness of religion, Roland?