Posted tagged ‘poetry’

The Pope’s poet

May 13, 2008

One of John Paul the Great’s favourite poets was Cyprian Kamil Norwid. Here’s a selection, translated from the original Polish by Adam Czerniawski (via


…God sees all 
“How can
God’s eye endure ugliness all round ?”
If you wish to know, with an artist’s eye 
Look closely at a ruin, at cobwebs
In sunlight, at matted straw 
In fields, at potter’s clay – 
– He gave us all, even His traces,
As He perceives things, have no envy, have no shame! 
Yet there is sun-gilded Pride
Convinced the sun will not shine through her; 
She is the end of sight and contemplation,
She is the screen against God’s rays,
So that man, the most ungrateful creature in the world, 
Should feel extinguished brightness and night in his eyes 
– In every art let all arts gleam, save the one
Through which the work is to be done. 

When I discovered the Gerard Manley Hopkins site researching a previous post, I was shocked to find another pertinent lecture, discussing similarities between Gerard Manley Hopkins and Cyprian Kamil Norwid.

Also, for some of Pope John Paul II’s thoughts on this Polish poet, see here.

There’s more to come about Norwid, but sometimes it’s just better to let the text speak for itself. 


Happy Ascension Day!

May 1, 2008

Dame, at our door
Drowned, and among our shoals,
Remember us in the roads, the heaven-haven of the 
Our King back, Oh, upon English souls!
Let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us,
be a crimson-cresseted east,
More brightening her, rare-dear Britain, as his reign rolls, 
Pride, rose, prince, hero of us, high priest,
Our hearts’ charity’s hearth’s fire, our thoughts’ chivalry’s 
throng’s Lord.

-Gerard Manley Hopkins, “The Wreck of the Deutchland

For a critical discussion, see here.

One shade the more, one ray the less

April 30, 2008

The goal of the poet is to find all the right words, and the right number of words to convey the message such that an addition or deletion of a single word lessens the entire work. I won’t speak for novelists, but I would imagine if you could ask James Joyce, he would feel the same way with the possible exception that words could be expanded to include syllables and various mutterings.

And in music, consider the wonder expressed by the character Salieri in the play/film Amadeus: “And music, finished as no music is ever finished. Displace one note and there would be diminishment. Displace one phrase and the structure would fall.”

As humans we long for that perfection, which ultimately can only be found in God. Music and poetry in their best forms, lead us to God as almost nothing else can.

This is why beautiful liturgy matters.