The House of Christmas

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honor and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam,
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost – how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.

This world is wild as an old wives’ tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

GK Chesterton

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Holy Thursday

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‘Twas on a Holy Thursday, their innocent faces clean,
The children walking two and two, in red and blue and green,
Grey-headed beadles walk’d before, with wands as white as snow,
Till into the high dome of Paul’s they like Thames’ waters flow.

O what a multitude they seem’d, these flowers of London town!
Seated in companies they sit with radiance all their own.
The hum of multitudes was there, but multitudes of lambs,
Thousands of little boys and girls raising their innocent hands.

Now like a mighty wind they raise to heaven the voice of song,
Or like harmonious thunderings the seats of Heaven among.
Beneath them sit the aged men, wise guardians of the poor;
Then cherish pity, lest you drive an angel from your door.

William Blake

Actually, sumer is on its way out

But there’s no need to be doomy. This morning Betty was halfway through teaching her first Pilates lesson and it was still pitch-black outside. The nip in the air is starting to hang about for morning tea. It’s still brilliantly sunny in the afternoons, but in a crisper sort of way. It puts Betty in mind of this mediaeval song, which reminds her, however illogically, of good things like Morris dancing and strawberries and Professor Marshall Walker.

Svmer is icumen in
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweþ sed and bloweþ med
and springþ þe wde nu.
Sing cuccu!

Awe bleteþ after lomb,
lhouþ after calue cu,
Bulluc sterteþ, bucke uerteþ.
Murie sing cuccu!
Cuccu, cuccu,
Wel singes þu cuccu.
ne swik þu nauer nu!
Sing cuccu nu, Sing cuccu!

And cuckoos, of course.

A psalm for Palm Sunday

King Jesus
why did you choose
a lowly ass
to carry you
to ride in your parade?
Had you no friend
who owned a horse
— a royal mount with spirit
fit for a king to ride?
Why choose an ass
small unassuming
beast of burden
trained to plow
not carry kings.

King Jesus
why did you choose
me
a lowly unimportant person
to bear you
in my world today?
I’m poor and unimportant
trained to work
not carry kings
— let alone the King of Kings
and yet you’ve chosen me
to carry you in triumph
in this world’s parade.
King Jesus
keep me small
so all may see
how great you are
keep me humble
so all may say
Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord
not what a great ass he rides.

Joseph Bayly

Psalms of My Life

Bookshop mish: or, good things come to those who wait

Two or three years ago, Betty gave a guest lecture (either, as the case may be, on the main paradigms of medical humanities, or on the poetry of Glenn Colquhoun). By way of recompense, the department gave her a book voucher. Betty looked around the university bookshop at the time, because she had her eye on a copy of Netter’s, but it was too expensive (note to readers: the guest-lecturing racket is not all it’s cracked up to be, financially speaking). Life went on, and some things that should not have been forgotten were lost… gentle readers know the drill.

At any rate, Betty discovered the book voucher the other day when she was cleaning out her purse, and when she had a free afternoon, she moseyed around the bookshop. Et voilà!

Bright Star

Betty saw the trailer to this Keats biopic the other day and was somewhat nonplussed. It has that slightly adenoidal BBC feel to it, don’t you find? Not, of course, that that would put Betty off: far from it. But still… However, Jane Campion deserves half a chance, and an awesome blogger who temporarily escapes Betty’s memory rated it very highly, so it’s going on the to-watch list.

John Keats, incidentally, is an important medical humanities figure; he was an apothecary’s assistant, and hated it with a passion.