Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Survey #1: Because of What Poem?

The positive comments on this blog have been astonishing since I began posting just six weeks ago. Few comments have touched me more than one from "Mary" this afternoon. In Catholic-land, "Mary" is almost as anonymous as "Anonymous," so I have no idea who Mary is. But she picked up on my post about Julian's baptism and urged me on. You can find Mary's comment beneath Julian's story. It's her P.S. that sparks this post:

When days arrive, as they will, that you need a break, be sure, we will understand. Just ask us to lift you up, throw out a topic and we'll all help.

Mary, I'm taking you up on your offer . . . NOW! There's not a moment to waste. So let's turn this post into a survey, and let anyone and everyone answer with comments.

In my previous post, I wrote about W. H. Auden's poem "The Ballad of Barnaby," explaining how it inspired me. Auden was a High Anglican, with a clear devotion to the Blessed Mother, and the idea of Barnaby tumbling before a statue of Mary is touching to me, for reasons I try to explain.

Now, over to you, gentle reader. Mary, here's my topic: What poem has inspired you in your religious life? It doesn't have to be a "Catholic" poem. For example, you could cite:

Anything by Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, about whom I wrote in a previous post, or . . .

John Milton, "On His Blindness"—In just fourteen lines this sonnet moves Job-like from suffering over life's injustice to a resplendent acceptance of God's will. The final line is a rebuke to each of us who would win God's favor with doing, doing, and more doing: "They also serve who only stand and wait."

Walt Whitman, "Song of the Open Road"—As the first American poet celebrated by the gay community, Whitman is not exactly a Catholic icon. But this poem was an anthem for me for many years, especially in its final evocation of friendship, something I've found most truly only now within the Catholic Church: "Mon enfant, I give you my hand! I give you my love, more precious than money! I give you myself, before preaching or law! Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me? Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?"

Dylan Thomas, "A Refusal to Mourn the Death by Fire of a Child in London"—I have no idea what Thomas's religious orientation was, if any. He seems to have known more about spirits than about the Holy Spirit. But the final line of this elegy for a girl killed by fire, though ambiguous, has always made me think of the death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ: "After the first death, there is no other."

Robert Frost, "Death of a Hired Man"—Again, this is not a Catholic or even a particularly Christian poem, but the charity expressed by the wife, "Mary" of course, is touching. When her husband, Warren, gives forth with the line for which the poem is best known ("Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in"), Mary responds ("I should have called it something you somehow haven't to deserve.")

e. e. cummings, "my father moved through dooms of love"—As anyone who has been reading this blog knows by now, my father moved through dooms of love. (or as cummings has it, "because my father lived his soul, love is the whole and more than all")

. . . or just about anything by Emily Dickinson.

So, what's your answer, brothers and sisters? Is there a poem of faith, hope, or charity that still sings to you? Please comment below. If I get some answers, I'll have more questions!