Monday, January 31, 2011

Snowy Coverings

Moscow Smolensky Boulevard Study   Wassily Kandinsky
 Feathery Snow
by Annette Wynne
Feathery snow, floating all day 
Down on the heads of the children at play, 
Coming first slowly, then thickly and fast,
As if the snowing would never be past;
Creeping on curls and blouses and faces.
Filling the chinks in all sorts of places,
Freezing the poor bird with no place to go.
Are you not sorry, O feathery snow? 

Feathery snow, floating all night, 
Aren't you happy again for the light? 
All through the dark you were falling and creeping, 
While little children were safe in bed sleeping; 
But where is the poor bird with no place to go? 
Did you not pity him shivering so? 
Where did he hide him, O feathery snow?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Of Sheep and Stars

The Sheep Meadow, Moonlight  Jean Francois Millet
Silver Sheep
by Anne Blackwell Payne
The sun's a bright-haired shepherd boy,
Who drives the stars away;
Beyond the far blue meadows
He shuts them up by day.

At six or seven or eight o'clock,
Over the bars they leap--
The rams with horns of silver,
The little silver sheep.

And while the shepherd takes a nap
Behind a hill, near-by,
They roam the dusky pature
And graze upon the sky.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Vorpal Blade

Death   Benjamin West
by Lewis Carroll

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"
He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.
And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!
One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.
"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Friday, January 28, 2011

All the World's a Stage

detail from Queen Elizabeth at the Globe  David Scott
The Theatre Cat
by T. S. Eliot
Gus is the Cat at the Theatre Door.
His name, as I ought to have told you before,
Is really Asparagus. That's such a fuss
To pronounce, that we usually call him just Gus.
His coat's very shabby, he's thin as a rake,
And he suffers from palsy that makes his paw shake.
Yet he was, in his youth, quite the smartest of Cats--
But no longer a terror to mice and to rats.
For he isn't the Cat that he was in his prime;
Though his name was quite famous, he says, in its time.
And whenever he joins his friends at their club
(Which takes place at the back of the neighbouring pub)
He loves to regale them, if someone else pays,
With anecdotes drawn from his palmiest days.
For he once was a Star of the highest degree--
He has acted with Irving, he's acted with Tree.
And he likes to relate his success on the Halls,
Where the Gallery once gave him seven cat-calls.
But his grandest creation, as he loves to tell,
Was Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell.

"I have played," so he says, "every possible part,
And I used to know seventy speeches by heart.
I'd extemporize back-chat, I knew how to gag,
And I knew how to let the cat out of the bag.
I knew how to act with my back and my tail;
With an hour of rehearsal, I never could fail.
I'd a voice that would soften the hardest of hearts,
Whether I took the lead, or in character parts.
I have sat by the bedside of poor Little Nell;
When the Curfew was rung, then I swung on the bell.
In the Pantomime season I never fell flat,
And I once understudied Dick Whittington's Cat.
But my grandest creation, as history will tell,
Was Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell."

Then, if someone will give him a toothful of gin,
He will tell how he once played a part in East Lynne.
At a Shakespeare performance he once walked on pat,
When some actor suggested the need for a cat.
He once played a Tiger--could do it again--
Which an Indian Colonel purused down a drain.
And he thinks that he still can, much better than most,
Produce blood-curdling noises to bring on the Ghost.
And he once crossed the stage on a telegraph wire,
To rescue a child when a house was on fire.
And he says: "Now then kittens, they do not get trained
As we did in the days when Victoria reigned.
They never get drilled in a regular troupe,
And they think they are smart, just to jump through a hoop."
And he'll say, as he scratches himself with his claws,
"Well, the Theatre's certainly not what it was.
These modern productions are all very well,
But there's nothing to equal, from what I hear tell,
That moment of mystery
When I made history
As Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Growing Old

Old Man in Sorrow (On the Threshold of Eternity)  Vincent Van Gogh
Simon Lee, the Old Huntsman
by William Wordsworth
In the sweet shire of Cardigan,
Not far from pleasant Ivor-hall,
An old man dwells, a little man, -
'Tis said he once was tall.
Full five-and-thirty years he lived
A running huntsman merry;
And still the centre of his cheek
Is red as a ripe cherry.

No man like him the horn could sound,
And hill and valley rang with glee
When Echo bandied, round and round,
The halloo of Simon Lee.
In those proud days, he little cared
For husbandry or tillage;
To blither tasks did Simon rouse
The sleepers of the village.

He all the country could outrun,
Could leave both man and horse behind;
And often, ere the chase was done,
He reeled, and was stone-blind.

And still there's something in the world
At which his heart rejoices;
For when the chiming hounds are out,
He dearly loves their voices!

But, Oh the heavy change! -bereft
Of health, strength, friends, and kindred, see!
Old Simon to the world is left
In liveried poverty.
His Master's dead, and no one now
Dwells in the Hall of Ivor;
Men, dogs, and horses, all are dead;
He is the sole survivor.

And he is lean and he is sick;
His body, dwindled and awry,
Rests upon ankles swoll'n and thick;
His legs are thin and dry.
One prop he has, and only one,
His wife, an aged woman,
Lives with him, near the waterfall,
Upon the village Common.

Beside their moss-grown hut of clay,
Not twenty paces from the door,
A scrap of land they have, but they
Are poorest of the poor.
This scrap of land he from the heath
Enclosed when he was stronger;
But what to them avails the land
Which he can till no longer?

Oft, working by her Husband's side,
Ruth does what Simon cannot do;
For she, with scanty cause for pride,
Is stouter of the two.
And, though you with your utmost skill
From labour could not wean them,
'Tis little, very little -all
That they can do between them.

Few months of life has he in store
As he to you will tell,
For still, the more he works, the more
Do his weak ankles swell.
My gentle Reader, I perceive
How patiently you've waited,
And now I fear that you expect
Some tale will be related.

O Reader! had you in your mind
Such stores as silent thought can bring,
O gentle Reader! you would find
A tale in every thing.
What more I have to say is short,
And you must kindly take it:
It is no tale; but, should you think,
Perhaps a tale you'll make it.

One summer-day I chanced to see
This old Man doing all he could
To unearth the root of an old tree,
A stump of rotten wood.
The mattock tottered in his hand;
So vain was his endeavour,
That at the root of the old tree
He might have worked for ever.

"You're overtasked, good Simon Lee,
Give me your tool," to him I said;
And at the word right gladly he
Received my proffered aid.
I struck, and with a single blow
The tangled root I severed,
At which the poor old Man so long
And vainly had endeavoured.

The tears into his eyes were brought,
And thanks and praises seemed to run
So fast out of his heart, I thought
They never would have done.
- I've heard of hearts unkind, kind deeds
With coldness still returning;
Alas! the gratitude of men
Hath oftener left me mourning.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sleepless Nights

The Nightmare  John Henry Fuseli
The Pains of Sleep
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Ere on my bed my limbs I lay, 
It hath not been my use to pray 
With moving lips or bended knees; 
But silently, by slow degrees, 
My spirit I to Love compose, 
In humble trust mine eye-lids close, 
With reverential resignation 
No wish conceived, no thought exprest, 
Only a sense of supplication; 
A sense o'er all my soul imprest 
That I am weak, yet not unblest, 
Since in me, round me, every where 
Eternal strength and Wisdom are. 

But yester-night I prayed aloud 
In anguish and in agony, 
Up-starting from the fiendish crowd 
Of shapes and thoughts that tortured me: 
A lurid light, a trampling throng, 
Sense of intolerable wrong, 
And whom I scorned, those only strong! 
Thirst of revenge, the powerless will 
Still baffled, and yet burning still! 
Desire with loathing strangely mixed 
On wild or hateful objects fixed. 
Fantastic passions! maddening brawl! 
And shame and terror over all! 
Deeds to be hid which were not hid, 
Which all confused I could not know 
Whether I suffered, or I did: 
For all seemed guilt, remorse or woe, 
My own or others still the same 
Life-stifling fear, soul-stifling shame. 

So two nights passed: the night's dismay 
Saddened and stunned the coming day. 
Sleep, the wide blessing, seemed to me 
Distemper's worst calamity. 
The third night, when my own loud scream 
Had waked me from the fiendish dream, 
O'ercome with sufferings strange and wild, 
I wept as I had been a child; 
And having thus by tears subdued 
My anguish to a milder mood, 
Such punishments, I said, were due 
To natures deepliest stained with sin,-- 
For aye entempesting anew 
The unfathomable hell within, 
The horror of their deeds to view, 
To know and loathe, yet wish and do! 
Such griefs with such men well agree, 
But wherefore, wherefore fall on me? 
To be loved is all I need, 
And whom I love, I love indeed.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Simple Things

Granny at her Wheel  Henry B. Wimbush
Beauty's Song 
by Charles Lamb
What's Life still changing ev'ry hour?
Tis all the seasons in a Day!
The Smile, the Tear, the Sun, the Show'r'
Tis now December, now tis May
At morn we hail some envied Queen;
At eve she sinks some Cottage guest;
Yet if contentment gilds the scene
Contentment makes the Cottage blest.

Who more than I, this truth can feel?
I feel it yet am charm'd to find
While thus I turn the spinning-wheel
The station humbles not the mind.
Ah no! in days of youth and health
Nature will smile tho' fortune frown
Be this my song Content is wealth'
And duty ev'ry toil shall crown.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Child's Play

Boy With a Toy Soldier  Pierre-Auguste Renoir
The Land of Counterpane
by Robert Louis Stevenson 
When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay,
To keep me happy all the day.

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Man and Woman in the Street  Charles Angrand
Love and Friendship
by Emily Bronte
Love is like the wild rose-briar,
Friendship like the holly-tree
The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms
But which will bloom most constantly?

The wild-rose briar is sweet in the spring,
Its summer blossoms scent the air;
Yet wait till winter comes again
And who will call the wild-briar fair?

Then scorn the silly rose-wreath now
And deck thee with the holly's sheen,
That when December blights thy brow
He may still leave thy garland green.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sleep, My Baby

The Cradle  Berthe Morisot
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod 
by Eugene Field
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe,--
Sailed on a river of crystal light
Into a sea of dew.
"Where are you going, and what do you wish?"
The old moon asked the three.
"We have come to fish for the herring-fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we,"
Said Wynken,
And Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe;
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew;
The little stars were the herring-fish
That lived in the beautiful sea.
"Now cast your nets wherever you wish,--
Never afraid are we!"
So cried the stars to the fishermen three,
And Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam,--
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
Bringing the fishermen home:
'Twas all so pretty a sail, it seemed
As if it could not be;
And some folk thought 'twas a dream they'd dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea;
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
And Nod.

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
Is a wee one's trundle-bed;
So shut your eyes while Mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:--
And Nod.

Friday, January 21, 2011

This Planet Earth

Henry the Navigator  Nuno Goncalves
 by Eleanor Farjeon
Islands and peninsulas, continents and capes,
Dromedaries, cassowaries, elephants and apes,
Rivers, lakes and waterfalls, whirlpools and the sea,
Valley-beds and mountain-tops - - are all Geography!

The capitals of Europe with so many curious names,
The North Pole and the South Pole and Vesuvius in flames,
Rice-fields, ice-fields, cotton-fields, fields of maize and tea,
The Equator and the Hemispheres - - are all Geography!

The very streets I live in, and the meadows where I play,
Are just as much Geography as countries far away,
Where yellow girls and coffee boys are learning about me
One little white-skinned stranger who is in Geography!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Machinations of the Mind

Hand With Reflectiong Shpere   M.C. Escher
No Labor-Saving Machine
by Walt Whitman
NO labor-saving machine,
Nor discovery have I made;
Nor will I be able to leave behind me any wealthy bequest to found a hospital or library,
Nor reminiscence of any deed of courage, for America,
Nor literary success, nor intellect—nor book for the book-shelf;
Only a few carols, vibrating through the air, I leave,
For comrades and lovers.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Little Night Music

The Banjo Lesson  Henry Ossawa Tanner 

Dream Variations 

by Langston Hughes
To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me-
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening...
A tall, slim tree...
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Winter Wilds

Figures in a Winter Landscape  Frederik Marinus Kruseman
Bilbo's Song of Winter
by J.R.R. Tolkien
When winter first begins to bite
and stones crack in the frosty night,
when pools are black and trees are bare,
'tis evil in the Wild to fare.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Winter Resignations

Winter Landscape  Caspar David Friedrich
Winter: A Dirge
by Robert Burns

The wintry west extends his blast,
And hail and rain does blaw;
Or the stormy north sends driving forth
The blinding sleet and snaw:
While, tumbling brown, the burn comes down,
And roars frae bank to brae;
And bird and beast in covert rest,
And pass the heartless day.

“The sweeping blast, the sky o’ercast,”
The joyless winter day
Let others fear, to me more dear
Than all the pride of May:
The tempest’s howl, it soothes my soul,
My griefs it seems to join;
The leafless trees my fancy please,
Their fate resembles mine!

Thou Power Supreme, whose mighty scheme
These woes of mine fulfil,
Here firm I rest; they must be best,
Because they are Thy will!
Then all I want—O do Thou grant
This one request of mine!—
Since to enjoy Thou dost deny,
Assist me to resign.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Shakespeare's Ophelia

Ophelia  John Everett Millais 
Queen Gertrude Describes Ophelia's Death
by William Shakespeare (Hamlet)
There is a willow grows aslant a brook,
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream;
There with fantastic garlands did she come
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them:
There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke;
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide;
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up:
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes;
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element: but long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pull'd the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Pull of the Sea

Fishermen at Sea  Joseph Mallord William Turner
Sea Fever
by John Masefield 
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, 
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by, 
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking, 
And a gray mist on the sea's face, and a gray dawn breaking. 

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide 
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied; 
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying, 
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying. 

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life, 
To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife; 
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover, 
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Stuff of Legends

Sir Galahad  Herbert Gustave Schmalz
Sir Galahad
by Lord Alfred Tennyson

My good blade carves the casques of men,
My tough lance thrusteth sure,
My strength is as the strength of ten,
Because my heart is pure.
The shattering trumpet shrilleth high,
The hard brands shiver on the steel,
The splinter'd spear-shafts crack and fly,
The horse and rider reel:
They reel, they roll in clanging lists,
And when the tide of combat stands,
Perfume and flowers fall in showers,
That lightly rain from ladies' hands.

How sweet are looks that ladies bend
On whom their favours fall!
From them I battle till the end,
To save from shame and thrall:
But all my heart is drawn above,
My knees are bow'd in crypt and shrine:
I never felt the kiss of love,
Nor maiden's hand in mine.
More bounteous aspects on me beam,
Me mightier transports move and thrill;
So keep I fair thro' faith and prayer
A virgin heart in work and will.

When down the stormy crescent goes,
A light before me swims,
Between dark stems the forest glows,
I hear a noise of hymns:
Then by some secret shrine I ride;
I hear a voice but none are there;
The stalls are void, the doors are wide,
The tapers burning fair.
Fair gleams the snowy altar-cloth,
The silver vessels sparkle clean,
The shrill bell rings, the censer swings,
And solemn chaunts resound between.

Sometime on lonely mountain-meres
I find a magic bark;
I leap on board: no helmsman steers:
I float till all is dark.
A gentle sound, an awful light!
Three angels bear the holy Grail:
With folded feet, in stoles of white,
On sleeping wings they sail.
Ah, blessed vision! blood of God!
My spirit beats her mortal bars,
As down dark tides the glory slides,
And star-like mingles with the stars.

When on my goodly charger borne
Thro' dreaming towns I go,
The cock crows ere the Christmas morn,
The streets are dumb with snow.
The tempest crackles on the leads,
And, ringing, springs from brand and mail;
But o'er the dark a glory spreads,
And gilds the driving hail.
I leave the plain, I climb the height;
No branchy thicket shelter yields;
But blessed forms in whistling storms
Fly o'er waste fens and windy fields.

A maiden knight--to me is given
Such hope, I know not fear;
I yearn to breathe the airs of heaven
That often meet me here.
I muse on joy that will not cease,
Pure spaces clothed in living beams,
Pure lilies of eternal peace,
Whose odours haunt my dreams;
And, stricken by an angel's hand,
This mortal armour that I wear,
This weight and size, this heart and eyes,
Are touch'd, are turn'd to finest air.

The clouds are broken in the sky,
And thro' the mountain-walls
A rolling organ-harmony
Swells up, and shakes and falls.
Then move the trees, the copses nod,
Wings flutter, voices hover clear:
"O just and faithful knight of God!
Ride on! the prize is near."
So pass I hostel, hall, and grange;
By bridge and ford, by park and pale,
All-arm'd I ride, whate'er betide,
Until I find the holy Grail.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Snapshot of Holland

The Avenue at Middelharnis  Meindert Hobbema
Memory of Holland
by Hendrik Marsman

Thinking of Holland
I see wide rivers slowly
flowing through endless
low-lying land,
gossamer poplars
on the horizon
in wispish ranks;
and in the expanses of
space, sunken farmsteads
randomly strewn over
flat countryside,
tree-clusters, hamlets,
truncated steeples,
churches and elm trees
in a net flung wide.
The sky there hangs low
and the sun slowly stifles
in vapours where multiple
greys become blurred,
and in every far corner
the voice of the water
with its countless disasters
is feared and is heard.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Shadowy Thoughts

Snow Shadows  Tom Thompson   
Tree Shadows
Japanese poem
All hushed the trees are waiting
On tiptoe for the sight
Of moonrise shedding splendor
Across the dusk of night.

Ah, now the moon is risen
And lo, without a sound
The trees all write their welcome
Far along the ground!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Skating Lessons

Learning to Skate
by Emilie Blackmore Stapp
When brother teaches her to skate,
They never stay out very late,
But, oh, it is such fun!
With sister holding fast one hand, 
She feels grown-up and much too grand,
To want to skip or run.

She tells them both that she thinks they
Should hurry home from school each day,--
For it gets dark so soon--
And take her to the meadow pond,
Or to the river just beyond,
To skate each afternoon.

Her skating lessons are a game,
That you might call by any name--
In frostly winter air,
The wind gives her a little ride
With brother laughing at her side,
The Ice King everywhere!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Jack Frost

Frosted Windows  Charles Buchfield
Jack Frost
by Gabriel Setoun
The door was shut, as doors should be, 
Before you went to bed last night; 
Yet Jack Frost has got in, you see, 
And left your window silver white. 

He must have waited till you slept; 
And not a single word he spoke, 
But pencilled o’er the panes and crept 
Away again before you woke.

And now you cannot see the hills 
Nor fields that stretch beyond the lane; 
But there are fairer things than these 
His fingers traced on every pane. 

Rocks and castles towering high; 
Hills and dales, and streams and fields; 
And knights in armor riding by, 
With nodding plumes and shining shields. 

And here are little boats, and there 
Big ships with sails spread to the breeze; 
And yonder, palm trees waving fair 
On islands set in silver seas, 

And butterflies with gauzy wings; 
And herds of cows and flocks of sheep; 
And fruit and flowers and all the things 
You see when you are sound asleep. 

For, creeping softly underneath 
The door when all the lights are out, 
Jack Frost takes every breath you breathe, 
And knows the things you think about. 

He paints them on the window-pane 
In fairy lines with frozen steam; 
And when you wake you see again 
The lovely things you saw in dream.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


The Starry Night  Vincent VanGogh
by an Unknown Poet
I'm glad the stars are over me
and not beneath my feet,
Where I should not trample on them
like cobbles on the street.

I think it is a happy thing
that they are set so far;
It's best to have to look up high
when you would see a star.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Winter Birches, Summer Birches

Birch Forest  Gustav Klimt
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.
Ice-storms do that. 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-coloured
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.

Friday, January 7, 2011

No, You Can't Hurry Love

John William Waterhouse  Ophelia
Down by the Salley Gardens 

by William Butler Yeats
Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish, with her would not agree. 

In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


The Sacred Three Kings
Leopold Lupelwieser
Matthew 2:1-6 and 9-11
Now after Jesus was born 
in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, 
behold, wise men from the East 
came to Jerusalem, saying,
“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? 
For we have seen His star in the East 
and have come to worship Him.”

The Magi in the House of Herod
James Tissot

When Herod the king heard this, 
he was troubled, 
and all Jerusalem with him.
And when he had gathered all the chief priests 
and scribes of the people together, 
he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 
So they said to him, 
Adoration of the Magi Jan Gossaert

“In Bethlehem of Judea, 
for thus it is written by the prophet: 
‘ But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.'"

Adoration of the Magi
Abraham Blomaert
When they heard the king, they departed; 
and behold, 
the star which they had seen in the East went before them, 
till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 
When they saw the star, 
they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.
And when they had come into the house, 
they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, 
and fell down and worshiped Him. 
And when they had opened their treasures, 
they presented gifts to Him: 
 gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

The Nativity
Bernardino Jacopi Butinone

The Crucifiction  Matthias Grunewald

Resurrection of Christ
and Women at the Tomb

Fra Angelico          
Revelation 22:20
“Surely I am coming quickly."


Even so, 
come, Lord Jesus! 

The Last Judgement  Rogier Van der Weyden

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Eleventh Day of Christmas

The Madonna
Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato

John 1:14 and 16-17
And the Word became flesh 
and dwelt among us, 
and we beheld His glory, 
the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, 
The Resurrection  Carl Heinrich Bloch
full of grace and truth. 
And of His fullness we have all received, 
and grace for grace. 
For the law was given 
through Moses,
but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.