Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Fern Hill

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
And playing, lovely and watery
And fire green as grass.
And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
Flying with the ricks, and the horses
Flashing into the dark.

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
The sky gathered again
And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
Out of the whinnying green stable
On to the fields of praise.

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
In the sun born over and over,
I ran my heedless ways,
My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
Before the children green and golden
Follow him out of grace,

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

~by Dylan Thomas

Teepee made by children as a birthday gift to me.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Call

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life!
Such a Way as gives us breath,
Such a Truth as ends all strife.
Such a Life as killeth Death.

Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength!
Such a Light as shows a feast,
Such a Feast as mends in length,
Such a Strength as makes his guest.

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart!
Such a Joy as none can move.
Such a Love as none can part,
Such a Heart as joyes in love.

~George Herbert

Apse mosaic of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington DC

Friday, August 24, 2007

On Via Appia Antica

The Roman Road

The Roman Road runs straight and bare
As the pale parting-line in hair
Across the heath. And thoughtful men
Contrast its days of Now and Then,
And delve, and measure, and compare;

Visioning on the vacant air
Helmeted legionnaires, who proudly rear
The Eagle, as they pace again
The Roman Road.

But no tall brass-helmeted legionnaire
Haunts it for me. Uprises there
A mother’s form upon my ken,
Guiding my infant steps, as when
We walked that ancient thoroughfare,
The Roman Road.

~by Thomas Hardy

Via Appia Antica on a perfect late spring morning

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Summer Rain

Before Summer Rain

Suddenly, from all the green around you,
something-you don't know what-has disappeared;
you feel it creeping closer to the window,
in total silence. From the nearby wood

you hear the urgent whistling of a plover,
reminding you of someone's Saint Jerome:
so much solitude and passion come
from that one voice, whose fierce request the downpour

will grant. The walls, with their ancient portraits, glide
away from us, cautiously, as though
they weren't supposed to hear what we are saying.

And reflected on the faded tapestries now;
the chill, uncertain sunlight of those long
childhood hours when you were so afraid.

~Rainer Maria Rilke

Thursday, August 16, 2007

King and Saint

Monarchists, arise. Today is the feast day of St. Stephen of Hungary, Christian King and Saint exemplar.

Stephen divided Hungary into forty to fifty counties and continued the work of his father Géza by applying the decimal organizational system of his ancestors. He set up ten dioceses in Hungary, ordering every ten villages to erect a church and maintain a priest. He founded the cathedrals of Székesfehérvár and Esztergom, the Nunnery of Veszprém, the Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma, and the Monastery of Saint Peter and Paul in Óbuda. In the abbeys and monasteries, schools were established, and they became important centers of culture. Saint Astricus served as Stephen's advisor, and Stephen also had Saint Gerard Sagredo as the tutor for his son Imre.

Stephen discouraged pagan customs and strengthened Christianity with various laws, including ending the use of the old Hungarian runic alphabet and making Latin the official language of the royal court. Stephen donated generously to the churches, visited them often, and supervised their construction. He often disguised himself as a peasant whenever he traveled and freely gave money to any poor people he met (in one account, Stephen was beaten and robbed by a group of beggars to whom he was giving alms, but he forgave them and spared their lives).

St. Stephen's Holy Crown

The upper part of the crown, called Latin crown, which is cross-shaped and overarches the Greek crown in an angle of 90 degrees, indicates more modern and less exquisite workmanship, mediaeval implementing. Its denomination is due to the Latin inscriptions surrounding the figures. The four gold plates were fit to the sides of the middle square, which depicts Christ Pantokrator and is obviously part of the Greek crown though the symbols of the sun and the moon are present on it. The polychrome enamelled images of the standing figures of eighth apostles Peter, Paul, John, James, Bartholomew, Philip, Thomas and Andrew were set onto the cross-connecting bands. The pictures are lined with pearls and almandine and their sides are decorated with zoomorphic motifs. It is difficult to determine the place and age of the making of this crown, it may have been fashioned somewhere in Hungarian territory in the late 12th century.

The uniting of the two crown took place in a rather simple fashion, without any modification of the adjoining parts, using rivets whose points can still be seen on the smooth surface of the gold plate. This assemblage was probably done during the reign of Béla III (1171-1196), perhaps the Latin crown was meant for him. The cross on the top came into being later, presumably in the middle of the 16th century, replacing an earlier one, made in the time of Béla III or on the occasion of the coronation of Endre III in 1290, but this is still disputed. It is also uncertain exactly when the cross was damaged, which is now bent into an angle of 12 degrees, it might have happened between 1613 and 1793 .

St. Stephen's Right Hand

The king's right hand, known as "The Holy Right", is kept as a relic. His body was mummified after his death, but the tomb was opened and his hand was separated some years later. Except for this, only some bone fragments remained (which are kept in churches throughout Hungary). Catholics honour the first king of their country on annual processions, where the Holy Right is exhibited.

Stephen was also canonised by the Eastern Orthodox Church in 2000, thus became the first saint recognised both by Orthodoxy and Catholicism since the Great Schism.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Assumption

Its flowers are too stainless to remain
Concealed in the dark caverns of the earth,
But must be lifted up by God again
To know a second spring - a glad rebirth!
How could Christ leave her body in the tomb
Who was above all other women blest,
Who gave Him refuge in her virgin womb,
And fed Him on the lilies of her breast?
Is she not fairer far than any flower?
What bloom could ever boast her loveliness?
What fragrance rose in its sequestered bower
Has ever vied with her in spotlessness?
Truly the Lord, her God, the Holy One,
Has placed His tabernacle in the sun.

~Thomas E. Burke

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

On the Eve of the Assumption

Announcement of Death to the Virgin

Parting from St. John

Parting from the Apostles

Death of Mary

Panels from the Maestà, by Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1308-11

~An excerpt from Rainer Maria Rilke's, Of Mary's Death from Life of Mary

They came with heavy hearts and entered fearfully.
There lay, in a narrow bed, the one, enigmatically
steeped in being chosen and vanishing,
unharmed, as if never used, and paid attention
to angelic chant. Now that she saw them all,
waiting behind their candles, she tore herself
from the excess of the voices and gave,
from her heart, the two dresses she still owned,
raising her face to one and another...
(O fount of nameless tear-brooks).

She however laid down into her weakness and
pulled the heavens so close to Jerusalem
that her soul, leaving, only had to stretch a little:
already he, who know everything about her,
nudged her into her divine nature.

~Translation by Gerald Augustinus Naus

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Sacred Streets

The corn has turned from grey to red,
Since first my spirit wandered forth
From the drear cities of the north,
And to Italia's mountains fled.

And here I set my face towards home,
For all my pilgrimage is done,
Although, methinks, yon blood-red sun
Marshals the way to Holy Rome.

O Blessed Lady, who dost hold
Upon the seven hills thy reign!
O Mother without blot or stain,
Crowned with bright crowns of triple gold!

O Roma, Roma, at thy feet
I lay this barren gift of song!
For, ah! the way is steep and long
That leads unto thy sacred street.


And yet what joy it were for me
To turn my feet unto the south,
And journeying towards the Tiber mouth
To kneel again at Fiesole!

And wandering through the tangled pines
That break the gold of Arno's stream,
To see the purple mist and gleam
Of morning on the Apennines

By many a vineyard-hidden home,
Orchard and olive-garden grey,
Till from the drear Campagna's way
The seven hills bear up the dome!


A pilgrim from the northern seas--
What joy for me to seek alone
The wondrous temple and the throne
Of him who holds the awful keys!

When, bright with purple and with gold
Come priest and holy cardinal,
And borne above the heads of all
The gentle Shepherd of the Fold.

O joy to see before I die
The only God-anointed king,
And hear the silver trumpets ring
A triumph as he passes by!

Or at the brazen-pillared shrine
Holds high the mystic sacrifice,
And shows his God to human eyes
Beneath the veil of bread and wine.

~Oscar Wilde, from Rome Unvisited

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Tu es Petrus

Today's Gospel (Matthew 16:16-19) in Latin:

Respondens Simon Petrus dixit: Tu es Christus, Filius Dei vivi.

Respondens autem Jesus, dixit ei: Beatus es Simon Bar Jona: quia caro et sanguis non revelavit tibi, sed Pater meus, qui in cælis est. Et ego dico tibi, quia tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram ædificabo Ecclesiam meam, et portæ inferi non prævalebunt adversus eam. Et tibi dabo claves regni cælorum. Et quodcumque ligaveris super terram, erit ligatum et in cælis: et quodcumque solveris super terram, erit solutum et in cælis.

Monday, August 6, 2007


I live my life in growing rings
which move out over the things around me.
Perhaps I'll never complete the last,
but that's what I mean to try.

I'm circling around God, around the ancient tower,
and I've been circling thousands years;
and I still don't know: am I a falcon, a storm
or a great song.

~Rainer Maria Rilke, Book of the Hours

Goldfish found in the fountain pool of Santi Quattro Coronati, Rome (click on image for larger resolution). The cloister in Santi Quattro was simply enchanting...not necessarily for orderly perfection, but for the surprising serenity that one finds there. The fountain is from the 12th century and has whimsical lions' faces carved on the stone.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Whiting Bay, Isle of Arran, Scotland

Listen to Capercaillie's I Will Set my Ship in Order

One of my favorite places in the world...it's Scotland in miniature, from the Highlands in the north to the rolling hills of the south of the Isle of Arran. I love its solitude, the windswept hills, the heather-covered mountains, the weathered ancient stones whose writings have faded, and the silly sheep grazing without care. I wish I could describe for you the brilliant sapphire blue skies. There's a loneliness there that gives one room to breathe.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Unremembered Gate

Gate to Traquair House, near Peebles, Scotland

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

~T. S. Eliot, from Little Gidding