Spring To Burning Speech

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Johan Sebastian Welhaven

 Norway’s Dawn

By Johan Sebastian Cammermeyer Welhaven (1807–1873)
Translation by William Morton Payne

OH, like a youth our race with courage bold
Shall yet wax strong behind its mountain rim;
While many an evil giant, fierce and grim,
Shall fall, and lie in death’s embraces cold.

And valorous deeds, like those men did of old,
Shall here once more be praised in song and hymn;
The life renewed of saga-ages dim,
In glowing words shall once again be told.

The word shall turn to act of high emprise;
The thought now hushed shall spring to burning speech
In hall of counsel and the sacred fane.

The noisy shout shall cease, the precept wise
Shall take its place, and, far as sight may reach,
The gleam shall grow into the light again.


Johan Sebastia Welhaven made his name by attacking the crude patriotic poetry popular at the time and espoused the theory that poetry should be beautiful as well as meaningful.  His feud with Henrik Wergeland, a popular nationalist poet, makes more sense when put in the contest that he was romantically involved with Wergeland’s younger sister. This was a good old fashioned machismo showdown of who’s got the bigger swagger and to my mind Welhaven certainly won.  There’s nothing sweeter than besting your rival than by seducing his sister.

His celebration of the romantic tradition inspired other artists of his day, including Edward Grieg and Ibsen. Welhaven opposed the theories of the extreme nationalists and desired that Norwegian culture align itself with the rest of Europe.  Welhaven gave voice to his aesthetic creed in the 1834 sonnet cycle Norges Dæmring (“The Dawn of Norway”), one of which is highlighted above. The sonnets spoke of his love Norway in tightly constructed sonnets. Welhaven extended his influence into Norwegian culture as an academic by teaching for 26 years at the Royal Frederik’s University in Christiania, delivering lectures on literary subjects.


Everyday

by Olav H. Hauge

You’ve left the big storms
behind you now.
You didn’t ask then
why you were born,
where you came from, where you were going to,
you were just there in the storm,
in the fire.
But it’s possible to live
in the everyday as well,
in the grey quiet day,
set potatoes, rake leaves,
carry brushwood.
There’s so much to think about here in the world,
one life is not enough for it all.
After work you can fry bacon
and read Chinese poems.
Old Laertes cut briars,
dug round his fig trees,
and let the heroes fight on at Troy.

Hope Without An Object Cannot Live

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Reppkleiv, Norway

Work Without Hope

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

All Nature seems at work. Slugs leave their lair—
The bees are stirring—birds are on the wing—
And Winter slumbering in the open air,
Wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring!
And I the while, the sole unbusy thing,
Nor honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing.

Yet well I ken the banks where amaranths blow,
Have traced the fount whence streams of nectar flow.
Bloom, O ye amaranths! bloom for whom ye may,
For me ye bloom not! Glide, rich streams, away!
With lips unbrightened, wreathless brow, I stroll:
And would you learn the spells that drowse my soul?
Work without Hope draws nectar in a sieve,
And Hope without an object cannot live.

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The Worst To Please Is A Carpenter

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Roan, Norway

Mountain Life

by Henrik Ibsen

IN summer dusk the valley lies
With far-flung shadow veil;
A cloud-sea laps the precipice
Before the evening gale:

The welter of the cloud-waves grey
Cuts off from keenest sight
The glacier, looking out by day
O’er all the district, far away,
And crowned with golden light.

But o’er the smouldering cloud-wrack’s flow,
Where gold and amber kiss,
Stands up the archipelago,
home of shining peace.

The mountain eagle seems to sail
A ship far seen at even;
And over all a serried pale
Of peaks, like giants ranked in mail,
Fronts westward threatening heaven.

But look, a steading nestles, close
Beneath the ice-fields bound,
Where purple cliffs and glittering snows
The quiet home surround.

Here place and people seem to be
A world apart, alone;
— Cut off from men by spate and scree
It has a heaven more broad, more free,
A sunshine all its own.

Look: mute the saeter-maiden stays,
Half shadow, half aflame;
The deep, still vision of her gaze
Was never word to name.

She names it not herself, nor knows
What goal my be its will;
While cow-bells chime and alp-horn blows
It bears her where the sunset glows,
Or, maybe, further still.

Too brief, thy life on highland wolds
Where close the glaciers jut;
Too soon the snowstorm’s cloak enfolds
Stone byre and pine-log hut.

Then wilt thou ply with hearth ablaze
The winter’s well-worn tasks
— But spin thy wool with cheerful face:
One sunset in the mountain pays
For all their winter asks.


I have spent the past week in Roan, Norway, a rural area north of Trondheim, that is a combination of rocky highlands dotted with small dairy farms in the river bottoms.   The beauty of Norway is hard to put into words, hiking in nearly pristine wilderness, the wild blue berries and mountain berries in full splendor this week among the moss and ferns in pine forests. The waters clear and blue, making there way into the fjords, I had the good fortune to be invited to spend some time at a friends, friend cabin that provided precious silence, multiple days with only the sounds of nature except for one or two airplanes over the course of several days. That experience of not being able to hear any man-made noise is a centering, sacred experience, bringing me back to something more basic that calls me to simplify my life.  Having spent several marvelous days in new and old Norwegian mountain cabins, my love of small houses has been rekindled and the urge to build one someplace in Minnesota is strong.

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I used this opportunity while in Norway to investigate the legacy of Norway’s literature. Rich as it is with playwrights, (Ibsen) and novelists and poetry (Olav Hauge and Welhaven), outside of Welhaven’s sonnet cycle called Norges Daemring I found English translations of Norwegian poetry a bit slim pickings on the internet.  It may well be that I have not figured out the right search terms or it could be Norwegian poets are unconcerned with English translations and prefer to let people read their work in Norwegian.

Hauge’s work in English has a bit of similarity to William Carlos Williams with a similar dry sense of humor that runs through it.  Everyone in rural Norway it seems is a carpenter as it were, with self made cabins, barns and even houses more the norm than the exception.   As much as I enjoyed the beauty of Norway, I am eager to get home.  The inability to communicate effectively has made me homesick for Minnesota and the beauty of the English language.   Brah!


Poem

by Olav H. Hauge
Translated by Robert Hedin

If you can make a poem
a farmer finds useful,
you should be happy.
A blacksmith you can never figure out.
The worst to please is a carpenter.

While Lingering Whispers Deepen

Maramag
Fernando Maramag

Moonlight on Manila Bay

By Fernando M. Maramag (1893 – 1936)

A light, serene, ethereal glory rests
Its beams effulgent on each crestling wave;
The silver touches of the moonlight wave
The deep bare bosom that the breeze molests;
While lingering whispers deepen as the wavy crests
Roll with weird rhythm, now gay, now gently grave;
And floods of lambent light appear the sea to pave-
All cast a spell that heeds not time‘s behests.

Not always such the scene; the din of fight
Has swelled the murmur of the peaceful air;
Here East and West have oft displayed their might;
Dark battle clouds have dimmed this scene so fair;
Here bold Olympia, one historic night,
Presaging freedom, claimed a people‘s care.


Marmag’s sonnet is written as a sentimental homage to a simpler time before the Philippine’s became a pawn in the imperial conquests of Japan and the United States.  Manila Bay is an important geographical military asset for the country which hoped to control the Pacific ocean.

I harkened at a recent MPR story about the return of a church bell which the United States Navy had taken as a spoil of war in which Maramag’s sonnet is set.  The Balangiga town’s church bells were taken as war trophies during the 1899-1902 Philippine-American War and had languished in relative obscurity in an army warehouse.  But the Philippine town and the country had not forgotten about them and through an act of contrition and forgiveness the bells were returned after 117 years so that they could be restored to the bell towers in which they belonged, to herald hope that someday we might find ways to negotiate in ways that don’t require domination and subjugation as the starting point but rather equanimity, with the mutual goal of creating the best outcomes for a complex world.


To the Man I Married
Angela Manalang-Gloria

I
You are my earth and all the earth implies:
The gravity that ballasts me in space,
The air I breathe, the land that stills my cries
For food and shelter against devouring days.
You are the earth whose orbit marks my way
And sets my north and south, my east and west,
You are the final, elemented clay
The driven heart must turn to for its rest.

If in your arms that hold me now so near
I lift my keening thoughts to Helicon
As trees long rooted to the earth uprear
Their quickening leaves and flowers to the sun,
You who are earth, O never doubt that I
Need you no less because I need the sky!

II
I can not love you with a love
That outcompares the boundless sea,
For that were false, as no such love
And no such ocean can ever be.

But I can love you with a love
As finite as the wave that dies
And dying holds from crest to crest
The blue of everlasting skies.

Bless You and Amen

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The view of the dome of Westminster Church Minneapolis from where my Mom and I always sat together

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.

Martin Luther

Grandeur

by T. A. Fry 

Beneath the vast white dome of Westminster,
While bathed in the blue light of Christ the King.
There awaits a hoard of regal treasure
For my beloved when the choir sings.
It’s not the crown jewels set within the Rose
or music’s grandeur from the massive organ.
Nor found in prayers the clergy propose
Should you attend on a Sunday morn’in.
I’ve magically endowed a gold home-fort
to dwell in the hearts of those I love.
For when you need a touch of comfort,
“Ere I’m silent in the loft above.
Shushhhh…. listen, to all this morning’s hymns.
They’re singing; “I love you. Bless you and amen.”

November 2015


I wrote recently about my muse, but I should distinguish between when the muse visits and a writing prompt.   One of the reasons I attend church at Westminster is that often I come away from the service with a writing prompt; something said during the service gives me an idea for a poem.  Sometimes it is a singular word that will set the creative process in motion, sometimes it is an entire line of poetry, and I’ll jot it down in the margin of my bulletin.

I’m not sure who said it first, but one of my favorite sayings about the experience of attending Westminster is “bring your brain to church.” For me that means being fully present and open to ideas.  When my muse visits, the ideas are fully formed and my fingers are propelled as if by an unseen force writing the poem for me.  Oh Darkest Night was written by my Muse.  Grandeur was written by me based on one line that formed in my head during a service, “Beneath the vast white dome of Westminster.” Then it was a matter of sitting down and figuring out the rest.

The Sunday I wrote Grandeur, in the fall before my Mother passed, Liz gave me a history lesson on the gorgeous windows called Christ the King and the Tiffany styled window called the Rose.   The Rose stylistically does not fit with the rest of the windows in the main sanctuary and I had asked Liz about it.  She gave me a 15 minute history lesson about Westminster. The original church was built several blocks north, and was largely destroyed in a fire. The patrons of this church were several of the families from the mill district and the retail barons that the wealth of the milling district in Minneapolis fostered.  One of those families, who founded Daytons department stores, which went on to become Target Corporation, were generous in their contributions to the design and construction of the current building in 1898.  The Rose window was a gift from one of the families. and was built by a company separate from the rest of the windows in the sanctuary.

The design of the church was radical at the time it was built, with its oval shaped sanctuary and the choir and organ situated in the front behind the pulpit.  It moved away from the traditional long narrow design of most churches and made a statement about inclusiveness. The Westminster of today is a far more liberal, progressive congregation than its past. Liz had a hand in moving Westminster on its journey of inclusion and equality and equity. Liz paved a path in the broader Presbyterian church to break down barriers of gender inequality, some overt, some subtle, some just bald headed stupid tradition, that prevented woman from certain roles in the church. Liz and many other women through their intelligent example and wise patience and brave voices have readied Westminster to eventually break through the glass ceiling for its first female lead pastor in the near future.

Grandeur came about on that Sunday afternoon.   I went home that November day and it did not take long to come up with a first draft and within a couple of days the final version took shape.  It was a gift to my Mother and in a way Liz, and I read it to them the following Sunday after the service.  It is a postcard of those many Sundays that I wanted to hold on to, that feeling of togetherness, knowing I would be able to tap into those memories, those feelings when my Mother and Liz would no longer be by my side in our spot in the back of the church where there was a cut out that accommodated Liz’s wheel chair.

Westminster is a sacred place for me.  I can feel my Mother’s presence some Sundays seated in the pew.   I can feel her wisdom and kindness and generous spirit encouraging me onward, to be my better self, knowing that love she had/has for me continues onward, unabated.

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Westminster Church in Minneapolis with the south facing Christ The King window and the west facing towards the street Rose window visible in this picture.
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Christ the King
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The Rose
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The view of the front of the  sanctuary from our regular spot.

 

 

 

Giving It Verbal Hell

Dublin Bar

300 – The Dream Songs
Henry Comforted

by John Berryman

Your first day in Dublin is always your worst
& today is better, as when thirty years ago
I recovered my spirits at once.
Unshaven, tieless, with the most expensive drink in the room,
I have recovered a little.  The room is filling
with Irish types – one gorgeous girl,

pipe-men, cigarette-men, a portentous black beard,
& the accents are flying: the all-service man
is a giant with a shock of red hair & and easy air.
Henry is feeling better,
owing to three gin-&-vermouths.
He is seeking where to live & pursue his work.

The Irish are not neat, except in the Book of Kells,
The skirts are as short here as in Minnesota.
What the services need
is a teen-age H-bomb: fashions their elders can follow,
His shoes are monumental, Egyptian, ay
the two at me left are giving it verbal hell.


I wonder what Berryman and Dowden would have ordered in a Dublin bar together if time travel made that meeting possible?   Guinness? Irish whisky?  Or hard cider?   Let’s make it a double and sit down for a while, the conversation around poetry is going to run well into the night.

From their poetry I would deduce that both Berryman and Dowden had the gift for listening, though Berryman toiled with much greater freedom in how to set his fellow man’s tongue upon the page.  Greater freedom was not enough to save Berryman, or maybe I miss the point of his demise, being too judgmental. Maybe freedom is precisely what he achieved.

Today’s post is number 300 for Fourteenlines.  The journey continues to be entertaining and challenging, at least for me.  I sometimes worry that my format might not stand up to the test of 1,000 posts, becoming mundane and formulaic in the eyes of readers other than myself. I hope I deliver a surprise now and again in both the varied authors poetry that I share and in a couple of lines in my commentary.  I appreciate the people from all over the world that touch base with Fourteenlines, either as a regular visitor or as a one time interaction, looking for the exact poem to fill up their cup.  Remember, I welcome feedback, take requests and am open to guest bloggers. Be well, write without judgement of yourself and breathe.


Darwinism in Morals

Edward Dowden (1843-1913)

High instincts, dim perversions, sacred fears,
–Whence issuing? Are they but the brain’s amassed
Tradition, shapings of a barbarous past,
Remoulded ever by the younger years,
Mixed with fresh clay, and kneaded with new tears?
No more? The dead chief’s ghost a shadow cast
Across the roving clan, and thence at last
Comes God, who in the soul His law uprears?
Is this the whole? Has not the Future powers
To match the Past,–attractions, pulsings, tides,
And voices for purged ears? Is all our light
The glow of ancient sunsets and lost hours?
Advance no banners up heaven’s eastern sides?
Trembles the margin with no portent bright?

The World’s True Lover

Malcolm Guite
Malcolm Guite

“Some things are too great to come at directly. Just as we may weave back and forth as we climb a hill, and appear to be going round in circles, yet all the while are coming closer to the summit, so in our religious and spiritual life things may seem circuitous; we may think we have come back to the same spot, but always, if we press on, it is a little higher, a little closer to the truth.”

Malcolm Guite

The Anointing At Bethany

by Malcolm Guite

Come close with Mary, Martha , Lazarus
So close the candles stir with their soft breath
And kindle heart and soul to flame within us
Lit by these mysteries of life and death.
For beauty now begins the final movement
In quietness and intimate encounter
The alabaster jar of precious ointment
Is broken open for the world’s true lover,

The whole room richly fills to feast the senses
With all the yearning such a fragrance brings,
The heart is mourning but the spirit dances,
Here at the very centre of all things,
Here at the meeting place of love and loss
We all foresee, and see beyond the cross.

 

A friend asked me recently, “Do any of us really see what is going on in another person’s life?” It was in reference to an unimaginable tragedy, the death of a beloved spouse. My answer was yes we do.  Its what death brings, a spotlight into the reality of our friends and families lives.  There’s no hiding in death for the grieving. Grief is a public, communal act.  An act of giving to each other the gift of remembrance, support, and sharing of sadness.  But that spotlight doesn’t last very long before the community moves on, because it must move on, beyond the place of just love and loss, and back to the place of love and life, to see beyond the cross.

Malcolm Guite is one of those big minds whose energy comes through his poetry, his oratory, his intention.   He is a fellow lover of sonnets.   The video below is an example of his clever wisdom and a good reminder on the power of words.