Sunday Poems.

There is a promise in the service of God that you will be part of a priesthood that is eternal. That things will end up with reward. What Newman writes is true. But he did not think overmuch of the pain: he was, after all Victorian and considered what he gave up — which was a lot — to convert to Catholicism trivial. He glossed over that. I think that is an error, and the error is that it is not a little that you give. It is all.


Without father, without mother, without descent; having neither beginning of days, nor end of life.

THRICE bless’d are they, who feel their loneliness;
To whom nor voice of friends nor pleasant scene
Brings that on which the sadden’d heart can lean;
Yea, the rich earth, garb’d in her daintiest dress
Of light and joy, doth but the more oppress, 5
Claiming responsive smiles and rapture high;
Till, sick at heart, beyond the veil they fly,
Seeking His Presence, who alone can bless.
Such, in strange days, the weapons of Heaven’s grace;
When, passing o’er the high-born Hebrew line, 10
He forms the vessel of His vast design;
Fatherless, homeless, reft of age and place,
Sever’d from earth, and careless of its wreck,
Born through long woe His rare Melchizedek.

John Henry, Cardinal Newman

Herbert knew better. He had given up more, he was now dependent, and his health was fairly ruined. But he consider that this was appropriate, and his suffering for God was his employment. Newman hopes to be a priest of Melchizidek with his Victorian pomp. Herbert was plainer, and lived it.


IF as a flowre doth spread and die,
Thou wouldst extend me to some good,
Before I were by frosts extremitie
Nipt in the bud;

The sweetnesse and the praise were thine;
But the extension and the room,
Which in thy garland I should fill, were mine
At thy great doom.

For as thou dost impart thy grace,
The greater shall our glorie be.
The measure of our joyes is in this place,
The stuffe with thee.

Let me not languish then, and spend
A life as barren to thy praise,
As is the dust, to which that life doth tend,
But with delaies.

All things are busie; onely I
Neither bring hony with the bees,
Nor flowres to make that, nor the husbandrie
To water these.

I am no link of thy great chain,
But all my companie is a weed.
Lord place me in thy consort; give one strain
To my poore reed.

George Herbert, The Temple, 1633

A lot of people hate Baxter because he was a bastard. Most Kiwi poets are: they thought Byron was the correct model. But repentant Bastards write good poetry. I read, while trying to find the sonnet I wanted a lot of rants about how he was smelly, sexist, shifty, a sponger… but those old enough to remember him from their student days and whom he either exploited, or ignored. He was the great man of hippiedom in New Zealand, and I think that killed him.

But I grew up in Auckland: I knew Vulcan Lane before it was gentrified and the detritus of the boomer generation sold their tat there.

Tena Koe is a greeting: hello or similar in Maori; Hatana is Satan in Maori. The Wanganui river, where Jerusalem is, is very cold during winter: paradoxically you are warmer in the South, where we build better and buy wood for our stoves.

Jerusalem Sonnets (11)

One writes telling me I am her guiding light
And my poems her bible — on this cold morning

After moss I smoke one cigarette
And hear a magpie chatter in the paddock,

The image of Hatana — he bashes at the windows
In idiot spite, shouting — ‘Pakeha! You can be

‘The country’s leading poet’ — at the church I murmured, ‘Tena koe,’
To the oldest woman and she replied, ‘Tena koe’—

Yet the red book is shut from which I should learn Maori
And these daft English words meander on,

How dark a light! Hatana, you have gripped me
Again by the balls; you sift and riddle my mind

On the rack of the middle world, and from my grave at length
A muddy spring of poems will gush out.

James K. Baxter

Baxter was no priest. He was many other things, but not a priest. The other two were priests. And the layman, in the pew, is struggling with the cost of Salvation. He had left family and income to follow a voice to the mission station of our sole saint. (I said he was a bastard: your duty is to your children). That killed him. Neither Baxter or Newman are as good as Herbert on a bad day.

But may voices give witness to the same thing. Our salvation is not our doing, but obedience to him who saved us is costly.