Notre Dame, April 2019
Life holds out
a blackened branch
Notre Dame is burning.
Where is my heart?
Dying in an upstairs roomJUlian O’Dea, ANtipodean Poems
I am repeating this sonnet sequence, in part because it is reformed, in part because it is in English, and in part because it predates Shakespeare, and finally, because Tudor women were tough.
These are the biographical facts of Anne Locke’s life: she was the daughter of Steven Vaughan, who was in Henry VIII’s service shortly before the English Reformation. Vaughan fully supported the Protestant Reformation – probably a bit too enthusiastically, given that the 1530s was a time when overzealous reformers could come to a sticky end as easily as ardent Catholics. His daughter, Anne, was born in around 1530 and inherited her father’s reforming zeal. When Anne grew up she married Henry Locke, who shared the Vaughan family’s passion for Protestant reform. In 1553, the Scottish reformer John Knox stayed with the Lockes, until the accession of Catholic Bloody Mary sent him into self-exile on the Continent. Anne and her husband joined Knox in Switzerland in 1557, taking their two young children with them. Their daughter died four days after they arrived in Geneva. The Lockes didn’t stay long in Switzerland, and following the death of Mary I a year later, they returned to England. But Locke stayed in touch with Knox: Robert Louis Stevenson even argued that Anne Locke was the woman Knox loved more than any other. (We don’t know when Locke died – some time after 1590 is the best guess.)
Although she had not received a formal education – English schools were still all-male affairs – Locke had been taught the essentials, and could read and write well in several languages. This led to her translating some of the sermons of another Protestant Reformer, John Calvin, which were published in 1560.
But what’s particularly interesting is the sequence of 26 sonnets which she included in the book of sermons. Titled A Meditation of a Penitent Sinner: Written in Maner of A Paraphrase upon the 51. Psalme of David, it’s the first sonnet sequence written in English, published over twenty years before Sir Philip Sidney wrote his Astrophil and Stella and over thirty years before Shakespeare began his sonnets.
Locke’s authorship of the sonnets only became widely accepted by scholars recently, and for a long time the general view was that Knox had written them. Locke helped to fan the flames of speculation, claiming in her preface to the sonnets that they were the work of a ‘friend’ and she was merely including them in her volume. But the work appears to have been all Locke’s, although, as the full title of the sequence suggests, the poems are a paraphrase of the sentiments expressed in the 51st Psalm.
The author is correct about the sequence being a paraphrase, and I am attaching a modern translation of the verse for this week’s paraphrase(unlike the Lumnarium edition, which refers to a translation of that time)
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquityPsalm 51;2, NASB
And cleanse me from my sin.
Here is the Sonnet. Read it out loud and the spelling will become clear; this is well before dictionaries and regularization of spelling.
My many sinnes in nomber are encreast,
With weight wherof in sea of depe despeire
My sinking soule is now so sore opprest,
That now in peril and in present fere,
I crye: susteine me, Lord, and Lord I pray,
With endlesse nomber of thy mercies take
The endlesse nomber of my sinnes away.
So by thy mercie, for thy mercies sake,
Rue on me, Lord, releue me with thy grace.
My sinne is cause that I so nede to haue
Thy mercies ayde in my so woefull case:
My synne is cause that scarce I dare to craue
Anne Locke, Meditations of a Penitent Sinner, Sonnet 2.
Thy mercie manyfolde, which onely may
Releue my soule, and take my sinnes away.
Some Satire for Thursday. Shot:
A happy vicar I might have been
Two hundred years ago
To preach upon eternal doom
And watch my walnuts grow;
But born, alas, in an evil time,
I missed that pleasant haven,
For the hair has grown on my upper lip
And the clergy are all clean-shaven.
And later still the times were good,
We were so easy to please,
We rocked our troubled thoughts to sleep
On the bosoms of the trees.
All ignorant we dared to own
The joys we now dissemble;
The greenfinch on the apple bough
Could make my enemies tremble.
But girl’s bellies and apricots,
Roach in a shaded stream,
Horses, ducks in flight at dawn,
All these are a dream.
It is forbidden to dream again;
We maim our joys or hide them:
Horses are made of chromium steel
And little fat men shall ride them.
I am the worm who never turned,
The eunuch without a harem;
Between the priest and the commissar
I walk like Eugene Aram;
And the commissar is telling my fortune
While the radio plays,
But the priest has promised an Austin Seven,
For Duggie always pays.
George Orwell. Submitted to Adelphi magazine, later appeared in ‘Why I Write’. 1935
I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls,
And woke to find it true;
I wasn’t born for an age like this;
Was Smith? Was Jones? Were you
Chaser. We now have to be cruder, for progressivism makes men stupid, and they cannot see truth, or comprehend subtlety. I am not linking to this: it comes from social media, but it is cited correctly.
WE ARE THE VERY MODEL OF A MODERN UNIVERSITY
We are the very model of a modern university,
Demoting education and devoted to diversity
Indigenous ethnicity and gender multiplicity
And when we get offended how we generate publicity!
We’re cuddly Marxist-Leninists and Islamist apologists
And Helen Clarxist feminists and animist ecologists;
We have the NZUSA to help the LGBTQ
And when you’re brown and being put down we’ll stop the white man beating you!
And of your right to speak your mind we’re infinitely tolerant
Unless you’re white or on the right or male or Jew or Protestant
Our studies fortify the fifth (that’s almost every) columnist
And how we love the Catholics now the Pontiff is a communist!
By our denomination we’re the true identitarians
And number in our congregation many Treatifarians;
We peer review our mates’ research and doctor methodology
As members of the Leftist Church of Climate Scientology!
We’re all about identity: not what you know, but who you are;
If you’ve the right parentity it’s going to take you very far;
As our preferred minority you’ve got an opportunity
As from the need that you succeed you’re guaranteed immunity!
Reforming to be sure that we’re performing in Humanities
We’ve gender studies, ethnic studies, studies in profanities;
We’ve got the most discriminating funders that we have to please
Or soon we may not be in full possession of our faculties!
We educate the teachers of your children how to lie to them:
“The Treaty is a partnership!” whenever they reply to them;
We have to keep pretending cos the tribes are quite fanatical
And I’m expecting tenure and I’m due for my sabbatical!
(A tribal-sovereign partnership is manifestly risible;
That treaty had no principles unless in ink invisible
And neither did the doctor who concocted the untenable:
He was the very model of a bad Attorney-General!)
John Ansell (with nod to W S Gilbert).Published in the Martinborough Star, March 2019.
Defending all the rights of those who demonstrate obedience,
Abusing the respected and excusing every deviance
We vilify conservatives and glorify perversity:
We are the very model of a modern university!
Two blogs ago I went through Anne Locke’s sonnets, and translated them. Not going to do that again: this is Elizabethan English, and a meditation on Psalm 51. To make it easier, I’m attaching the verse from a modern, accurate translation.
Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;Psalm 51:1, NASB
According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.
This is the first sonnet: there is one for each verse. Read them out loud, remembering that for Locke there was no standard spelling, the letters v, j and w were being experimented with, and she’s writing in early Scots English.
This is the first of Anne Locke’s poems, unedited and unmodified.
Haue mercy, God, for thy great mercies sake.Anne Locke, Confessions of a Penitent Sinner, Sonnet 1.
O God: my God, vnto my shame I say,
Beynge fled from thee, so as I dred to take
Thy name in wretched mouth, and feare to pray
Or aske the mercy that I haue abusde.
But, God of mercy, let me come to thee:
Not for iustice, that iustly am accusde:
Which selfe word Iustice so amaseth me,
That scarce I dare thy mercy sound againe.
But mercie, Lord, yet suffer me to craue.
Mercie is thine: Let me not crye in vaine,
Thy great mercie for my great fault to haue.
Haue mercie, God, pitie my penitence
With greater mercie than my great offence.
Over this week, one of those men of my generation, who by the grace of God returned to God, died. He is mourned by his friends. His meditations, knowing he was about to die, is not about him. It is about God, and how he also was left outside the people, feeling bereft. How living through this implies we are chosen, for we share in his sufferings.
We must ask ourselves what were Christ’s sufferings? The reproach of his people, the betrayal by his children, public humiliation, torture, and death on the cross. certainly. But what was the greatest source of his suffering? The agony that finally caused the human nature in Jesus to cry out ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” I believe Christ’s greatest suffering was the moment when, he who had from eternity past, always enjoyed perfect unity with the Father, for the first, and only time ever, was separated from the presence of God. Hell by definition, is the separation from God’s presence, from the light of his glory,cast into the outer darkness….alone.Patrick Czyzewski, The Winged Hussar
So my friends, in your darkest hour of need, when all seems lost, and you feel God has turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to your plight, take heart in knowing that in this time, you are indeed sharing in the sufferings of Christ. You have been counted worthy to do so. It’s in these times that your desire for God is proved true or not. When nothing but God’s presence will comfort you. This is how we know that we belong to Jesus. That there is purpose to our suffering, and that purpose is to glorify God. So the purpose is to learn to endure, persevere, and strengthen your faith. Now it’s time to get on your feet, take up your cross, and approach humbly before God’s throne of grace. There, lay down your life at the feet of our Lord, put your faith and trust in Christ and say, “Father,not my will, but yours be done.” This is saving faith, this is a sacrifice that is pleasing to God.
God willing, in the future perhaps I will have the opportunity to write another article, but if not, then my friends I leave you with these last words.
We are saved not by what we have done. We are saved despite what we have done. God’s mercy is greater than the evil we have done or the hatred we have in him. But accepting this comes with a cost. The world will hate us, and we are not immune from the ailments that afflict a fallen humanity.
Locke knew this. As did the winged hussar, Patrick. May we also know that our God is greater than any circumstance we find ourselves in.