Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Waiting with Mary


  Mary of Nazareth is the uniting factor between God and the human race. 
  The medieval lyricists - such as Friar William Herebert (d 1333) -  had exquisite ways of expressing the link between God and His servant, the Lady Mary of Nazareth.
  Later poets - such as Robert Southwell (d 1594) and John Donne (1573-1631) - had their own ways of describing Mary of Nazareth
  In the nineteenth century, Robert Stephen Hawker (1804-1875 ) and the Pre-Raphaelite painter-poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)  followed this great tradition. 
Rossetti calls Mary of Nazareth a daughter born to God, mother of Christ from stall to rood (meaning cross).

  The twentieth century American writer of poetry and prose,  Cornelia Otis Skinner, wrote a poignant little verse after a visit to Italy;



TO THE SISTINE MADONNA
Mary, most serenely fair
Hear an unbeliever's prayer
Nurtured in an austere creed,
Sweetest Lady, she has need
Of the solace of thy grace:
See the tears that stain her face
As she kneels to beg your love,
You whom no one told her of.

  What was Mary doing spiritually during those last few weeks leading up to the birth of Christ?
  She must have simply been doing what all pregnant women do in their final stages of pregnancy, meditating upon the miracle of human growth taking place within them.

  In this case this was even more of a miracle because she was a virgin and her baby was the Son of God.
The metaphysical poet Mother Mary Frances calls Mary - during the time of the Advent of her Son - the Queen of Craftsmen.
  She itemises the elements of construction of the human body of Jesus reaching completion within His Mother's womb.


   Note the time imagery inherent in the allusion to the crystal hammers moving to the beat of Mary's heart as well as the metaphor describing the heart of the developing infant Jesus as a clock.
This latter image incorporates the movement of God the Eternal into the temporal sphere of humanity.


QUEEN OF CRAFTSMEN
Blow by exquisite blow
The crystal hammers of her love
Fasten the careful joinings of His bones
Prophets have sung this craft: how men may number
These bones, but never break an one of them

What blueprint guides you, Queen of architects
To trace sure paths for wandering veins
That run Redemption's wine?

Who dipped your brush, young artist, so to tint
The eyes and lips of God? Where did you learn
To spin such silk of hair, and expertly
Pull sinew, wine this Heart to tick our mercy?

Thrones, Powers fall down, worshipping your crafts
Whom we, for want of better word, shall call
Most beautiful of all the sons of men.

Worker in motherhood, take our splintery songs
Who witness What you make, in litanies:
O, Queen of craftsmen, pray for us who wait.

Annunciation 
  The Advent period began with the Annunciation.
  What was Mary doing when the angel appeared to her?
Mary was aware of the prophecies regarding the coming of the Messiah, and was well versed in the sacred writings.
  That this is in fact the case becomes evident to us when we compare Mary's own ode of praise to God, the Magnificat, with the words of Hannah, the mother of Samuel.

Presentation
  After weaning her son, Hannah presented him to Eli in the temple and dedicated him to God.

What was Our Lady doing when the angel Gabriel appeared to her as God's messenger?
  The Renaissance poets show her pondering over the words of a book.
But she might have been clearing up for all we know.
  What we can be sure of is that when she spoke the word: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
Be it done unto me according to Thy Word," a radiance came over her as God overshadowed her and the mystery of the Incarnation took place.

Incarnation
  Upon the miracle of the Incarnation, Mary's heart flooded over with joy at the thought of the imminent arrival of the Christ Child.
  We know He would not be born in her home in Nazareth and that His early childhood would be spent in exile in Egypt.
  However, was it likely that Mary of Nazareth expected her Son to be born in a stable?
Her husband Joseph was a carpenter.
  Surely in Nazareth he must have built a cot for the Child with the finest wood he could afford and of course she wove and fashioned small blankets for it.
  It may not have been costly but we can be sure it was as pleasant and comfortable as possible.

Anticipation
  What was it like for Mary, that period of anticipation?
We know that she did not become absorbed in her own preparations to the exclusion of the needs of others.
  In her poem "The Visitation" Sister Liguori OP wrote about Mary's concern for her aged pregnant cousin Elizabeth.
  She told how when Mary entered Elizabeth's house, Elizabeth's own son John, the future John the Baptist, Christ's cousin and the one who would be His first messenger, leaped in His mother's womb.

THE VISITATION
Mary hastened over the hills
And never a word spoke she,
But the flowers knew, and they curtsied low
To the Mother of God, to be.

Mary stepped softly through the town
Guarding her gladdened eyes
But the palm trees nodded knowingly,
And the wind hummed lullabies.

Mary tapped gently at the door
And spoke in a low sweet voice
But when she entered an unborn babe
Knew her and leaped to rejoice.

Leapt for joy
  It was when Elizabeth's child leapt in her womb for joy that Mary launched into her Magnificat and joyfully proclaimed:
"My soul magnifies the Lord
And my spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour;
because He has looked upon the humility of His handmaid
For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed
for the Almighty has done great things for me, 
Holy is His Name
and His faithful love extends age after age to those who fear Him.
He has used the power of His Arm
He has pulled down princes from their thrones and raised high the lowly
He has filled the hungry with good things, sent the rich away empty
He has come to the help of Israel His servant, mindful of His faithful love
- according to the promise He made to our ancestors -
of His Mercy to Abraham and to his descendents for ever."
(Luke Chapter 1, verses 46 to 55)

Boundless joy
  The Magnificat in all its joy and spontaneity demonstrates to us the boundless joy of Mary of Nazareth at the distinction lavished upon her by the Most High.
  The clear knowledge of the scriptures it reveals endorses the fact that Mary had all the sincerity, goodness and intelligence necessary to make her an excellent educator to the growing Infant Jesus after her Advent period had come to its conclusion.


   How did Mary interact with Joseph during this period of Advent?
At the onset of her pregnancy, their friendship became fraught with dark patches for this man was devastated by the unanswered questions.
  Great relief flooded the hearts of both Mary and Joseph when the angel reassured him during a dream.
  Joseph from then on took care of her and of God's Son until his own death took place. 

Joseph

  Joseph was a prayerful and thoughtful person. 
  The poem of Sister Maris Stella speaks of the eloquence of Christ, the Word of God, juxtaposed with the silence of His foster father Joseph.

SAINT JOSEPH AND THE WORD
Saint Joseph was the most silent saint of all
No one has written down one word of his
for our edification. Not one small
word of his was saved unless it is
the Word that was the sum of all his life,
the precious Word he saved for everyone
that it might speak the cross, and not the knife,
long, long after he was dead and gone
and gathered to his fathers, and never again
could he spirit the Child and the young girl, His mother,
out of the dangerous city. From all men
of all times he was chosen and no other -
not one from among the prophets - but this rarely heard
and wordless man, to save God's mighty Word.

Prophecies

  There is much more poetry relevant to the Advent times, not the least of which is contained in the Isaian and Zecharian prophecies in the Old Testament and which bears quiet study and personal reflection. 

  Mary during the first Advent might not have known yet, as we do with the wisdom of hindsight, that there would be no room in the Bethlehem inn for her Holy Child to be birthed.
  In obedience to the temporal powers of the day and filled with confidence in the power of God she dragged her weary pregnant girl's body from Nazareth to Bethlehem, knowing all would be well in the end.

  For us and those we love all too will be well if we can but remember not only during Advent but throughout all our lives to pattern our behaviour towards our Redeemer on the silent but beautiful example shown to us by the Lady Mary of Nazareth, and on that of her husband Joseph.


*Why not listen to the beautiful song about Joseph;
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-A7w8ZIpdrs

Dr Luky Whittle

With thanks to youtube

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Mediæval Poetry in Praise of the Blessed Virgin (Part Seven) - Marye, Mayde Mylde and Fre


MEDIAEVAL POETRY IN PRAISE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN (PART SEVEN) 
MARYE, MAYDE MYLDE AND FRE

Scriptural imagery abounds in Marye, mayde mylde and fre, ascribed to William Shoreham, one of the very few named authors to have written lyrics before 1350.

MARYE, MAYDE MYLDE AND FRE

Marye, mayde mylde and free            . . . gracious; noble
Chambre of þe trynyte                              Trinity

One wyle lest to me                                   A while; listen
Ase ich þe grete wyþ songe:                     As I greet thee in sons
Þaᵹ my fet on-clene be                              Though; container; dirty
My mes þou onder-fonge.                         Receive thou my portion


Þou art quene of paradys
Of heuene, of erthe, of alþat hys               that is (exists)

Þou bere þane kynge of blis                      bore the King

Wyþ-oute senne and sore               10       without sin or pain
Þou hast y-ryt þat was amys                    hast set wrongs aright

Y-wonne þat was ylore.                              won; lost


Þou ert þe coluere of noe                          
dove of Noah
Þat broute þe braunche of olye tre            brought; branch; olive
In tokne þat pays scholde be                      token; peace; should
By-tuexte god and manne                           between
Suete leuedy, help þou me                          sweet lady
Wanne ich schal wende hanne.                   when I shall go hence


Þou art  þe bosche of synay                       bush of Sinai
Þou art  þe rytte sarray                    20      legitimate Sarah
Þou has ybrouᵹt ous out of cry                   brought us out of range
Of calenge of Þe fende                               challenge; fiend/devil
Þou art crystes oᵹene drury                       Christ's own beloved
And of dauyes kende.                                  David's kin

Þou art þe slinge, þe sone þe ston             the sling; son; stone

Þat dauy slange golye op-on                       David slung on Goliath
Þou ert þe ᵹerd al of aaron                         all the rod of Aaron
Me dreye iseᵹ spryngynde                         blooming when dry
Wyt-nesse at ham euerechon                     take all as witness
Þat wyste of þyne chyldynge.           30      knew; childbearing

Þou ert  þe temple salomon                        Solomon's temple
In þe wondrede gedeon                              Gideon wandered
Þou hast ygladed symeon                           gladdened Simeon
Wyþ þyne swete offrynge                           sweet offering

In þe temple atte auter-ston                       at the altar stone

Wyþ ihesus heuene kynge.                         with Jesus, heaven's




Þou ert Iudith,  þat fayre wyfe                    Judith; that fair lady
Þou hast abated al þat stryf                        diminished all strife
Olofernes wyþ hys knyf                              with his knife
Hys heuede þou hym by-nome          40      head; bereft
Þou hest ysaued here lef                             saved their lives
Þat to þe wylle come.                                   who wish to come

Þou ert hester, þate swete þinge                 Esther; sweet creature
Ande asseuer þe ryche kynge                      Assuerus
Þe(y) heþ ychose to hys weddynge              thee he chose to wed
And quene he heþ a-uonge                           when he captured

For mordocheus, þy derlynge                       thy beloved Mordecai
Syre aman was y-honge.                               Lord Haman was hanged

Þe prophete ezechyel                                    The prophet Ezekiel
In hys boke hyt wytnesseþ wel          50       it is well witnessed
Þou ert þe gate so stronge so stel                as strong as steel
Ac euere y-schet fram manne                       but ever shut to man;

Þou erte þe ryᵹte uayre rachel                     the truly fair
Fayrest of all wymman.                                 women

By ryᵹte toknynge þou ert þe hel                 true symbol; the hill
Of wah spellede danyel;                                of which Daniel spoke

Þou ert  emaus,  þe ryche castel
Þar resteþ alle werye                                    where all the weary rest
Ine þe restede emanuel                                 in thee rested Emanuel
of wan y-spekeþ ysaye.                    60         of whom Isaiah spoke

In þe hys god by-come a chyld                     In thee has God become
In þe hys wreche by-come myld                    vengeance; mild
Þat vnicorn þat was so wyld                          the unicorn
Aleyd hys of a cheaste                                  was subdued by a virgin
Þou hast y-tamed and i-styld                         tamed; quietened (it)
Wyþ melke of þy breste                                with milk; breast

Ine þe apocalyps sent Iohn                           Apocalypse; St John
Iseᵹ any wymman wyᵹ sonne by-gon            saw; woman sun-clothed

Þane mone al onder hyre ton                        the moon under her feet
I-crouned wyþ tuel sterre                 70         crowned; twelve stars
Swyl a leuedy nas neuere non                       Such; as never was
Wyþ þane fend to werre                                to make war on the Fiend

Ase þe sonne takeþ hyre pas                       As the sun penetrates
Wyþ-oute breche þorᵹ-out þat glas             without breaking; glass
Þy maydenhod on-wemmed hyt was             virginity; undefiled
For bere of  þyne chylde                                by bearing; thy child

Nou, swete leuedy of solas                            sweet lady of solace
To ous senfolle be þou mylde                        us; the sinful; merciful

Haue, leuedy, þys lytel songe                       accept; this little song
Þat out of senfol herte spronge         80        sprung; sinful heart
Aᵹens þe feend þou make me stronge          against; fiend; strengthen
And ᵹyf me þy wyssynge;                              grant me thy guidance
And þaz ich habbe y-do þe wrange                though I; wronged thee
Þou graunte me amendynge.                          grant; amendment

The Scriptural imagery, varied only once by a reference to the unicorn (63), the legendary quadruped which could be quietened only by a virgin, covers mainly the Old Testament, though the reference to Emmaus (57) clearly refers to Christ's supper with the disciples at Emmaus after His Resurrection. Referring to the final couplet of the first stanza: Þaᵹ my fet on-clene be/My mes þou onder-fonge (5-6), Brown (1924:256) writes that this is "an obvious allusion to the story of 'Dainties in a foul dish' which is of frequent occurrence in the collections of Miracles of Our Lady."

The imagery conjured up is fast-moving and kaleidoscopic; in one of the more original and effective metaphors contained in the corpus of Marian poetry, the Blessed Virgin is described as David's sling and the Christ-Child as the stone which was shot from it (24-26). By equating Mary, who bore Christ, with characters such as Iudith (37), hester (43) and Rachel (53), fauna such þe coloure of noe (13) and flora such as the bosche of synay (19), William of Shoreham emphasises the belief that the Old Testament was fulfilled by the arrival of the Redeemer and that Mary's womb provided the bridge between the two eras. The unremitting production of Biblical metaphors brings the poem to a climax in which Mary is presented as the virgin who tamed the unicorn (63-64) before being depicted as the woman clothed with the sun, standing on the moon and crowned with twelve stars (68-70). The poem's conclusion culminates in prayer to the blessed Virgin to strengthen the poet against the devil; a prayerful end to a brilliantly conceived and executed panegyric. 



Dr Luky Whittle

William of Shoreham ab 1320 Vicar of Charl-Sutton  https://archive.org/details/poemswilliamsho00konrgoog

The Poems of William of Shoreham http://books.google.ie/books?id=MRNISXqCD-0C&redir_esc=y 

With thanks to Archive.org Poemswilliam and Google
 













Mediæval Poetry in Praise of the Blessed Virgin (Part Six) - An Orison to the Blessed Virgin and I sing of a Maiden



MEDIAEVAL POETRY IN PRAISE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN (PART SIX) - 
AN ORISON TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN and
I SING OF A MAIDEN

In the next poem, which falls under Woolf's heading of verse in praise of the Virgin and imploring her mercies, Mary's stature of brokenhearted mother changes to that of a queen-mother, sharing in the glory of her Son's triumPhant victory over death and sin alike. In the guileless An Orison to the Blessed Virgin, from the first half of the fourteenth century, the poet, presenting himself as an abject sinner, unable by his own powers to control the wantonness caused by his reckless termperament, casts himself on Mary's mercy. Critics of hyperdulia might be forgiven for feeling that the poet in this instance goes overboard in his plea, for rather than cast himself on Christ' mercy for love of his mother, he reverses the process. However, the abject humility of the poem confirms one's feelings that this mistake is not made from a cold, calculated desire on the poet's part to cast aspersions on God's majestic omnipotence. Rather we see the poet as a stumbling, awkward sinner who makes an involuntary slip in his contrite zeal to appease heaven.

     AN ORISON TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN

     Mayde and moder mylde    
     uro loue of þine childe                    for; thy
     þet is god an man                           who
     me þet am zuo wylde                     so wild
     uram zenne þou me ssylde            from sin do thou shield me
     ase ich  þe bydded can. Amen.      if I (may be allowed to) beg

The classic example of the spellbinding effect of "incremental repetition" (Fowler 1968:38) or "repetition with partial variations" (Davies 1978:17), a stylistic device frequently found in ballads, is seen in the following Marian lyric, which is traceable to the thirteenth century and is commonly recognised as a masterpiece of eloquent understatement:

     I SING OF A MAIDEN     

     I sing of a maiden
     That is makeles:                             incomparable
     King of alle kinges                         King of all kings
     To here sone che ches                   for her Son she chose

     He cam also stille                           He came as quietly
     Ther his moder was                        (to) where His mother was
     As dew in Aprille
     That falleth on the grass                 falls

     He cam also stille
     To his moderes bowr                       mother's bower
     As dew in Aprille
     That falleth on the flowr                  falls, flower

     He cam also stille                             as quietly
     There his moder lay,                        (to) where
     As dew in Aprille
     That falleth on the spray                  that falls

     Moder and maiden                           Mother and virgin
     Was never non but she                     no-one but she
     Well may swich a lady                      such
     Godes moder be.                              God's
                                          (1 - 20)

The poet's employment of the simple imagery of a dewy English spring meadow in April conjures up a serene freshness in relation to Christ and his mother while a sense of unpretentiousness is confirmed by the repeated use of the adverb stylle (5) [quietly] coupled with the simile of April dew, falling first on the gras (8) (his mother's environment), then on the bower (10) (her womb) and finally on the spray (16). Mary, by co-operating fully with the graces and talents bestowed on her by her Creator, has achieved a full flowering of her virtues. The tension built up by the use of incremental repetition is dispelled by the simplicity of the final quatrain which, for all its stark naïveté, effectively sets the Blessed Virgin above the remaining women in the world simply because, both mother and virgin, there was neuer non but che (18).

Dr Luky Whittle

    

Mediæval Poetry in Praise of the Blessed Virgin (Part Five) - The Blessed Virgin's Appeal




MEDIAEVAL POETRY IN PRAISE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN [PART FIVE]
THE BLESSED VIRGIN'S APPEAL
 
A fourteenth-century poem in two quatrains offers an alternative to the quiescence of the Blessed Virgin implicit in the foregoing thirteenth-century quatrain. The Blessed Virgin's Appeal is a plaintive cry from a mother who, while she expects no justice, finds her flesh and blood rebelling against the ignominious and unjust treatment meted out to her Son:

     THE BLESSED VIRGIN'S APPEAL

    Wy haue ᵹe no reuthe on my child?          pity
    Haue reuthe on me ful of murni (n) g        mourning
    Taket doun on rode my derworþi child     on/from . . . to precious
    or prek me on rode with my derling          nail . . . to the cross

    More pine ne may me ben don                 cannot be inflicted
    þan laten me liuen in sorwe & shame       to let
    as loue me bindet to my sone                    binds
    so lat vs dqyᵹen boþen i-same                 die both together 

There is an intensity of pain in the plaintive cry of the first line; the incredulous appeal from a mother so 
grief-stricken that she is unable to summon the energy for indignation. Loving her child as she does, she clearly cannot understand how others could treat him with anything less than tenderness. In the second stanza, she strikes a note of firmness; if they have no compassion on her Son and will not take him down from the cross, there is a way they can satisfy their vengefulness and lessen her heartache at the same time: they can nail her to hang beside him. In its depiction of the tender, yearning mother love of Mary for her crucified Son, this poem illustrates the Catholic belief that devotion to the Blessed Virgin is but a step in enhancing the Christian's love for God, so that hyperdulia serves to bring people closer to him, rather than separating them from the Godhead.

As is the case with Sunset on Calvary, the mainly monosyllabic text serves to emphasise the stark anguish of a mother more than any intricately-composed protest would have done. The profundity of the sorrow of the mother who sees her innocent child in torment without being able to do anything to alleviate his anguish does not permit of garrulity. It is all Mary can manage to state her case before she recalls her child and calls him by the tender mediæval term of endearment; my derling (4) ]my little dear]. The counfoundingly unadorned appeal; Or prek me on rode (4) [or nail me to the cross] suitably precedes the words  
with my derling. Whereas her child earns the dignity of so gentle an appellation of praise, Mary's own fate is disdained; being nailed to the cross herself cannot be worse than being forced to behold the child of her heart a prey to this fate. As with reuthe, so too does the Dutch word for derworþi (3) [dierbaar/dierbare: beloved/precious] have a far more heart-linked connotation in the sense of beloved or worthy of love than a simple translation such as   "dear worthy" which could be interpreted as "expensively valuable", almost literally meaning "precious" or of high prize, since the English translation, unlike the Dutch one, by being seen as reducing love to a valuable commodity, appears to attempt to quantify pricelessness.

In the second quatrain the mother contemplates the horror of a future without her Son; a future vision of sorrow and shame. As love binds her to her Son she longs to die beside him rather than remain behind all alone. The compassion of the anonymous poet could not emerge more clearly if it were his own child dying in agony on the cross and he were the parent ordained to witness the dreadful sight. Yet he is absent from the poem - the "I" is Mary - an example of the "abnegation of individuality" to which Woolf (1968:6) refers.

Dr Luky Whittle

pdf; Theology and Poetry in the Middle English Lyric; A Study 
https://ohiostatepress.org/Books/Complete%20PDFs/Weber%20Theology/08.pdf
With thanks to Ohio State Press

Mediaeval Poetry in Praise of the Blessed Virgin [Part Four] - Sunset on Calvary




MEDIAEVAL POETRY IN PRAISE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MAY [PART FOUR]
SUNSET ON CALVARY

A poem which is formally much simpler, illustrating that the mediaeval lyricist does not need to elaborate in order to get his point across, is Sunset on Calvary, a quatrain believed by Brown (1932:166) to have been written in the second half of the thirteenth century. The simplicity of this short poem contrasts with the Latin elaboration found in the macaronic poem.

     SUNSET ON CALVARY

     Nou goth sonne vnder wod                             sets behind the tree (s)
     me reweth, marie, þi faire Rode.                   I pity; thy fair face
     Nou goþ sonne vnder tre,                               sets behind the tree  
     me reweþ, marie, þi sone and þe.                  I pity; thy son and thee

Reweþ (2) calls up the Dutch words rouw [mourn] and berouw [contrition (for sins committed)], leaving scope for more than one connotation. It is a far more expressive word than the English "pity", while "rue" in English has taken on an almost threatening connotation, and "rueful" is often used in a half-humorous context. Rouw for its part has connotations of funerals and cemeteries, berouw of the Catholic confessional. The repetition of the word reweþ (2), therefore, denotes a groaning in spirit, not only for friends and loved ones lost, but also bemourning (be-rouw) the death of Christ in expiation of the sins of humankind, including those of the poet and his readership. It could also mean: "It pains me" which in Dutch would be: "het spijt mij."

The unsurpassable simplicity of this poem is counteracted by the burden of emotion it contains. Rode (2), translated by Brown as countenance, could be a pun on rode [red] and rood [cross]. Each line of this poem is described by Bennett (1982:32) as holding "in embryo seeds that will burgeon richly in devotional verse for four hundred  years and more".

Rogers   (1983:70 - 71), who states that interpreting a poem depends on setting up a reciprocal relation between mind and world, painstakingly explores the connections between the natural objects and the sorrow in Sunset on Calvary in the following detailed description:

     The lyric does not state the connections between the natural
     world and the emotion; but if the poem is to work at all,
     those connections must be made. The mental state, the
     sorrowing, is somehow triggered by the sight of the natural
     objects - sun and trees; but the natural objects themselves
     take on an objective colo(u)ring of sorrow because of the 
     mental state with which they are associated. The
     understanding of the poem hinges on the reader's ability to 
     see the mental state and the natural objects as different in
     their oneness. It is not that the two entities merge
     completely; rather, they are held apart forcibly by the
     syntax and the verse form so that their reciprocity may be 
     apprehended. The sun does not become the Son nor the tree
     the Tree, once and for all in a completed synthesis of mind
     and world. The mind of the work moves back and forth
     between the two poles of its own state and the natural 
     world: the sorrow of the imagined Crucifixion, and the
     presence of the perceived sunset.


Dr Luky Whittle

Sunset on Calvary http://thefoundword.blogspot.ie/2008/03/two-middle-english-poems.html
With thanks to The Found Word