Catholic Poems to share

Behind The Veil by John Henry Newman

BANISH’D the House of sacred rest,
Amid a thoughtless throng,
At length I heard its creed confess’d,
And knelt the saints among.

Artless his strain and unadorn’d,
Who spoke Christ’s message there;
But what at home I might have scorn’d,
Now charm’d my famish’d ear.

Lord, grant me this abiding grace,
Thy Word and sons to know;
To pierce the veil on Moses’ face,
Although his speech be slow.

Dreams by John Henry Newman

OH! miserable power
To dreams allow’d, to raise the guilty past,
And back awhile the illumined spirit to cast
On its youth’s twilight hour;
In mockery guiling it to act again
The revel or the scoff in Satan’s frantic train!

Nay, hush thee, angry heart!
An Angel’s grief ill fits a penitent;
Welcome the thorn—it is divinely sent,
And with its wholesome smart
Shall pierce thee in thy virtue’s palmy home,
And warn thee what thou art, and whence thy
wealth has come

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" Bede’s Death Song " is the editorial name given to a five-line Old English Poem , supposedly the final words of the Venerable Bede . It exists in multiple copies, in both Northumbrian and West Saxon dialects.

Northumbrian version

Fore thaem neidfaerae ‖ naenig uuiurthit
thoncsnotturra, ‖ than him tharf sie
to ymbhycggannae ‖ aer his hiniongae
huaet his gastae ‖ godaes aeththa yflaes
aefter deothdaege ‖ doemid uueorthae

For þam nedfere ‖ næni wyrþeþ
þances snotera, ‖ þonne him þearf sy
to gehicgenne ‖ ær his heonengange
hwæt his gaste ‖ godes oþþe yfeles
æfter deaþe heonon ‖ demed weo

In a literal translation by Leo Shirley-Price, the text reads as Before setting forth on that inevitable journey, none is wiser than the man who considers—before his soul departs hence—what good or evil he has done, and what judgement his soul will receive after its passing.

A Thanksgiving by John Henry Newman

Lord, in this dust Thy sovereign voice
First quicken’d love divine;
I am all Thine,—Thy care and choice,
My very praise is Thine.

I praise Thee, while Thy providence
In childhood frail I trace,
For blessings given, ere dawning sense
Could seek or scan Thy grace;

Blessings in boyhood’s marvelling hour,
Bright dreams, and fancyings strange;
Blessings, when reason’s awful power
Gave thought a bolder range;

Blessings of friends, which to my door
Unask’d, unhoped, have come;
And, choicer still, a countless store
Of eager smiles at home.

Yet, Lord, in memory’s fondest place
I shrine those seasons sad,
When, looking up, I saw Thy face
In kind austereness clad.

I would not miss one sigh or tear,
Heart-pang, or throbbing brow;
Sweet was the chastisement severe,
And sweet its memory now.

Yes! let the fragrant scars abide,
Love-tokens in Thy stead,
Faint shadows of the spear-pierced side
And thorn-encompass’d head.

And such Thy tender force be still,
When self would swerve or stray,
Shaping to truth the froward will
Along Thy narrow way.

Deny me wealth; far, far remove
The lure of power or name;
Hope thrives in straits, in weakness love,
And faith in this world’s shame.

The Evening of the Visitation by Thomas Merton

Go, roads, to the four quarters of our quiet distance,
While you, full moon, wise queen,
Begin your evening journey to the hills of heaven,
And travel no less stately in the summer sky
Than Mary, going to the house of Zachary.

The woods are silent with the sleep of doves,
The valleys with the sleep of streams,
And all our barns are happy with peace of cattle gone to rest.
Still wakeful, in the fields, the shocks of wheat
Preach and say prayers:
You sheaves, make all your evensongs as sweet as ours,
Whose summer world, all ready for the granary and barn,
Seems to have seen, this day,
Into the secret of the Lord’s Nativity.

Now at the fall of night, you shocks,
Still bend your heads like kind and humble kings
The way you did this golden morning when you saw God’s
Mother passing,
While all our windows fill and sweeten
With the mild vespers of the hay and barley.

You moon and rising stars, pour on our barns and houses
Your gentle benedictions.
Remind us how our Mother, with far subtler and more holy
influence,
Blesses our rooves and eaves,
Our shutters, lattices and sills,
Our doors, and floors, and stairs, and rooms, and bedrooms,
Smiling by night upon her sleeping children:
O gentle Mary! Our lovely Mother in heaven!

In Silence by Thomas Merton

Be still.
Listen to the stones of the wall.
Be silent, they try
to speak your

name.
Listen
to the living walls.

Who are you?
Who
are you? Whose
silence are you?

Who (be quiet)
are you (as these stones
are quiet). Do not
think of what you are
still less of
what you may one day be.

Rather
be what you are (but who?)
be the unthinkable one
you do not know.

O be still, while
you are still alive,
and all things live around you

speaking (I do not hear)
to your own being,
speaking by the unknown
that is in you and in themselves.

“I will try, like them
to be my own silence:
and this is difficult. The whole
world is secretly on fire. The stones
burn, even the stones they burn me.
How can a man be still or
listen to all things burning?
How can he dare to sit with them
when all their silence is on fire?”

The Gift of Perseverance by John Henry Newman

ONCE, as I brooded o’er my guilty state,
A fever seized me, duties to devise,
To buy me interest in my Saviour’s eyes;
Not that His love I would extenuate,
But scourge and penance, masterful self-hate,
Or gift of cost, served by an artifice
To quell my restless thoughts and envious sighs
And doubts, which fain heaven’s peace would antedate.
Thus as I tossed, He said:—‘E’en holiest deeds
Shroud not the soul from God, nor soothe its needs;
Deny thee thine own fears, and wait the end!’
Stern lesson! Let me con it day by day,
And learn to kneel before the Omniscient Ray,
Nor shrink, when Truth’s avenging shafts descend!

My Birthday by John Henry Newman

Let the sun summon all his beams to hold
Bright pageant in his court, the cloud-paved sky
Earth trim her fields and leaf her copses cold;
Till the dull month with summer-splendours vie.
It is my Birthday;—and I fain would try,
Albeit in rude, in heartfelt strains to praise
My God, for He hath shielded wondrously
From harm and envious error all my ways,
And purged my misty sight, and fixed on heaven
my gaze.

Not in that mood, in which the insensate crowd
Of wealthy folly hail their natal day,—
With riot throng, and feast, and greetings loud,
Chasing all thoughts of God and heaven away.
Poor insect! feebly daring, madly gay,
What! joy because the fulness of the year
Marks thee for greedy death a riper prey?
Is not the silence of the grave too near?
Viewest thou the end with glee, meet scene for
harrowing fear?

Go then, infatuate! where the festive hall,
The curious board, the oblivious wine invite;
Speed with obsequious haste at Pleasure’s call,
And with thy revels scare the far-spent night.
Joy thee, that clearer dawn upon thy sight
The gates of death;—and pride thee in thy sum
Of guilty years, and thy increasing white
Of locks; in age untimely frolicksome,
Make much of thy brief span, few years are yet to
come!

Yet wiser such, than he whom blank despair
And fostered grief’s ungainful toil enslave;
Lodged in whose furrowed brow thrives fretful care,
Sour graft of blighted hope; who, when the wave
Of evil rushes, yields,—yet claims to rave
At his own deed, as the stern will of heaven.
In sooth against his Maker idly brave,
Whom e’en the creature-world has tossed and
driven,
Cursing the life he mars, ‘a boon so kindly given.’

He dreams of mischief; and that brainborn ill
Man’s open face bears in his jealous view.
Fain would he fly his doom; that doom is still
His own black thoughts, and they must aye
pursue.
Too proud for merriment, or the pure dew
Soft glistening on the sympathising cheek;
As some dark, lonely, evil-natured yew,
Whose poisonous fruit—so fabling poets speak—
Beneath the moon’s pale gleam the midnight hag
doth seek.

No! give to me, Great Lord, the constant soul,
Nor fooled by pleasure nor enslaved by care;
Each rebel-passion (for Thou canst) controul,
And make me know the tempter’s every snare.
What, though alone my sober hours I wear,
No friend in view, and sadness o’er my mind
Throws her dark veil?—Thou but accord this
prayer,
And I will bless Thee for my birth, and find
That stillness breathes sweet tones, and solitude is
kind.

Each coming year, O grant it to refine
All purer motions of this anxious breast;
Kindle the steadfast flame of love divine,
And comfort me with holier thoughts possest;
Till this worn body slowly sink to rest,
This feeble spirit to the sky aspire,—
As some long-prisoned dove toward her nest—
There to receive the gracious full-toned lyre,
Bowed low before the Throne 'mid the bright
seraph choir.

Ballade to Our Lady of Czestochowa

Hilaire Belloc

Lady and Queen and Mystery manifold
And very Regent of the untroubled sky,
Whom in a dream St. Hilda did behold
And heard a woodland music passing by:
You shall receive me when the clouds are high
With evening and the sheep attain the fold.
This is the faith that I have held and hold,
And this is that in which I mean to die.

II

Steep are the seas and savaging and cold
In broken waters terrible to try;
And vast against the winter night the wold,
And harbourless for any sail to lie.
But you shall lead me to the lights, and I
Shall hymn you in a harbour story told.
This is the faith that I have held and hold,
And this is that in which I mean to die.

III

Help of the half-defeated, House of gold,
Shrine of the Sword, and Tower of Ivory;
Splendour apart, supreme and aureoled,
The Battler’s vision and the World’s reply.
You shall restore me, O my last Ally,
To vengence and the glories of the bold.
This is the faith that I have held and hold,
And this is that in which I mean to die.

Envoi

Prince of the degradations, bought and sold,
These verses, written in your crumbling sty,
Proclaim the faith that I have held and hold
And publish that in which I mean to die.

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My favorite Belloc is “Matilda” :slight_smile:

If we can include our Anglican friends:

Good Friday
By Christina Rossetti (1830–1894)

AM I a stone and not a sheep
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy Cross,
To number drop by drop Thy Blood’s slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon—
I, only I.

Yet give not o’er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

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Here it is! It’s one of my favorite of his cautionary tales also! (along with the tale of the boy who was eaten by the lion).

Matilda Who told Lies, and was Burned to Death

Hillaire Belloc

Matilda told such Dreadful Lies,
It made one Gasp and Stretch one’s Eyes;
Her Aunt, who, from her Earliest Youth,
Had kept a Strict Regard for Truth,
Attempted to Believe Matilda:
The effort very nearly killed her,
And would have done so, had not She
Discovered this Infirmity.
For once, towards the Close of Day,
Matilda, growing tired of play,
And finding she was left alone,
Went tiptoe to the Telephone
And summoned the Immediate Aid
Of London’s Noble Fire-Brigade.
Within an hour the Gallant Band
Were pouring in on every hand,
From Putney, Hackney Downs, and Bow.
With Courage high and Hearts a-glow,
They galloped, roaring through the Town,
‘Matilda’s House is Burning Down!’
Inspired by British Cheers and Loud
Proceeding from the Frenzied Crowd,
They ran their ladders through a score
Of windows on the Ball Room Floor;
And took Peculiar Pains to Souse
The Pictures up and down the House,
Until Matilda’s Aunt succeeded
In showing them they were not needed;
And even then she had to pay
To get the Men to go away,
It happened that a few Weeks later
Her Aunt was off to the Theatre
To see that Interesting Play
The Second Mrs. Tanqueray.
She had refused to take her Niece
To hear this Entertaining Piece:
A Deprivation Just and Wise
To Punish her for Telling Lies.
That Night a Fire did break out–
You should have heard Matilda Shout!
You should have heard her Scream and Bawl,
And throw the window up and call
To People passing in the Street–
(The rapidly increasing Heat
Encouraging her to obtain
Their confidence) – but all in vain!
For every time she shouted ‘Fire!’
They only answered ‘Little Liar!’
And therefore when her Aunt returned,
Matilda, and the House, were Burned.

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Some of our Anglican friends have reworded their prayers by changing them to verse .

The Christmas Day collect is :
"Gracious God, whose dear Son as at this time began
His pure life, the blest patern and ransom of man;
Grant, we pray thee, that we and the whole christian race,
May become thy true sons by adoption and grace;
And (being renew’d and sustain’d by the Spirit)
May thro’ his atonement thy kingdom inherit;
Who livest and reignest our heavenly friend,
With the same Son and Spirit, one God, without end."

http://anglicanhistory.org/poetry/rusher1790.html

The Quickening of John the Baptist by Thomas Merton

On the Contemplative Vocation

Why do you fly from the drowned shores of Galilee,
From the sands and the lavender water?
Why do you leave the ordinary world, Virgin of Nazareth,
The yellow fishing boats, the farms,
The winesmelling yards and low cellars
Or the oilpress, and the women by the well?
Why do you fly those markets,
Those suburban gardens,
The trumpets of the jealous lilies,
Leaving them all, lovely among the lemon trees?

You have trusted no town
With the news behind your eyes.
You have drowned Gabriel’s word in thoughts like seas
And turned toward the stone mountain
To the treeless places.
Virgin of God, why are your clothes like sails?

The day Our Lady, full of Christ,
Entered the dooryard of her relative
Did not her steps, light steps, lay on the paving leaves
like gold?
Did not her eyes as grey as doves
Alight like the peace of a new world upon that house, upon
miraculous Elizabeth?

Her salutation
Sings in the stone valley like a Charterhouse bell:
And the unborn saint John
Wakes in his mother’s body,
Bounds with the echoes of discovery.

Sing in your cell, small anchorite!
How did you see her in the eyeless dark?
What secret syllable
Woke your young faith to the mad truth
That an unborn baby could be washed in the Spirit of God?
Oh burning joy!

What seas of life were planted by that voice!
With what new sense
Did your wise heart receive her Sacrament,
And know her cloistered Christ?

You need no eloquence, wild bairn,
Exulting in your hermitage.
Your ecstasy is your apostolate,
For whom to kick is contemplata tradere.
Your joy is the vocation of Mother Church’s hidden children -
Those who by vow lie buried in the cloister or the hermitage;
The speechless Trappist, or the grey, granite Carthusian,
The quiet Carmelite, the barefoot Clare, Planted in the night of
contemplation, Sealed in the dark and waiting to be born.

Night is our diocese and silence is our ministry
Poverty our charity and helplessness our tongue-tied
sermon.
Beyond the scope of sight or sound we dwell upon the air
Seeking the world’s gain in an unthinkable experience.
We are exiles in the far end of solitude, living as listeners
With hearts attending to the skies we cannot understand:
Waiting upon the first far drums of Christ the Conqueror,
Planted like sentinels upon the world’s frontier.

But in the days, rare days, when our Theotokos
Flying the prosperous world
Appears upon our mountain with her clothes like sails,
Then, like the wise, wild baby,
The unborn John who could not see a thing
We wake and know the Virgin Presence
Receive her Christ into our night
With stabs of an intelligence as white as lightning.

Cooled in the flame of God’s dark fire
Washed in His gladness like a vesture of new flame
We burn like eagles in His invincible awareness
And bound and bounce with happiness,
Leap in the womb, our cloud, our faith, our element,
Our contemplation, our anticipated heaven
Till Mother Church sings like an Evangelist.

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Solitude by John Henry Newman

There is in stillness oft a magic power
To calm the breast, when struggling passions lower;
Touch’d by its influence, in the soul arise
Diviner feelings, kindred with the skies.
By this the Arab’s kindling thoughts expand,
When circling skies inclose the desert sand;
For this the hermit seeks the thickest grove,
To catch th’ inspiring glow of heavenly love.
It is not solely in the freedom given
To purify and fix the heart on heaven;
There is a Spirit singing aye in air,
That lifts us high above all mortal care.
No mortal measure swells that mystic sound,
No mortal minstrel breathes such tones around,—
The Angels’ hymn,—the sovereign harmony
That guides the rolling orbs along the sky,—
And hence perchance the tales of saints who view’d
And heard Angelic choirs in solitude.
By most unheard,—because the earthly din
Of toil or mirth has charms their ears to win.
Alas for man! he knows not of the bliss,
The heaven that brightens such a life as this.

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A love poem based on the words of St Augustine

Late have I loved you,
Beauty so old and so new:
Late have I loved you.

And see, you were within
And I was within the external world
And sought you there,
And in my unlovely state
I plunged into those lovely created things
which you made
The lovely things kept me far from you
Though if they did not have their existence in you
They had no existence at all.

You called and cried out loud
And shattered my deafness
You were radiant and resplendent,
You put to flight my blindness.
You were fragrant,
And I drew in my breath and now pant after you.
I tasted you,
And I feel but hunger and thirst for you.
You touched me,
And I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.

A Cure of Souls by Denise Levertov
The pastor
of grief and dreams

guides his flock towards
the next field

with all his care.
He has heard

the bell tolling
but the sheep

are hungry and need
the grass, today and

every day. Beautiful
his patience, his long

shadow, the rippling
sound of the flocks moving

along the valley.

– Denise Levertov, ‘A Cure of Souls’, in Poems, 1960–1967 (New York: New Directions Publishing, 1983), 92.

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Psalm 137

By the rivers of Babylon,
there we sat down, yea, we wept,
when we remembered Zion.
We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.
For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song;
and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying,
Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
But how shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget her cunning.
If I do not remember thee,
let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth;
if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.

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The Trance of Time by John Henry Newman

IN childhood, when with eager eyes
The season-measured year I view’d,
All garb’d in fairy guise,
Pledged constancy of good.

Spring sang of heaven; the summer flowers
Bade me gaze on, and did not fade;
Even suns o’er autumn’s bowers
Heard my strong wish, and stay’d.

They came and went, the short-lived four;
Yet, as their varying dance they wove,
To my young heart each bore
Its own sure claim of love.

Far different now;—the whirling year
Vainly my dizzy eyes pursue;
And its fair tints appear
All blent in one dusk hue.

Why dwell on rich autumnal lights,
Spring-time, or winter’s social ring?
Long days are fire-side nights,
Brown autumn is fresh spring.

Then what this world to thee, my heart?
Its gifts nor feed thee nor can bless.
Thou hast no owner’s part
In all its fleetingness.

The flame, the storm, the quaking ground,
Earth’s joy, earth’s terror, nought is thine,
Thou must but hear the sound
Of the still voice divine.

O priceless art! O princely state!
E’en while by sense of change opprest,
Within to antedate
Heaven’s Age of fearless rest.

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Hail Mary, full of grace,
Help me find a parking place!

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