Poetry in Mission
Friday May 15th 2009, 9:47 pm
Filed under: Patristics

In the same day I happened upon Richard Wilbur’s poem “John Chrysostom” and Samuel Hazo’s “Whatever Made Tertullian Rave.” We have, of course, discussed Phyllis McGinley’s “The Thunderer,” about St. Jerome.

Do you know other poems about the Fathers? I’m not talking about Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s translations of the Fathers’ verse (included in my book The Fathers of the Church). I mean poems about the Fathers.

It would make a cool anthology. I’m sure at least three of us would buy it.

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I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine

I dreamed I saw St. Augustine,
Alive as you or me,
Tearing through these quarters
In the utmost misery,
With a blanket underneath his arm
And a coat of solid gold,
Searching for the very souls
Whom already have been sold.

“Arise, arise,” he cried so loud,
In a voice without restraint,
“Come out, ye gifted kings and queens
And hear my sad complaint.
No martyr is among ye now
Whom you can call your own,
So go on your way accordingly
But know you’re not alone.”

I dreamed I saw St. Augustine,
Alive with fiery breath,
And I dreamed I was amongst the ones
That put him out to death.
Oh, I awoke in anger,
So alone and terrified,
I put my fingers against the glass
And bowed my head and cried.

by Bob Dylan!

Comment by Tybourne 05.16.09 @ 12:12 am

The Greek Fathers
by Venerable John Henry Newman, C.O.

Let heathen sing thy heathen praise,
Fall’n Greece! the thought of holier days
In my sad heart abides;
For sons of thine in Truth’s first hour
Were tongues and weapons of His power,
Born of the Spirit’s fiery shower,
Our fathers and our guides.

All thine is Clement’s varied page;
And Dionysius, ruler sage,
In days of doubt and pain;
And Origen with eagle eye;
And saintly Basil’s purpose high
To smite imperial heresy,
And cleanse the Altar’s stain.

From thee the glorious preacher came,
With soul of zeal and lips of flame,
A court’s stern martyr-guest;
And thine, O inexhaustive race!
Was Nazianzen’s heaven-taught grace;
And royal-hearted Athanase,
With Paul’s own mantle blest.

St. Gregory Nazianzen
by Venerable John Hnery Newman, C.O.

Peace-loving man, of humble heart and true
What dost thou here?
Fierce is the city’s crowd; the lordly few
Are dull of ear!
Sore pain it was to thee,—till thou didst quit
Thy patriarch-throne at length, as though for
power unfit.

So works the All-wise! our services dividing
Not as we ask:
For the world’s profit, by our gifts deciding
Our duty-task.
See in king’s courts loth Jeremias plead;
And slow-tongued Moses rule by eloquence of

Yes! thou, bright Angel of the East! didst rear
The Cross divine,
Borne high upon thy liquid accents, where
Men mock’d the Sign;
Till that cold city heard thy battle-cry,
And hearts were stirr’d, and deem’d a Pentecost
was nigh.

Thou couldst a people raise, but couldst not
So, gentle one,
Heaven set thee free,—for, ere thy years were full,
Thy work was done;
According thee the lot thou lovedst best,
To muse upon the past,—to serve, yet be at rest.

Comment by Donna 05.16.09 @ 9:05 pm

“St Augustine and Monica” by Charles (Tennyson) Turner (1808-1879)

When Monica’s young son had felt her kiss –
Her weeping kiss — for years, her sorrow flowed
At last into his wilful blood; he owed
To her his after-life of truth and bliss:
And her own joy, what words, what thoughts could paint!
When o’er his soul, with sweet constraining force,
Came Penitence — a fusion from remorse –
And made her boy a glorious Christian saint.
Oh ye, who tend the young through doubtful years
Along the busy path from birth to death,
Parents and friends! forget not in your fears
The secret strength of prayer, the holy breath
That swathes your darlings! think how Austin’s faith
Rose like a star upon his mother’s tears!

He also wrote sonnets on “The Blush of Constantine at the Council of Nice”, “Constantine’s Amphitheatre at Treves”, “Julian’s Attempt to Build on the Site of the Temple”, “Terminus” about the Diocletian persecution, three sonnets on why “Christ and Orpheus” aren’t a good match, a complaint about bad explanations of “The Transfiguration”, and on and on and on! He’d have blogged sonnets, had he been alive now! Hee! (Collected Sonnets Old and New is on books.google.com.)

Comment by Maureen 05.18.09 @ 9:46 pm

Ack! Shelley! Shelley wrote a poem on “The Death of St. Polycarp”!

It starts “Wide, smooth, and deep is Smyrna’s bay”.

Comment by Maureen 05.23.09 @ 6:32 am

I found another patristics poem for you. One Richard Chevenix Trench paraphrased the autobio from Dialogue with Trypho in “The Story of Justin Martyr”.

Comment by Maureen 11.29.09 @ 5:42 pm

Hey, Maureen! Thanks! Is that in an anthology, or did you see it in a book by the author?

Comment by mike 11.29.09 @ 9:57 pm

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