Your favorite poem ever

I’m rather fond of the poetry in this Celtic blessing for departing guests:

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you,
wherever He may send you.
May He guide you through the wilderness,
protect you through the storm.
May He bring you home rejoicing
at the wonders He has shown you.
May He bring you home rejoicing
once again into our doors.

I like the idea of home being both the place they are going, and the place they are leaving, which you hope they will return again to in the future.


Also, though perhaps a little more low-brow, do song lyrics count?

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They do to me. Probably poetry put to song should count both ways too.

Well in that case, here are the words from the final verse of Peter Gabriel’s Solsbury Hill (full disclosure: the music video is bonkers!):

When illusion spin her net
I’m never where I want to be
And liberty she pirouette
When I think that I am free
Watched by empty silhouettes
Who close their eyes but still can see
No one taught them etiquette
I will show another me
Today I don’t need a replacement
I’ll tell them what the smile on my face meant
My heart going boom boom boom
“Hey” I said “You can keep my things,
they’ve come to take me home.”

It is easily my favourite song of all time so it was hard to choose one verse, but the alternating rhyming couplets of verse three (net… pirouette… silhouette… etiquette) gets me every time.

I also love Tears for Fears nuclear apocalyptic vision in Everybody Wants to Rule the World:

There’s a room where the light won’t find you
Holding hands while the walls come tumbling down
When they do, I’ll be right behind you
So glad we’ve almost made it
So sad they had to fade it
Everybody wants to rule the world

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I just came across this poem by Ogden Nash which at least has a natural history angle to it. I like the rhythm (meter?) of it. Perhaps @Laura can tell me something about its form.

Whales have calves,
Cats have kittens
Bears have Cubs,
Bats have bittens,
Swans have cygnets,
Seals have puppies,
But guppies just have little guppies.

—Ogden Nash

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I love Ogden Nash! Thanks for sharing – I don’t think I’ve heard that one before. The meter is trochaic, so the first and third syllables are emphasized in each line (less common than iambic which starts with an unstressed syllable), except the last line which changes things up. I like when poets can do that well – adhere to a meter but then break it when necessary.

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I hadn’t seen this one before either until just recently. Thanks for the analysis. To be honest, I’d never known that baby bats had their own name. I’m feeling pretty smitten with bittens.

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I just came across a poem written some time around 1600 which touches on so many discussion points common to this website. It can be found here https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47683/chorus-sacerdotum

I’ve taken the liberty to bolden passages which make me think of discussions I’ve read here on BioLogos. Most dwell on theodicy which most regard as the sharpest criticism of Christianity. But what I like best is the last four lines where the distinction is made between what is taught and what one actually finds in ones heart.

Chorus Sacerdotal
by Baron Brooke Fulke Greville

O wearisome condition of humanity!
Born under one law, to another bound;
Vainly begot and yet forbidden vanity;
Created sick, commanded to be sound.
What meaneth nature by these diverse laws?
Passion and reason, self-division cause.
Is it the mark or majesty of power
To make offenses that it may forgive?
Nature herself doth her own self deflower
To hate those errors she herself doth give.
For how should man think that he may not do,
If nature did not fail and punish, too?
Tyrant to others, to herself unjust,
Only commands things difficult and hard,
Forbids us all things which it knows is lust,
Makes easy pains, unpossible reward.
If nature did not take delight in blood,
She would have made more easy ways to good.
We that are bound by vows and by promotion,
With pomp of holy sacrifice and rites,
To teach belief in good and still devotion,
To preach of heaven’s wonders and delights;
Yet when each of us in his own heart looks
He finds the God there, far unlike his books.

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Thanks for sharing – there’s a lot to unpack there, especially in the last few lines.

Powerful poem, Mark. Thanks for sharing. Doing a little catching up, I saw this:

Great song. Reminded me of a British band that also writes great lyrics, Elbow. Gabriel did a great cover of their song “Mirrorball” (a disco ball here in the States):

I plant the kind of kiss
that wouldn’t wake a baby
On the self-same face
that wouldn’t let me sleep
And the street is singing with my feet
And dawn gives me a shadow I know to be taller
All down to you, dear
Everything has changed

My sorry name has made it to graffiti
I was looking for someone to complete me
Not anymore, dear
Everything has changed

And we made the moon our mirrorball
The streets, an empty stage
The city sirens violins
Everything has changed …

Jay again. One more. One of my favorite songs ever. The link is to the official video.

The Bones of You
So I’m there,
Charging around with a juggernaut brow
Overdraft speeches and deadlines to make
Cramming commitments like cats in a sack
Telephone burn and a purposeful gait

When out of a doorway the tentacles stretch
Of a song that I know and the world moves in slow-mo
Straight to my head like the first cigarette of the day

And it’s you and it’s May
And we’re sleeping through the day
And I’m five years ago
And three thousand miles away

Do I have time? A man of my calibre?
Stood in the street like a sleepwalking teenager?
No. And I dealt with this years ago
I took a hammer to every memento

But image on image like beads on a rosary
Pull through my head as the music takes hold
And the sickener hits, I could work till I break
But I love the bones of you, that I will never escape …

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That was a bit of poetic license. Baby bats are called pups. (Yes, we have a whole book on bats in our little homeschool library. The things you learn…)

“Poetic license” hey? Never occurred to me to question it. That rascal.

Any fans of Tolkien’s Poetry here? I just listened to ‘The Adventures of Tom Bombadil’, and fell in love with it. Some of Tolkien’s most underrated works.

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Just heard this little one-liner on an NPR discussion of Twitter poetry yesterday.

“Words” by … Daniel (I guess?)

The leaf and its shadow dance like lovers until they meet.

I really like that … and totally did not get the same take-away from it that Blanco did in the interview. I liked my take a whole lot better. What does it mean to you?

I should probably give Tolkien’s poems another try. The last time I picked those up, I was still too hungry for more of his tales from middle earth. I think I may just be a Philistine when it comes to so much great poetry.

I’m not much of a poet, so my interpretation tends to be a lot more superficial I suppose. I was throughly engaged with the imagery of the leaf and shadow dancing, only to meet as it fell to the ground, but spiritualized it in seeing the “shadow of our selves” joining our true nature at the completion of this life on earth. Are we now the shadow or are we now the leaf?

I also enjoyed the poem quoted, “Normal - oh, to have that elephant in the room again.”
Again, I’m a bit concrete, and saw it in light of our current un-normal situation with social isolation and such. We usually long for a break from tedious normality, but realize now that normal is something sort of wonderful.

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It could even be an additional reference to politics too - mourning the republican party in one way or another? OKay - steering back away from the political edge there …

I like your take on the leaf poem too. The reader / interviewer kinda cynically laughed it off as a commentary on how the romantic dance ends once two people get married. I saw it more as a prelude to two becoming one (in a most glorious fashion). But mostly, like you I gather, I just found it a wonderful image to ponder … a leaf and its shadow meeting. Your take on it is decidedly deeper than mine … and also bests the gloomy take. Besides; if it’s a windy day, the dance will continue, right?

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Just reread this and it made me think of a video of a talk I listened to recently by Iain McGilchrist in which he contrasts the rational with the intuitive mind. Black or white, right or wrong, all or nothing is the domain of the rational mind. So the question of existence is its domain, what to let in and what to exclude is its obsession. The intuitive mind is diffusely aware of it all and inclusive by nature. A “lot of edges called Perhaps” expresses the open eyed regard for the diverse, ever changing lived world possessed by the intuitive mind. But the rational mind is building a fixed, static but simplistic model of the world in which every part is certain so it can’t admit just everything. Of course this has its use, but it is no way to live. Everyone has both minds from birth but balance isn’t always maintained. Surely whatever improvements the rational mind’s reductionist models achieve, their real value will be tested in the lived world of the intuitive mind. Yes convenience and bounty are good but for who, and do they make us better people? Still another perhaps edge.

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To hear Social Psychologist Haidt tell it, the rational you is little more than the press agent riding on top of the elephant (the real you [part of you that’s really in control]) who had already quite decided what it wanted to do and where it wanted to go long before your rationality and reason ever got involved. What your “reason” is good at doing is providing all the post-hoc justification (reputation maintenance) for all the stuff you had already chosen on quite other (intuitional) grounds. … goes along with the saying that “the heart hath its reasons that the head knows not of.”

It’s a bit of a cynical take on rationality, to be sure; and I may not be comfortable demoting that part quite so far as Haidt may seem to. But … he’s probably closer to right about this; he’s the one with all the studies and evidence, after all.

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Nor I, Mervin. It is a useful thing. It gave us science and technology - and that isn’t just post hoc justifying anything which was really done by some other capacity of ours. Credit where credit is due. But not everything we can do is good to do and not every ‘improvement’ makes us better. I think it good to live ones values and never lose sight of ones innate wisdom. It remains the only determinant we have of what is good and what isn’t; science and rationality will never replace it. The values which promote good science are not those most conducive to a good life. They are different things though good science certainly can contribute to a good life and has.

I want to be on your side on this too - I like my reason and rationality to the extent that I fancy I have them. Haidt not only has evidence going his way on this, though, he’s also got something else that he isn’t quick to claim: various observations from scriptures - which speak of the human heart in similar terms … “desperately wicked” I think it is called somewhere. [“deceitful” and “desperately sick” from Jeremiah 17, is what I was trying to remember there] And while James may not use the word “heart”, what he observes of the tongue (that last beast that no human has ever managed to tame) probably is a good stand-in for the same concept.

I agree that science is much indebted to our rational and reasoning capacities, but I wouldn’t be too quick to short-credit to all “that other great part” of ourselves. Again from Haidt, he discusses how it has been known for a couple centuries by now that if a human is robbed (perhaps by some mental illness or impairment) of their emotional/intuitive faculties - yet with their “higher” rational functioning left intact, that person essentially becomes non-functional in any good sense. I.e. deprive them of their joy or anger or all other emotional delight to pursue things and the well just dries up. Their rationality by itself cannot deliver on what it takes to cause them to thrive - either intellectually or in any other way. In fact, one might say it is this “elephant” of ours that is the one going to the well of rationality to draw its water rather than the other way around. In any case, without those non-rational components of our identity, I’m pretty confident there would be no science at all - nothing driving us to do or explore such things.

So while I can understand the appeal of planting our flags on the hill of rationality, I can also see that there are probably other summits of the human psyche that yet tower over our hill. I think you probably make some similar allowance of humility - so this isn’t so much a reaction to what you say (though you help provoke the thought!) as it is to say that whenever I encounter reductionist physics snobbery that would reduce the world into the “real” hard sciences, and then “everything else” (called “woo”), it is cause to stare down quietly at the floor in embarrassment on the other person’s behalf, and reflect on how narrowly channeled their train of thought still is - indeed as yet unable to conceive that any world could exist that wasn’t along their particular mental train track.

And how often have I been and am I still that person? It’s been said that if you can’t accept that something might be true of you, then just think instead how true it is of everyone else! :wink:

Sorry. Wow - I suppose this is all just about as opposite from poetry as one could get!

Roses are red, violets are blue; time to reflect how we harness the woo!

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“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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