the green fields beyond

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Location: Charles City, Virginia, United States

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The Poor Voter on Election Day

The Poor Voter on Election Day
by John Greenleaf Whittier (1852)

The proudest now is but my peer,
The highest not more high;
To-day, of all the weary year,
A king of men am I.
To-day alike are great and small,
The nameless and the known
My palace is the people’s hall,
The ballot-box my throne!

Who serves to-day upon the list
Beside the served shall stand;
Alike the brown and wrinkled fist,
The gloved and dainty hand!
The rich is level with the poor,
The weak is strong to-day;
And sleekest broadcloth counts no more
Than homespun frock of gray.

To-day let pomp and vain pretence
My stubborn right abide;
I set a plain man’s common sense
Against the pedant’s pride.
To-day shall simple manhood try
The strength of gold and land
The wide world has not wealth to buy
The power in my right hand!

While there’s a grief to seek redress,
Or balance to adjust,
Where weighs our living manhood less
Than Mammon’s vilest dust, —
While there’s a right to need my vote
A wrong to sweep away,
Up! clouted knee and ragged coat!
A man’s a man to-day!


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Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Prayer for Emergency Workers

The Book of Common Prayer has excellent prayers for judges, government officials, teachers, etc, but it lacked one for emergency workers, so here's my attempt at a prayer for them:

God of compassion,
Who suffered to rescue a world that didn’t care,
Whose Son was known best for healing the sick and the suffering:

Protect and sustain all those whose calling is to rush toward danger rather than away from it.
When they grow tired of patching up fools, give them five more minutes’ worth of patience.
When their friends and comrades are injured, protect them from despair.
When they do their best but cannot stop death, keep hope alive in their hearts. When they must deliver awful news, and must say the hardest words, give them a measure of your tenderness.
Give them eyes to see the face of your Son in the face of every stranger in need.

Bring them and us, at last, into your new creation, where there will be no more tears, or mourning, or death.
We ask these things for the sake of Jesus, the Rescuer,
Amen.


 


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Friday, July 22, 2011

Poem: Opportunity

It's been too many months since I posted poetry. I memorized this one when I was a kid (for school? maybe) and then it lay dormant in my mind until this past week when it popped up. I suddenly see something relevant in it. Plus it's fun.

OPPORTUNITY

by: Edward Rowland Sill (1841-1887)

      HIS I beheld, or dreamed it in a dream:--
      There spread a cloud of dust along a plain;
      And underneath the cloud, or in it, raged
      A furious battle, and men yelled, and swords
      Shocked upon swords and shields. A prince's banner
      Wavered, then staggered backward, hemmed by foes.

      A craven hung along the battle's edge,
      And thought, "Had I a sword of keener steel--
      That blue blade that the king's son bears, -- but this
      Blunt thing--!" he snapped and flung it from his hand,
      And lowering crept away and left the field.

      Then came the king's son, wounded, sore bestead,
      And weaponless, and saw the broken sword,
      Hilt-buried in the dry and trodden sand,
      And ran and snatched it, and with battle shout
      Lifted afresh he hewed his enemy down,
      And saved a great cause that heroic day.


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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Poetry Month: Christmas is Really for the Children

Christmas is Really for the Children
By Steve Turner

Christmas is really

for the children.

Especially for children

who like animals, stables,

stars and babies wrapped

in swaddling clothes.

Then there are wise men,

kings in fine robes,

humble shepherds and a

hint of rich perfume.

Easter is not really

for the children

unless accompanied by

a cream filled egg.

It has whips, blood, nails,

a spear and allegations

of body snatching.

It involves politics, God

and the sins of the world.

It is not good for people

of a nervous disposition.

They would do better to

think on rabbits, chickens

and the first snowdrop

of spring.

Or they'd do better to

wait for a re-run of

Christmas without asking

too many questions about

what Jesus did when he grew up

or whether there's any connection.


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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Poetry Month: Paul Revere's Ride

Today in 1775, British troops and Massachusetts militia clashed in Lexington and Concord, and sparked the Revolutionary War. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem about the events of the night before, in which Paul Revere rode to warn the townsfolk that the British were coming to seize their leaders & military supplies. The poem leaves out the other riders who spread the word, but for drama it can't be beat. And the part about the lonely signaller in the church tower, afraid of the shadows and ghosts, still spooks me.

Paul Revere's Ride
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."

Then he said "Good-night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the somber rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,--
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,--
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse's side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and somber and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer's dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,---
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,---
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.


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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Poetry Month: Detected

Written over a hundred years ago, this is still quite relevant:

DETECTED

by: Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)

      In Congress once great Mowther shone,
      Debating weighty matters;
      Now into an asylum thrown,
      He vacuously chatters.
      If in that legislative hall
      His wisdom still he'd vented,
      It never had been known at all
      That Mowther was demented.
"Detected" is reprinted from The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce Vol. IV: Shapes of Clay. Ambrose Bierce. New York: Neale Publishing Company, 1910.


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Monday, April 04, 2011

Poetry Month: The Silence of God

April, as you may be aware, is National Poetry Month. I love it for its annual reminder of the need that poetry meets in our prosaic lives. Here's a poem--a song, actually, but it counts--that i recently heard and loved: Andrew Peterson's "The Silence of God," from his Love and Thunder album.

The YouTube video includes the lyrics on-screen.



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