Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Danger of Being Materialists

(Orthodoxy ought to
Bless our modern plumbing:
Swift and St. Augustine
Lived in centuries
When a stench of sewage
Ever in the nostrils
Made a strong debating
Point for Manichees).
W.H. Auden, from "Geography of a House,"

The really remarkable thing about this poem is that it really is all about excrement.  Several stanzas, deeply reflecting on humanity and our waste.  Frankly, I'm more than a little glad he wrote it.  To defend the goodness of materiality is easy until we deal with the frank protests of pungent odors and unsightly matter.  After all, isn't this the scandal of the Incarnation?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Prayer (1).

Prayer the church's banquet, angel's age,
God's breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav'n and earth
Engine against th' Almighty, sinner's tow'r,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-days world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul's blood,
The land of spices; something understood.

- George Herbert (1593-1633)