Tuesday, April 27, 2010

From What I've Tasted of Desire

My favorite poems are Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Coleridge and Fire and Ice by Robert Frost.

Is there any few lines that express desperation and pain quite as elegantly as these?

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

I think not. The image of dying of dehydration while surrounded by a literal ocean of water you cannot drink is so . . . perfect.

As for Fire and Ice, that's short enough to reprint whole:

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

"From what I've tasted of desire/I hold with those who favor fire" is just perfect to me in every way.

I mention this because I've stumbled upon a treasure trove of modern Christian poetry that makes me wonder why I haven't seen Samuel Coleridge or Robert Frost's shambling corpses looking for revenge upon us all. (If you do see them, be sure to give them Glenn Beck's latest book along with a printout from googlemaps.)

Only God could pay for my sins
Only in flesh
Could my God die
Jesus hung on a hand hewed cross
Silhouetted against a darkened sky

5 points for Silhouetted against a darkened sky, 5 points for spelling "Silhouetted" correctly, -15 for hand hewed cross. It's hewn. Hand-hewn. Wait, -20 for implying that there may have been mass production in the year 33 CE.

On that tree
Was the Word of God
Forever faithful and true
Betrayed and scorned by evil men
Including me and you

When did I beat the risen Lord
When did I curse His Holy Name
When did I deny Him and then run off
Hiding in absolute shame

-20 for almost making me choke on my 7up upon being asked when I beat the risen Lord. You probably shouldn't combine "beat" and "risen".

I didn’t do that, no not me
Jesus I did not betray
It was them, it was them
Evil men, their vicious lies
That killed the Lord that day

But in my heart the truth burns deep
Innocent, no I an not
My sin and yours held the nails
Our soul depraved and full of rot

-50 for making me say that out loud to see if (a) you were still sticking to the meter, and (b) if there were some meter related reason to say "our soul" rather than "our souls".

But on that cross on Calvary’s hill
The full and complete price was paid
“It is finished”,cried my precious Lord
And with that our souls were saved

I think the main problem here is the kind of thing musicians run into: you have to fit the lyrics into a certain rhythm and song length, so you end up with some really weird word choices and expressions in order to do so. This guy had to get in the evangelical salvation message no matter what, so the end went right off the rails.

I ponder upon Your Forgiveness and Grace
Through You I came to salvation’s embrace
Who am I that You'd take notice of me
I present all that I am to You, willingly
Once in sin I was separated from You
Now restored and alive to Your Truth
My deepest joy is praising Your Name
You changed me, never to be the same
Where once my path was dark and cold
You reached for my hand and took hold
Planted within me a desire to be holy
To have no fear but to trust in You only
My Savior, Lord, Fortress and Shield
My whole being to You I forever yield

That makes Only God look like the work of Robert Blake (did he who make the lamb make thee?) When I become Empress of the Entire Freakin' World, I will burn all rhyming dictionaries, because that is the only explanation for this.

It’s My Time To Fly

Lord, you know all about me
You see what’s in my heart
Only you alone can guide me
And show me where to start

With patience you teach me wisdom
In faith I’ll learn to walk
Lord, I’m an eaglette, still learning
Sometimes, you’ll hear me squawk

Squawk? The first clue you're not writing poetry is that you used the words "eaglette" and "squawk".

Cast out of my nest
My parents built for me
Out went my toys
It seemed crazy to me

Baby eagles have toys?

It’s time to stretch my wings
I have to learn to fly
I’ve watched my mom and dad
Now, It’s my time to fly

They showed me how to eat
Taught me how to hunt for food
Daily catching meals in flight
It tasted mighty good

"It tasted mighty good" has removed my will to live.

When I see storms are coming
I don’t run away and hide
I stretch my wings towards Heaven
And above the cloud I’ll take my flight

Seriously, that's the end of the poem. It's a good thing I've already given up on living. Which may be why I'm feeling positive about this:

Men don't believe in a devil now
as their fathers used to do
They've opened the door to the broadest creed to let his majesty thur
there isn't a print of his cloven feet or a fiery dart from his bow
To be found on earth or anywhere.,
for the world has voted it so.

Okay. You have to admit that there isn't a print of his cloven feet or a fiery dart from his bow is like poetry, in the way that toilet water and wine are like one another, being liquids, but I'm sensing some teabaggery politics in here. the world voted on the devil? Also, do women believe in the DEVIL now?

But who is mixing the fatal draught that kills both heart and brain,
And loads the earth each passing year with ten hundred thousands slain?
Who blights the bloom pf the land today with the fiery breath of hell?
If the devil isn't or never was - won't somebody please rise and tell?

I like "draught". I just do. The word itself, the spelling, it makes me happy. (You already knew I was wierd, I'm sure.) "Blights the bloom of the land" isn't killing me.

Who dogs the steps of the toiling saint and digs the pits for his feet?
Who sows the tares in the field of time when GOD is sowing pure wheat,
But the devil is voted just not to be - and of course the thing is true. -
But who is doing the kind of work the devil is supossed to do?
Won't somebody step to the front row right now
- and immediately begin to show -
How the frauds and crimes of the day spring up -
for surely we want to know!
The devil was fairly voted out
- and of course the devil's gone -
But simply folk would like to know, who carries his business on?

I'm guessing people who foist such trash upon an unsuspecting internet, that's who!

Just to help you with the soulbleed you undoubtedly have right now, let's take a trip to the pleasure dome:

In Xanadu did Kublai Khan
A stately Pleasure-Dome decree,
Where Alph, the sacred river ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers was girdled ’round,
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

See, now isn't that better? A little laudanum works every time.


  1. "Eaglette" sounds like something served for brunch.

    Tasty, endangered brunch...

  2. Why!? Why do you inflict these things on us? Do you hate us so much? Aaaaugh!

    ::head explodes::

  3. I am laughing so hard! As always, thank you for this blog!

  4. If there is a god, I'm really mad at it for allowing this in its name.

  5. Hey, that tripe is symptomatic of the state of what people consider poetry these days. Christian poets of the times of old would eat those wordpiles for breffust.

    Check out Gerard Manley Hopkins.

    As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
    As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
    Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
    Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
    Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
    Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
    Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
    Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.

    Í say móre: the just man justices;
    Kéeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces;
    Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
    Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
    Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
    To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

    That guy's religion SO did no prevent him from writing blisteringly awesome poetry. That said, I'm pretty sure my non-religion doesn't prevent me from writing fairly good poetry. It just requires work, hard work, lots of it, and a willingness to be totally ruthless with yourself in pursuit of truth and beauty. To which the wishy-washy "teh Holy Spirit tole me to tell you you look fat in that dress" and the pompous, "if I write about my beliefs no one can mock the quality of my writings cause they come from the heart" types are completely allergic. Crits, good crits, are the heart and soul of what makes a good poet. Good poets loooove crits. Writers like the above might not accept them, for their poetry or their approach to religion. Even from credible poets / religious people.

  6. I've always been partial to "Banjo" Patterson, Rudyard Kipling, and Robert Service more than any others, though I enjoy a lot of it by others.

    Kiplings "The Gods of the Copybook Headings", "A Pict's Song", and "The Widow's Picnic" are just as relevent today as they were when they were written.

    If you can't laugh at Service's "Ballad of the Ice Worm Cocktail', and "The Absinthe Drinkers", you can't laugh at all.

    "Banjo"? Horses! He writes about HORSES! and a bunch of other stuff that's great. There is one protagonist, one "Saltbush Bill" who is dowright Odysian in his trickery.

  7. For me at the moment, no one can transcend later Yeats.

  8. I dunno, Ali, remember, "Things fall apart..."

  9. Slight tangent (I think): I learned to love Langdon Smith's Evolution when I was a little kid.

    When you were a tadpole and I was a fish
    In the Paleozoic time,
    And side by side on the ebbing tide
    We sprawled through the ooze and slime,
    Or skittered with many a caudal flip
    Through the depths of the Cambrian fen,
    My heart was rife with the joy of life,
    For I loved you even then.

    Full poem: http://www.whoopis.com/~mbates/evolution.php

  10. What Fiat Lex said. Here's some more muscular Christian stuff, from John Milton (who had gone completely blind by the time it was written):

    When I consider how my light is spent,
    Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
    And that one talent which is death to hide
    Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
    To serve therewith my Maker, and present
    My true account, lest He returning chide;
    "Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?"
    I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
    That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need
    Either man's work or His own gifts. Who best
    Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His state
    Is kingly: thousands at His bidding speed,
    And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
    They also serve who only stand and wait."

    I saw a graffito in a bathroom of the English Dept. at Cal Berkeley many years ago that read "they also surf who only stand on waves".


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Forever in Hell by Personal Failure is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at foreverinhell.blogspot.com.