Ash Wednesday Poem

 I love the contrast between the first two and the last two verses of this poem.
The author like myself is clearly not a fan of the baroque church style, an allegory for the way we "parody the divine. " No doubt there are other styles that do the same.

But the poem carries us across the dark chasm of the 40 days of Lent opened up by Ash Wednesday thoughts and takes us through to the much more lively light and energy of approaching Spring. 

 I love the imagery it portrays of the living God as a painter and animator of life running away, leaping and spreading a carnival of colour and renewal for us  - reminding us that our God is a Resurrected Easter God and we are, or at least should live as Easter people....

For me, It is a poem which beautifully evokes the Franciscan spirit and the engagement of Celtic spirituality with the mysteries of the living earth:

The Earth and all creation is alive with the presence of God's presence. The poem enthusiastically affirms the psalmist's declaration, 'The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims God's handiwork' (Psalm 19:1).  

God's Spirit dwells in all living things, everything is inherently good...  Every moment, every location and engagement can become a time and place for encountering God.

So, amongst other things, I hope to make 2012  a Celtic and Franciscan tinged Lent and pray that I may take time each day to pay attention and celebrate the wonder of creation: to sense the changes taking place in myself, others and the world and even those changes I cannot see. 

 I will do all I that is necessary to nurture growth and marvel at the wonder of Creation and give thanks to God for the gift of life.

                                                                         Image from here

Ash Wednesday



Shut out the light or let it filter through
These frowning aisles as penitentially
As though it walked in sackcloth. Let it be
Laid at the feet of all that ever grew
Twisted and false, like this rococo shrine
Where cupids smirk from candy clouds and where
The Lord, with polished nails and perfumed hair,
Performs a parody of the divine.

The candles hiss; the organ-pedals storm;
Writhing and dark, the columns leave the earth
To find a lonelier and darker height.
The church grows dingy while the human swarm
Struggles against the impenitent body’s mirth.
Ashes to ashes. . . . Go. . . . Shut out the light. 

 Image from here
And so the light runs laughing from the town,
Pulling the sun with him along the roads
That shed their muddy rivers as he goads
Each blade of grass the ice had flattened down.
At every empty bush he stops to fling
Handfuls of birds with green and yellow throats;
While even the hens, uncertain of their notes,
Stir rusty vowels in attempts to sing.

Chestnut tree in Spring from here

He daubs the chestnut-tips with sudden reds
And throws an olive blush on naked hills
That hoped, somehow, to keep themselves in white. 

 Lucca Tuscany, Italy
Who calls for sackcloth now? He leaps and spreads
A carnival of colour, gladly spills
His blood: the resurrection—and the light.

Louis Untermeyer, “Ash Wednesday” from Burning Bush (New York: Harcourt, 1928). Permission is granted by arrangement with the Estate of Louis Untermeyer, Norma Anchin Untermeyer c/o Professional Publishing Services. The reprint is granted with the expressed permission by Laurence S. Untermeyer.

Source: Burning Bush (1928)

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