Sunday, July 20, 2008

"If in That Syrian Garden"

If in that Syrian Garden, ages slain,
You sleep, and know not you are dead in vain,
Nor even in dreams behold how dark and bright
Ascends in smoke and fire by day and night
The hate you died to quench and could but fan,
Sleep well and see no morning, Son of Man.

But if, the grave rent and the stone rolled by,
At the right hand of majesty on high
You sit, and sitting so remember yet
Your fears, your agony and bloody sweat,
Your cross and passion and the life you gave,
Bow hither out of heaven and see and save.

-A.E. Houseman-


Jeff Moss said...

Great stuff.

I'd be interested in your thoughts on my post of a Rich Mullins song. Is it legitimate to compare him to Gerard Manley Hopkins?

Thomas Banks said...

There's certainly a joyful drunken imbalance of imagery in both. With Hopkins, the boughs of any given verse are always so overladen with the poetic-pictorial that no single image becomes the point of focus in the mind's eye, which maddens the reader as much as it often enriches the poem. Bothers a lot of the more classically balanced critics, but I think that if he had pruned his stanzas more carefully it would have come across as dishonest.

My favorite piece of his has always been "Heaven Haven:"

I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
Where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow.

And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the
havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.