Lay for the Day 25th
The feast-day of two Anglo-Saxon saints, both of them monks renowned for
their poetic gifts. One is St Aldhelm (639709), abbot of Malmesbury
and bishop of west Wessex. King Alfred told the story of how Aldhelm was
upset by the casual attitude to Mass among the townspeople of Malmesbury.
So he dressed as a gleeman, a wandering minstrel, and stood on the towns
bridge with his harp, singing songs, telling jokes and stories, but weaving
religious teaching into his routine. Aldhelm won men to heed sacred
things, wrote Alfred, by taking his stand as a gleeman and
singing English songs on a bridge." He was said to be an adept player
on every musical instrument of his time, but none of his English poems
or songs have survived, though there are a number of Latin works in both
verse and prose. He is also said to have translated the Psalms into his
second of our saints is the Venerable Bede (673735), a Northumbrian
monk who wrote the first history of England, along with many scriptural
commentaries, and translated the Gospel of St John into Old English, a
task he completed just before he died. His feast was 26th May in the old
English calendars, but was usually celebrated on the 27th to avoid a clash
with another important English saints day, that of St Augustine
of Canterbury. In the Roman calendar his feast is 25th May. Bede, the
only Englishman to appear in Dantes Divine Comedy, had an enormous
influence on Christian learning, and is the patron saint of scholars.
He was also a lover of poetry and a singer of songs.
Wheres an art
so good its impossible
To speak well of it, that will render
Inconsolably the inconsolable,
Though forms consoling prompts the hearts surrender;
Off the white, right-angled page
To head with difficulty
For its lair in the ribcage?
Whose laborious pen can make
The dancing eye and fluting mental voice
For concentrating their strong faculty
Here, not in the making of a lifes choice?
To undress the injury
Without healing intention
Is a worse-than-perjury.
Harmony, that mends
the souls dissension,
Replies my flatterer, is the great sun
To which your wings bent draw our attention.
When what is done now in the world is done
Id not teach a soul assent.
God the Son confessed himself
An arsonist, impatient
To set alight the planets
How can the poem so stir the embers
Youd not even return it to the shelf
But yearn to act while the heart remembers,
Leaving the pages unclosed
In stillness of Novembers
Light, like a true question posed?
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