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Poetry and Prayer

The current issue of Commonweal features two lovely poems by Christian Wiman.

The Scottish poet, Edwin Muir, at the end of the Second World War, wrote a very personal prayer-poem on the Transfiguration. It ends:

But he will come again, it’s said, though not

Unwanted and unsummoned; for all things,

Beasts of the field, and woods, and rocks, and seas,

And all mankind from end to end of the earth

Will call him with one voice. In our own time,

Some say, or at a time when time is ripe.

Then he will come, Christ the uncrucified,

Christ the discrucified, his death undone,

His agony unmade, his cross dismantled—

Glad to be so—and the tormented wood

Will cure its hurt and grow into a tree

In a green springing corner of young Eden,

And Judas damned take his long journey backward

From darkness into light and be a child

Beside his mother’s knee, and the betrayal

Be quite undone and never more be done.

Blessings for the feast!

About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.



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Poets love the theme of transfiguration, the sudden, transforming glimpse of the eternal.

Wendell Berry: 

There are no worlds but other worlds

and all the other worlds are here

Lisel Mueller:

you know again that behind that wall,

under the uncut hair of the willows

something secret is going on,

so marvelous and dangerous

that if you crawled through and saw,

you would die, or be happy forever.

Marie Ponsot:

For a moment I know

I know what can be known.

Error abandons me

breathing an air

of blinding candor.

William Stafford:

When you wake to the dream of now

from night and its other dream,

you carry day out of the dark

like a flame.



Thank you, Father.

Lovers of Dante (Scott M. and others) may be interested in Peter Hawkins' discussion of Dante's complex relation with Ovid's Metamorphoses. Part Three of Hawkins' fine study, Dante's Testaments: Essays in Scriptural Imagination treats "Dante and Ovid." Of particular interest is the essay, "Transfiguring the Text" which treats the central place of the gospel account of the Transfiguration in Canto 32 of the Purgatorio. Hawkins sums up Dante's view: "Like Moses and the prophets, Virgil and Ovid have a place in the curriculum – provided they are read retrospectively, in light of that life-giving reality which Christ both is and represents."

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