A poem for Palm Sunday – “The Donkey”, G K Chesterton

I find Chesterton a somewhat mixed bag , and that applies to his poetry also, but this has always moved me deeply, and is all the more effective for concealing its theme until the last stanza:

The Donkey

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

For Christmas Eve: Mitch Miller & the Gang, We Three Kings of Orient Are

Mitch Miller supposedly incarnated the worst of 1950s popular music, nearly destroying Sinatra with novelty numbers and generally inflicting cliché upon cliché that would be blown away in the 1960s. Maybe so, though like all received narratives it misses out a lot. Anyway, this choral version of We Three Kings of Orient Are shows that Mitch Miller too could be touched by grace:

An Italian poem of World War I – “Last Rite”, Clemente Rebora

The current TLS has a piece by NS Thompson on Italian poets of the First World War, along with translations by Thompson of some of their works. Futurism, which glorified war along with other manifestations of industrial modernity, was a potent element of the cultural background:

The Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s first Futurist Manifesto, published in February 1909 in a Bologna newspaper (and, two weeks later, on the front page of the Parisian daily Le Figaro), announced a new aesthetic dawn, praised the virtues of the machine age, and caused a sensation throughout Europe. It was the first time an aesthetic movement had co-opted industry’s driving force, lauding speed, mobility and sheer power, proclaiming them as moral virtues, almost, that would save the soul of man from its descent into comfortable bourgeois sloth. But this idealism had a darker side. Marinetti saw war, too, as a source of renewal: Article 9 of the Manifesto was “Noi vogliamo glorificare la guerra – sola igiene del mondo” (We want to glorify war – the only health in the world).

The most affecting poem of Thompson’s translations, for me, is Clemente Rebora’s Last Rite:

Last Rite

O wounded man down there in the defile
You cried out so loudly
Three able-bodied comrades
Fallen to help you who were so nearly past it,
In the mud and blood
A legless trunk
And still you cry out
Have pity on us survivors
Left in our death rattle and the hour never ends,
The death throes quicken,
But you can end it
And comfort be yours
In the madness that turns no one insane,
Meanwhile the moment brings pause,
The brain sleeps
And you leave us in peace –

Thank you, brother.


There isn’t a huge amount I can find on the Anglophone internet on Rebora, Wikipedia being the only English language source I can easily find:

Clemente Rebora (6 January 1885 – 1 November 1957) was a poet from Milan, Italy. From 1913 to 1922, he wrote anonymous “Songs” and lyrics. Previously an atheist, he had a spiritual crisis in 1928 and became a devout Catholic.[1] In 1930, he entered a seminary; in 1936, he became a Rosminian priest. After this, his work became religious in orientation, but his work is popular beyond Catholic circles for its treatment of metaphysics and physics. He is somewhat controversial for his friendship with Julius Evola, but the friendship seems to have been largely based on his hope Julius would convert to Christianity. When this hope grew dim the friendship declined.[2]


“Compassion can never coexist with judgment because judgment creates the distance, the distinction, which prevents us from really being with the other.” – Henri Nouwen on solitude and compassion

From Nouwen’s The Way of the Heart: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers

Here we reach the point where ministry and spirituality touch each other. It is compassion. Compassion is the fruit of solitude and the basis of all ministry. The purification and transformation that take place in solitude manifest themselves in compassion.

Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate. Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to the place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it. As busy, active, relevant ministers, we want to earn our bread by making a real contribution. This means first and foremost doing something to show that our presence makes a difference. And so we ignore our greatest gift, which is our ability to enter into solidarity with those who suffer. It is in solitude that this compassionate solidarity grows.

In solitude we realize that nothing human is alien to us, that the roots of all conflict, war, injustice, cruelty, hatred, jealousy, and envy are deeply anchored in our own heart. In solitude our heart of stone can be turned into a heart of flesh, a rebellious heart into a contrite heart, and a closed heart into a heart that can open itself to all suffering people in a gesture of solidarity. If you would ask the Desert Fathers why solitude gives birth to compassion, they would say, “Because it makes us die to our neighbor.”

At first this answer seems quite disturbing to a modern mind. But when we give it a closer look we can see that in order to be of service to others we have to die to them; that is, we have to give up measuring our meaning and value with the yardstick of others. To die to our neighbors means to stop judging them, to stop evaluating them, and thus to become free to be compassionate. Compassion can never coexist with judgment because judgment creates the distance, the distinction, which prevents us from really being with the other

Stained Glass from the Church of the Assumption, Ballingarry, Tipperary (Part 1)

Stained Glass from the Church of the Assumption, Ballingarry, Tipperary (Part 1)

The Church of the Assumption, Ballingarry has much beautiful glass; on these days of intense sun it is particularly worth visiting as some wonderful effects are created. I am dividing this post into two, firstly considering the more modern glass with themes related to the Crucifixion. I particularly liked this window with motifs of Pilate’s handwashing and Peter’s betrayal:20180728_174209929595124.jpg
As always in these posts, I lament the quality of my pictures, and find this one of a window with a cross of thorns and the robe (with dice) didn’t capture the wonderful effect of the light:

However, the robe with dice is worth a closer look. I wonder if there is any significance to the numbers displayed?

I am a tiny bit unsure of the motif on the right below. Is it Jacob’s ladder?