Weep for me friends and ring the bell
       For on my head the heavens fell
For on my head the heavens fell
       And sank me to the depths of hell 

Weep for me friends and do not speak
       Your words are comfortless and bleak
Your words are comfortless and bleak
       And give no solace to the weak

Weep for me friends and let me be
       My grief is much too much for ye
My grief is much too much for ye
       As so your comfort is to me 

But weep for me Christ and with me dwell
       For on thy head the heavens fell
For on thy head the heavens fell
       And thou hast known the depths of hell

m.b. 07/05/2011

To the Garden of Gethsemane
Follow now the Lord and his disciples.
See him in the throes of agony
As the cords of death about him tangle.
Think upon this mystery:
The pain he feels, he feels for thee.

Here, as pow’rs of darkness him surround,
Hear his double prayer to God for mercy.
See him on his face fall to the ground,
Crying, “Take this cup of anguish from me!”
Watch his sweat drip down like blood,
First trickle of the coming flood.

Yet, though overwhelmed in his distress,
Still submits he to the purpose divine.
Hear him to his Father acquiesce,
Praying, “Let thy will be done and not mine.”
In response, God’s angel nears
And gives him strength to meet his fears.

Now the traitor springs and love profanes;
Comes by night to do his master’s mission.
This is now the hour when darkness reigns –
Now, when rightful king falls to sedition.
Hear the ancient serpent’s hiss!
Oh, see the strike beneath the kiss.

Maundy Thursday, 2011
Mathew Block

Today in 1546, Martin Luther passed from this world to the next. Few knew him so well as his Philipp Melanchthon, his partner in establishing Reformation theology in Germany. Upon Luther’s death, Melanchthon wrote an elegy in Latin remembering the great defender of the faith. What follows is Henrietta Joan Fry’s 1845 translation of that poem.

Elegy on the Death of the Rev. Martin Luther, D.D.,
From the Latin of Philip Melancthon

Since Luther is no more, his cherished name
Shall from our hearts, a deathless tribute claim.
We hailed him minister of Christ, the Lord,
Jesus he preached, with faith, and taught his word.
Luther is dead! and now the church in tears
A mourner clothed in saddest garb appears.
She weeps her loved preceptor now no more,
Honoured and dear, – a father’s name he bore.
Fallen on the field the mighty chieftain lies,
And Israel’s voice proclaims his obsequies.
Then let us bathe in tears the muse’s lay
And publish forth our sorrows to the day:
It thus becomes us well – to weap and mourn
Whilst, orphans in our grief, we dress affection’s urn.


Note: The book from which this is taken, Hymns from the Reformation, by Dr. Martin Luther…, lists the author only as “the author of the ‘Pastor’s Legacy,'” but some brief research reveals her to be Henrietta Joan Fry. A full edition of the book is available online courtesty of Google books here. A handwritten note on the title page of that copy reads “By Henrietta Joan Fry.”  Confirmation comes in another 19th century work also published under the name “author of the Pastor’s Legacy” – a book called The Wells of Scripture. The 1888 Dictionary of the Anonymous and Pseudonymous Literature of Great Britain… confirms that this work, Wells of Scripture, was written by Henrietta J. Fry (p. 2802). Thus Fry must also have written Hymns from the Reformation.

Today was the first snowfall of the winter in Regina. We’ve had about ten cms of snow, coupled with bitter winds of 70 km/h. The precise meteorological term for what we’ve “enjoyed” today is “weather bomb.” All in all, a somewhat miserable day in the Queen City. And the snow just keeps falling and the winds just keep howling.

Still, the fact that it is the first snowfall of the winter reminds me of one of my favourite poems: “St. Agnes’ Eve” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. I cannot help but recall his line about the “first snowdrop of the year,” even if the winter day Tennyson depicts is far more idyllic than the one which visited Regina today. Yet perhaps the contrast between Tennyson’s snowdrop and ours serves to make his words all the more beautiful. Our dreary day makes his seem all the more heavenly. And, indeed, perhaps the heaven to which Tennyson points in this poem is made all the more beautiful by our current annoyances, as we anticipate that celestial paradise where such annoyances will finally pass away. As Tennyson himself demonstrates in the poem, recognition of the imperfectness of this world can be the impetus for greater hope in the state of perfection to come.

For your enjoyment:

St. Agnes’ Eve

Deep on the convent-roof the snows
Are sparkling to the moon:
My breath to heaven like vapour goes:
May my soul follow soon!
The shadows of the convent-towers
Slant down the snowy sward,
Still creeping with the creeping hours
That lead me to my Lord:
Make Thou my spirit pure and clear
As are the frosty skies,
Or this first snowdrop of the year
That in my bosom lies.

As these white robes are soil’d and dark,
To yonder shining ground;
As this pale taper’s earthly spark,
To yonder argent round;
So shows my soul before the Lamb,
My spirit before Thee;
So in mine earthly house I am,
To that I hope to be.
Break up the heavens, O Lord! and far,
Thro’ all yon starlight keen,
Draw me, thy bride, a glittering star,
In raiment white and clean.

He lifts me to the golden doors;
The flashes come and go;
All heaven bursts her starry floors,
And strows her lights below,
And deepens on and up! the gates
Roll back, and far within
For me the Heavenly Bridegroom waits,
To make me pure of sin.
The sabbaths of Eternity,
One sabbath deep and wide–
A light upon the shining sea–
The bridegroom with his bride!

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Today I submitted the final piece of work for my two undergrad degrees. I will not deny that it feels absolutely glorious to be done! As I was in a bit of a playful mood, and in honour of the fact that April is National Poetry Month in both the United States and Canada, I wrote the following minor parody of Chaucer’s Prologue to the Canterbury Tales. Enjoy!

Epilogue to the Academic Tales

With Apologies to Chaucer

When that April has with seas of ink
Borne witness just how little students think,
And covered every page with such a blot
That teachers search in vain for proof of thought;
When graduands have breathed a sigh of rest
For theses writ, submitted, and professed
Before committees; and curriculum
Unto the end its course has fully run;
And little first years lift a mournful cry
That study all the night with open eye —
So finals do prick them in their fear —
Then do I long to go for beer!

Mathew Block
April 28, 2010

For your meditation this Ash Wednesday: “Oh my blacke Soule” by John Donne (Holy Sonnet II in the 1633 edition).

Oh my blacke Soule! now thou art summoned
By sicknesse, deaths herald, and champion;
Thou art like a pilgrim, which abroad hath done
Treason, and durst not turne to whence hee is fled,
Or like a thiefe, which till deaths doome be read,
Wisheth himselfe delivered from prison;
But damn’d and hal’d to execution,
Wisheth that still he might be imprisoned;
Yet grace, if thou repent, thou canst not lacke;
But who shall give thee that grace to beginne?
Oh make thy selfe with holy mourning blacke,
And red with blushing, as thou art with sinne;
Or wash thee in Christs blood, which hath this might
That being red, it dyes red soules to white.

Ancient words, chanted once in the depths of Roman catacombs,
Enchant us still and speak for us.
Where we would be speechless,
Be you the words upon our lips.
And let us cry out with fourth century Jerusalem,
Fifth century Rome, sixteenth century Wittenburg,
And twenty-first century Seoul, Abuja and Brasilia,
“Kyrie eleison!”

Ours is one voice, though many tongues;
Altered in form yet unaltered in meaning.
Here the Word speaks over us.
Here the Word speaks into us.
And we in return respond in unison.
With angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven,
With seraphim and cherubim, and all the saints quick and dead,
With the living creatures, and all the holy catholic and apostolic church,
Praise we the Name.

What is this text that survives centuries and cultures and civilizations?
What these words that they grip us still?
Are they not of human origin?
Human-crafted, yes, but drawn from divine logos,
And infused by the Spirit with his message,
A message that bids us come experience grace anew.

We do not speak these ancient words by mere rote.
We speak them by heart:
Reciting, repeating, reiterating changeless truths,
Until we at last we are drawn up from these catacombs
To join in undying worship with the faithful of all generations –
Those with whom we worship even now as we speak ancient words.

Mathew A. Block
November 8, 2009

« Previous PageNext Page »