~William Shakespeare — Sonnet 73
with each passing season,
as my outer self fades and fails,
wrinkles and withersI am consumed wholly
by glowing embers of love
received and thereby shared;
no warmth compares
to such a grace freely given.
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
1 John 3: 18-20
And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.
~Seamus Heaney “Postscript” from The Spirit Level
…they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
~James Wright from “The Blessing”
‘Tis strange that death
I am the cygnet to this pale faint swan,
Who chants a doleful hymn to his own death,
And from the organ-pipe of frailty sings
His soul and body to their lasting rest.
~William Shakespeare from “King John”
Working outside before the sun was up on a recent rainy morning, I heard overhead the swishing hush of wings in flight and the trumpeter swan doleful hymn called out as dozens passed above me in a long meandering line against the early dawn grayness.
The swan flocks predictably arrive here in late autumn to eat their fill, feasting in the harvested cornfields surrounding our farm, their bright white plumage a stark contrast to the dulling muddy soil. In mild winters, they tend to stick around awhile, but soon they will lift their long graceful necks and fan out their wings to be picked up the wind, leaving us behind and beneath, moving on to their next feeding and breeding grounds.
These incredible creatures bring such joy with their annual arrival and brief stay, their leave-taking a metaphor for this dying time of year, reminding me once again nothing on earth can last, that God is greater than our earthly hearts.
“‘Tis strange that death should sing…” but in fact, ’tis strange that death should fly in and out on silken wings.
I give myself over to their beauty, and walk with lighter tread, singing a new song:
I am grateful my sore heart still soars beyond this soil.
During this Lenten season, I will be drawing inspiration from the new devotional collection edited by Sarah Arthur —Between Midnight and Dawn
“Why, what’s the matter,
That you have such a February face,
So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?”
– William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing
February never fails to be seductive, teasing of spring on a bright sunny day and the next day all hope is dashed by a frosty wind cutting through layers of clothing. There is a hint of green in the pastures but the deepening mud is sucking at our boots. The snowdrops and crocus are up and blooming, but the brown leaves from last summer still cling tenaciously to oak branches, appearing as if they will never ever let go to make room for a new leaf crop.
A February face is tear-streaked and weepy, winter weary and spring hungry. Thank goodness it is a short month or we’d never survive the glumminess of a month that can’t quite decide whether it is done with us or not.
So much ado.
So much nothing.
What a piece of work is a man!
…And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?”
~ William Shakespeare in Hamlet’s monologue
This dust left of man:
earth, air, water and fire
to quell its significance.
Only the transcendent hope
of eternal life restored
can breathe glory
into the plainest of ash.
We therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust;
in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ;
who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body…
Committal service from The Common Book of Prayer