‘My lord, although we cannot knowThe mysteries of the afterlifeThe span of time we spend on earthAppears to me to be like this:Imagine sitting in your hallIn winter, feasting with your chiefsAnd counsellors - your faces glowingFrom flames that crackle in the hearth.Outside, the wintry night is lashedBy winds and driving rain and snow.Suddenly a sparrow darts in Through a door, flits across the hallAnd flies out through another one.Inside, cocooned in light and warmthIt can enjoy a moment’s calmBefore it vanishes, rejoiningThe freezing night from which it came.
Such is our journey through this life.But as to what’s in store for usBeyond the doors of birth and deathWe are completely in the dark.’
from The Monk's DreamAnvil, 1996Copyright © James Harpur 1996
James Harpur had two new collections of poems out in October 2007, but this is from an earlier book, The Monk's Dream.
It is a good example of his skill in using an anecdote to telling
poetic effect - the vignette of the sparrow comes from Bede's A History of the English Church and People, 11:13. Harpur's style combines plainness, i.e. under- rather than over-statement, and elegance. His two new collections are The Dark Age, with poems focusing on the "dark ages" of Europe and the struggles of early Christianity; and Fortune's Prisoner, a translation of the poems from Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy.
in 1956 of Anglo-Irish parents, Harpur studied Classics and then
English at Trinity College. He now lives in Co. Cork, Ireland. As well
as his three collections of poetry from Anvil, A Vision of Comets, The Monk's Dream and Oracle Bones, he is author of Love Burning in the Soul: The Story of the Christian Mystics, from Saint Paul to Thomas Merton (Shambhala, 2005).
Anvil Press Poetry was founded in 1968 and publishes English-language poetry and poetry in translation, both classic and modern.
This is the last Weekly Poem for 2007 - a very Happy Christmas and New Year to you all.