Mutual charities between saints and beasts

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Comrades
(for Bill Uren)
----
'Mutual charities' she called them, 'between
----saints and beasts', a wandering scholar
herself, with Japan and Bodley up her sleeve,
----a bathed eye on our mute comrades
and half a mind to credit their affections.

Hence Macarius healing a whelped hyaena
----and praising God for the mother's pleasure,
Cuthbert blessed between prayer and prayer by otters
----in his beach vigil, and Benno the fair,
conceding croak-rights to frogs by a hallowed marsh:

and hence Columban, his clothes touched by the muzzles
----of a round dozen of placid wolves,
and Brendan chanting office out on the deep,
----ray and pollock exulting, and Kevin,
a harried boar at peace in the osier chapel.

Did Colman's mouse, nibbling his ear, provoke him
----indeed to worship? And did the fly
do sentry-go on his codex, and keep his place
----at interruption? I should be glad
to think so, as of the grasshopper who came

to a snowbound church, and faute de mieux sang out
----the midnight praises, the brethren snoring:
or of the lions who buried Paul the Hermit,
----and weep in stone at Vézalay:
or of those tales that make a sound like the sea.


Peter SteelePeter Steele SJ is a poet and scholar and a longtime contributor to Eureka Street. He is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Melbourne. He also holds a a visiting chair at Georgetown University in Washington DC, to which he will return in July.

 

 

 

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Nice poem! "Vézalay" is spelled "Vézelay" though.
Jean-Francois Virey | 20 May 2009


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