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Mutual charities between saints and beasts

  • 01 April 2008
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 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.