BBC News – Lockdown services revive appeal of the church in Scotland https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-53653680
BBC News – London churches ‘could close’ due to congestion charge https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-53136450
If churches require revenue from secular events to remain viable, what does that say about our sense of Christian community?
BBC News – Coronavirus: How will places of worship change after lockdown? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-53154672
BBC News – Black Durham trainee vicar denied job at ‘white’ church https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tyne-53064929
Shocking and shameful
Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
– John Donne
John Donne (22 January 1572 – 31 March 1631) was an English poet, scholar, soldier and secretary born into a Catholic family, a remnant of the Catholic Revival, who reluctantly became a cleric in the Church of England. He was Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London (1621-1631). He is considered the pre-eminent representative of the metaphysical poets. His poetical works are noted for their metaphorical and sensual style and include sonnets, love poems, religious poems, Latin translations, epigrams, elegies, songs, satires. He is also known for his sermons.
Donne’s style is characterised by abrupt openings and various paradoxes, ironies and dislocations. These features, along with his frequent dramatic or everyday speech rhythms, his tense syntax and his tough eloquence, were both a reaction against the smoothness of conventional Elizabethan poetry and an adaptation into English of European baroque and mannerist techniques. His early career was marked by poetry that bore immense knowledge of English society and he met that knowledge with sharp criticism. Another important theme in Donne’s poetry is the idea of true religion, something that he spent much time considering and about which he often theorized. He wrote secular poems as well as erotic and love poems. He is particularly famous for his mastery of metaphysical conceits.
Despite his great education and poetic talents, Donne lived in poverty for several years, relying heavily on wealthy friends. He spent much of the money he inherited during and after his education on womanising, literature, pastimes, and travel. In 1601, Donne secretly married Anne More, with whom he had twelve children. In 1615 he was ordained deacon and then Anglican priest, although he did not want to take Holy Orders and only did so because the king ordered it. He also served as a member of Parliament in 1601 and in 1614.
Donne’s earliest poems showed a developed knowledge of English society coupled with sharp criticism of its problems. His satires dealt with common Elizabethan topics, such as corruption in the legal system, mediocre poets, and pompous courtiers. His images of sickness, vomit, manure, and plague reflected his strongly satiric view of a society populated by fools and knaves. His third satire, however, deals with the problem of true religion, a matter of great importance to Donne. He argued that it was better to examine carefully one’s religious convictions than blindly to follow any established tradition, for none would be saved at the Final Judgment, by claiming “A Harry, or a Martin taught [them] this.”
Some have speculated that Donne’s numerous illnesses, financial strain, and the deaths of his friends all contributed to the development of a more somber and pious tone in his later poems. The change can be clearly seen in “An Anatomy of the World” (1611), a poem that Donne wrote in memory of Elizabeth Drury, daughter of his patron, Sir Robert Drury of Hawstead, Suffolk. This poem treats Elizabeth’s demise with extreme gloominess, using it as a symbol for the Fall of Man and the destruction of the universe.
The increasing gloominess of Donne’s tone may also be observed in the religious works that he began writing during the same period. Having converted to the Anglican Church, Donne quickly became noted for his sermons and religious poems. Towards the end of his life Donne wrote works that challenged death, and the fear that it inspired in many men, on the grounds of his belief that those who die are sent to Heaven to live eternally. One example of this challenge is his Holy Sonnet X, “Death Be Not Proud”. Even as he lay dying during Lent in 1631, he rose from his sickbed and delivered the Death’s Duel sermon, which was later described as his own funeral sermon. Death’s Duel portrays life as a steady descent to suffering and death; death becomes merely another process of life, in which the ‘winding sheet’ of the womb is the same as that of the grave. Hope is seen in salvation and immortality through an embrace of God, Christ and the Resurrection.
His work has received much criticism over the years, especially concerning his metaphysical form. Donne is generally considered the most prominent member of the metaphysical poets, a phrase coined in 1781 by Samuel Johnson, following a comment on Donne by John Dryden. Dryden had written of Donne in 1693: “He affects the metaphysics, not only in his satires, but in his amorous verses, where nature only should reign; and perplexes the minds of the fair sex with nice speculations of philosophy, when he should engage their hearts, and entertain them with the softnesses of love.” In Life of Cowley (from Samuel Johnson’s 1781 work of biography and criticism Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets), Johnson refers to the beginning of the seventeenth century in which there “appeared a race of writers that may be termed the metaphysical poets”. Donne’s immediate successors in poetry therefore tended to regard his works with ambivalence, with the Neoclassical poets regarding his conceits as abuse of the metaphor. However he was revived by Romantic poets such as Coleridge and Browning, though his more recent revival in the early twentieth century by poets such as T. S. Eliot and critics like F R Leavis tended to portray him, with approval, as an anti-Romantic.
Donne is considered a master of the metaphysical conceit, an extended metaphor that combines two vastly different ideas into a single idea, often using imagery. An example of this is his equation of lovers with saints in “The Canonization”. Unlike the conceits found in other Elizabethan poetry, most notably Petrarchan conceits, which formed clichéd comparisons between more closely related objects (such as a rose and love), metaphysical conceits go to a greater depth in comparing two completely unlike objects. One of the most famous of Donne’s conceits is found in “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” where he compares the apartness of two separated lovers to the working of the legs of a compass.
Donne’s works are also witty, employing paradoxes, puns, and subtle yet remarkable analogies. His pieces are often ironic and cynical, especially regarding love and human motives. Common subjects of Donne’s poems are love (especially in his early life), death (especially after his wife’s death), and religion.
John Donne’s poetry represented a shift from classical forms to more personal poetry. Donne is noted for his poetic metre, which was structured with changing and jagged rhythms that closely resemble casual speech (it was for this that the more classical-minded Ben Jonson commented that “Donne, for not keeping of accent, deserved hanging”).
Some scholars believe that Donne’s literary works reflect the changing trends of his life, with love poetry and satires from his youth and religious sermons during his later years. Other scholars, such as Helen Gardner, question the validity of this dating—most of his poems were published posthumously (1633). The exception to these is his Anniversaries, which were published in 1612 and Devotions upon Emergent Occasions published in 1624. His sermons are also dated, sometimes specifically by date and year.
“Be thine own palace, or the world’s thy jail.”
― John Donne, The Poems of John Donne (Volume 1); Miscellaneous Poems (Songs and Sonnets) Elegies. Epithalamions, or Marriage Songs. Satires. Epigrams. the Progress of the Soul.
“No man is an island, entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were:
any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind,
and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls;
it tolls for thee.”
― John Donne, No man is an island – A selection from the prose
Friends, the post which follows was written following the events in Orlando last summer – I didn’t have the courage of my convictions to post it at the time partly as I know Christian friends, US citizens, who felt very strongly about their constitutional right to own guns. After the events in Las Vegas this past weekend, I cannot hold back publishing any longer. For ‘Orlando’ you could easily read ‘Las Vegas’.
God help us all.
-13 June 2016-
Friends in the USA, what follows is not my usual style of post, but the events in Orlando on Sunday, and the reaction I have seen to this atrocity both in the media and amongst the blogging community have prompted me to write. I have paused 24 hours, I have considered the fact that this is a highly emotive subject in your country, and that many who read this will continue to fiercely defend their constitutional right to own firearms. My only intention is to invite pause for thought, although my hope is that highlighting these shocking statistics will apply that thought to action.
I have read clichéd suggestions that “guns don’t kill, people do”. The evil in men’s hearts is certainly the ultimate cause of this and other gun-related murders; but why would you allow the evil in a maniac’s heart to be coupled with a lawfully-purchased murderous weapon in his hands?
My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, the city of Orlando, and a nation which, I would humbly suggest, cannot continue to ignore the appalling impact of guns on its society.
The type of AR-15 rifle that terrorist Omar Mateen used to kill 49 people and wound dozens more in Orlando has has been used in multiple shootings during this decade alone, yet the military-inspired semi-automatic rifle designed for civilian use is perfectly legal in most states.
FACT: There were 372 mass shootings in the US in 2015, killing 475 people and wounding 1,870, according to the Mass Shooting Tracker, which catalogues such incidents (a mass shooting is defined as a single shooting incident which kills or injures four or more people, including the assailant).
Source: Mass Shooting Tracker
Mateen was armed with a .223-caliber AR-15-type rifle and a 9mm semi-automatic pistol – both legally purchased – when he opened fire at the Pulse club in Orlando early Sunday morning.
FACT: The US spends more than a trillion dollars per year defending itself against terrorism, which kills a tiny fraction of the number of people killed by ordinary gun crime. According to figures from the US Department of Justice and the Council on Foreign Affairs, 11,385 people died on average annually in firearm incidents in the US between 2001 and 2011. In the same period, an average of 517 people were killed annually in terror-related incidents. Removing 2001, when 9/11 occurred, from the calculation produces an annual average of just 31.
The AR-15 rifle is the civilian version of the fully-automatic M16 used by soldiers in the Vietnam War. Unlike the M16, users must pull the trigger every time they want to fire a shot. The most common versions of the AR-15 have been banned in a handful of states, including California.
FACT: There were 64 school shootings in 2015, according to a dedicated campaign group set up in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in Connecticut in 2012 (including occasions when a gun was fired but no-one was hurt).
Source: Everytown for Gun SafetyResearch
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents gun manufacturers, said there are five million to 10 million AR-15 rifles in the U.S., a small percentage of the 300 million firearms owned by about a third of the US population. That is nearly enough guns for every man, woman and child in the country.
FACT: Some 13,286 people were killed in the US by firearms in 2015, according to the Gun Violence Archive, and 26,819 people were injured [those figures exclude suicide]. Those figures are likely to rise by several hundred, once incidents in the final week of the year are counted.
Source: Gun Violence Archive
Last October, gunman Chris Harper-Mercer, 26, used an AR-15-style firearm to kill nine people before he killed himself at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon.
An AR-15 model was used by married couple Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 29, when they killed 14 people and wounded nearly two dozen others at a work Christmas party in San Bernardino, California, last December. Police recovered two .223-caliber AR-15-type semi-automatic rifles after the couple died in a shootout with officers.
An AR-15-type firearm was used by 20-year-old Adam Lanza in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, which shocked the nation in December 2012. Lanza fatally shot his mother, Nancy, who legally obtained the firearms, at their home before he killed 20 children and six adult staff members at the school.
“It was designed for the United States military to do to enemies of war exactly what it did [in Orlando]: kill mass numbers of people with maximum efficiency and ease,” said lawyer Josh Koskoff, who is representing families of the Sandy Hook victims in a lawsuit, when interviewed by the New York Daily News.
That shooting renewed the gun debate in the USA, and led to calls for a ban on sales of AR-15-type firearms.
However, sales went through the roof, and the National Rifle Association boasted that its membership surged to around five million.
FACT: The number of gun murders per capita in the US in 2012 – the most recent year for comparable statistics – was nearly 30 times that in the UK, at 2.9 per 100,000 compared with just 0.1. Of all the murders in the USA in 2012, 60% were by firearm compared with 31% in Canada, 18.2% in Australia, and just 10% in the UK.
FACT: So many people die annually from gunfire in the USA that the death toll between 1968 and 2011 eclipses all wars ever fought by the country. According to research by Politifact, there were about 1.4 million firearm deaths in that period, compared with 1.2 million US deaths in every conflict from the War of Independence to Iraq.
‘He shall judge between the nations,
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.’
– Isaiah 2:4
My father knows the proper way
The nation should be run;
He tells us children every day
Just what should now be done.
He knows the way to fix the trusts,
He has a simple plan;
But if the furnace needs repairs,
We have to hire a man.
My father, in a day or two
Could land big thieves in jail;
There’s nothing that he cannot do,
He knows no word like “fail.”
“Our confidence” he would restore,
Of that there is no doubt;
But if there is a chair to mend,
We have to send it out.
All public questions that arise,
He settles on the spot;
He waits not till the tumult dies,
But grabs it while it’s hot.
In matters of finance he can
Tell Congress what to do;
But, O, he finds it hard to meet
His bills as they fall due.
It almost makes him sick to read
The things law-makers say;
Why, father’s just the man they need,
He never goes astray.
All wars he’d very quickly end,
As fast as I can write it;
But when a neighbor starts a fuss,
‘Tis mother has to fight it.
In conversation father can
Do many wondrous things;
He’s built upon a wiser plan
Than presidents or kings.
He knows the ins and outs of each
And every deep transaction;
We look to him for theories,
But look to ma for action”
― Edgar A. Guest
The most foul, cruel,
Any knight ever set eyes upon;
These rabbits had a vicious streak a mile wide:
Baring huge, sharp . . . ,
Able to leap about . . . ,
Behold the strewn bones!
Enter their realm, trembling,
Besmirched with fear . . .
Then, run away!
Day 24 of Na/GloPoWriMo and today’s NaPoWriMo.net challenge is to write a poem of ekphrasis — that is, a poem inspired by a work of art. The additional challenge was to base the poem on a very particular kind of art – the marginalia of medieval manuscripts. This quadrille poem (44 words) draws on the images displayed which seem to have featured in the margins of bibles, and is inspired by the art of Terry Gilliam, and a scene from one of my favourite films of all time, Monty Python and The Holy Grail.
When you do things right
Grace makes love seem effortless
People won’t be sure
You’ve done anything at all-
Second nature takes first place
written in response to today’s prompt at The Daily Post, drawing inspiration from the ‘Godfellas’ episode of Futurama
“You can’t lose hope when it’s hopeless. You gotta hope more, then put your fingers in your ears and go, “Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah!… “
– Philip J. Fry