Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Poem and A Song

A Poem and A Song

The two offerings I have for my readers today are a poem by the Irish poet Brendan Kennelly and a song by the Canadian poet and song-writer Leonard Cohen.  They are both contemporaries.  I doubt if they have met each other, but I find them both profoundly wise in their outlook on life, on the human condition.  They both celebrate the ordinary things of life.  They are both “religious” in the broadest sense of that term, in that sense which has no denominational implications; they are both profoundly spiritual; they are both essentially “whole” in the sense that their art acknowledges the good and bad aspects of humankind, the dark places as well as the well-lit spaces in human life; they both spiritually live in the “now-ness” of the project we call life; they are both creators of their own projects; they are both poem-makers, members of that happy-sad coterie of weavers of words who search out meaning in their respective journeys; they are essentially both singers of the song of their very own soul, and like all great weavers of words they are essentially mystical and beautifully normal human beings.  They plumb the depths and soar the heights of the human spirit bound inextricably as it is to the body, that ageing body which we are privileged to call the very home of our self.  This poem and this song share much in common.  They both call on us to live in the “now,” which is the catch-cry of all the great spiritual traditions.  In this sense they are both profoundly religious and spiritual and Christian and Buddhist!  Cry with joy and laugh with sadness as you read them.  


Begin Again

Begin again to the summoning birds to the sight of light at the window, begin to the roar of morning traffic all along Pembroke Road. Every beginning is a promise born in light and dying in dark determination and exaltation of springtime flowering the way to work. Begin to the pageant of queuing girls the arrogant loneliness of swans in the canal bridges linking the past and the future old friends passing though with us still. Begin to the loneliness that cannot end since it perhaps is what makes us begin, begin to wonder at unknown faces at crying birds in the sudden rain at branches stark in the willing sunlight at seagulls foraging for bread at couples sharing a sunny secret alone together while making good. Though we live in a world that dreams of ending that always seems about to give in something that will not acknowledge conclusion insists that we forever begin.

Brendan Kennelly (1936-     )




Anthem

The birds they sang at the break of day Start again I heard them say Don't dwell on what has passed away or what is yet to be. Ah the wars they will be fought again The holy dove She will be caught again bought and sold and bought again the dove is never free. Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack in everything That's how the light gets in. We asked for signs the signs were sent: the birth betrayed the marriage spent Yeah the widowhood of every government -- signs for all to see. I can't run no more with that lawless crowd while the killers in high places say their prayers out loud. But they've summoned, they've summoned up a thundercloud and they're going to hear from me. Ring the bells that still can ring ... You can add up the parts but you won't have the sum You can strike up the march, there is no drum Every heart, every heart to love will come but like a refugee. Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack, a crack in everything That's how the light gets in. Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack, a crack in everything That's how the light gets in. That's how the light gets in. That's how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen (1934-       )1992


No comments: