‘Thought, yet more thought! Poor artist of the world’ by Yevgeny Baratynsky

Thought, yet more thought! Poor artist of the word,

thought’s priest! For you there can be no forgetting;

it’s all here, here are people and the world

and death and life and truth without a veil.

Ah! Chisel, cello, brush, happy the man

drawn to you by his senses, going no further.

He can drink freely at the world’s great feast!

But in your presence, thought, in your sharp rays,

before your unsheathed sword, our life grows pale.

 

by Евгений Абрамович Баратынский (Yevgeny Abramovich Baratynsky)

(1840)

translated by Peter France

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Ritual by R.S. Thomas

Not international

renown, but international

vocabulary, the macaronics

of time: μοίρα, desiderium,

brad, la vida

breve, despair – I am the bone

on which all have beaten out

their message to the mind

that would soar. Faithful

in translation, its ploy was to evade

my resources. It saw

me dance through the Middle

Ages, and wrote its poetry

with quilled pen. What

so rich as the language

to which the priests

buried me? They have exchanged

their vestments for white coats,

working away in their bookless

laboratories, ministrants

in that ritual beyond words

which is the Last Sacrament of the species.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Experimenting with an Amen (1986)


Fun fact: The greek word μοίρα means fate. Desiderium means desire. La vida breve means ‘the short life’ or ‘life is short’ in Spanish but is also the title of an opera.

The Island by R. S. Thomas

And God said, I will build a church here

And cause this people to worship me,

And afflict them with poverty and sickness

In return for centuries of hard work

And patience. And its walls shall be hard as

Their hearts, and its windows let in the light

Grudgingly, as their minds do, and the priest’s words be drowned

By the wind’s caterwauling. All this I will do,

 

Said God, and watch the bitterness in their eyes

Grow, and their lips suppurate with

Their prayers. And their women shall bring forth

On my altars, and I will choose the best

Of them to be thrown back into the sea.

 

And that was only on one island.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from H’m (1972)

I by Mike Jenkins

I is the biggest word

in the English language –

some people yawn bored

as soon as you mention it.

 

I know people who erect crosses

made from it

and then refuse to carry them.

 

I know people who would

like to keep changing it

every week like fashionable clothing.

 

I know people who hate it so much

it’s become an obcession,

like a priest always ranting against sin.

 

In English, ‘I’ begins the sentence:

the other words queue up behind it

waiting for their instructions.

 

You must write ‘I’ with a capital letter.

but ‘we’ with a small one.

Why? … well… as in God and Great Britain.

 

i know a person who tried to make it

mock itself, to disguise an ambition.

i know a person who thinks it will outlive

the exploring body, the inflated mind.

 

by Mike Jenkins

from Empire of Smoke

Brother Door-Keeper and Brother Gate-Opener

In my town strange things happen… Let me begin not by telling you where the grotesques featured at the top of my blog come from. They are from the oldest church of the town, with the midnight cross, that overlooks the town and are for another time to discuss.
Let me first tell you of the clergy who frequent one of the churches on the edge of the town centre so you may better understand the people whom frequent this place at the end of the bridge.

Once it was a small cattle market town prone to flooding, as all low lying land is, and nothing more than a pleasant wayside stop gap for those journeying between the whitewashed capital and the major Western port city where a poet once lived and is forever immortalised for his debauchery more so than his words. This town, my home town, is no longer such a place and many have doubted it ever was except in rose tinted memory. Now it is a sprawling cesspit of various architectural styles, built one on top of the other, with no unified design,: Georgian, modern, gothic, 1980s Avant-garde, red brick, black tar, sandstone and slate, concrete and cement like a mottled patchwork rag with equally disparate housing developments spreading like cancer into every crevice not yet rid of its greenery. No single parish council ever wished to concede to another, before or after, and so the town is a homunculus writhing in its own filth screaming to be put out of its misery. But it cannot anymore because too many have staked their claim and now find they are held within its grasp.

There is a church on the edge of town, the youngest of the three, with large iron gates and ivy covered trellis. A sandstone wall stops anyone looking in on the church’s grounds and slick black burglar-proof paint sits ever ready to stop people climbing over it. Behind this fortification two men, dressed in the dour cassocks of their faith, sit on three legged wooden stools in the courtyard under the dappled light of a tree. Neither is exceptionally young nor old but of an age that would suggest authority, knowledge and above all wisdom has been gained with the passage of time.
Brother Door-keeper, who speaks in husky tones, and Brother Gate-opener, whose voice is a lilting warble, while away their hours giggling between themselves furtively. One holds a heavy iron gate-padlock and the other the key with which to unlock it. Listening carefully at the wall you may hear this conversation repeated time and time again:

“Brother door-keeper has a lock…”
“…And Brother Gate-Opener, a key, a key which fits into this lock I have upon me.”
“It is an impressive key to look upon is it not Brother Door-Keeper?”
“Indeed as surely must this padlock be too to the uninitiated. But please be gentle, my dear Brother Gate-Opener, when you insert your key. I doubt my frail clasp may withstand such a forceful insertion as this key is capable of.”
“Fear not Brother Door-Keeper. I have been commended on the delicacy with which I handle this shaft I hold in my hand.”
“Then do as you must Brother Gate-Opener. Penetrate the hallowed darkness of this lock’s sanctity. I feel there is no choice for us now but to proceed apace…”
“I shall do so Brother Gate-Keeper with your blessing, but be reassured, you are in seasoned hands… the insertion may cause some discomfort but, be confident, it shall be only momentary…”
“Brother Door-Opener!”
“Brother Gate-Keeper!”
“Oh, Brother Door-Opener!”
“Ah, Brother Gate-Keeper! Do you feel the sweet release?”
“The unveiling Brother Door-Opener is indescribable!”
“Let me mop your brow Brother Gate-Keeper!”
“Oh that you would, Brother Door-Keeper, that you would…”

It is for this reason no one visits this church. They are silly people and perform this pantomime every single time the grounds must be opened be it Sabbath, a saint’s feast or any other Holy day. Celibacy truly is a heavy vow to have undertaken and they must find such little release in their duties through such innuendo…

But they are, I assure you, a friendly pair who would happily chat and help any who would seek it…unlike those missionary sisters whose church of the midnight cross overlooks the town. But that is a story for another day…


This was not the story I was going to write but in the end I decided to adapt an idea I had in an old notebook just to gauge if there is any validity in the idea. An unpolished piece by anyone’s estimations but the core humour of it is there and considering it consisted only of the concept of two celibate monks being sexually frustrated and acting out using a key and lock I think it went okay… Next time I may do a review of something just to keep mixing it up. Then I will hopefully write about those macabre missionaries mentoned above as they were in a short story, which got positive feedback, though I will have to adapt them for a blog vignette and may have to split it into about 3 seperate posts.

My intention with the ‘In My Homtown Strange Things Happen…’ series is to practise a bit of creative writing inspired by different bits of the town and surrounding area. With each fantastical story will be a short piece underneath about the real life locale.

There are actually three churchs in the vicinity of the towncentre, St Illtyd’s (which does overlook the town on top of a hill with a cross lit up, in the winter, on its bell tower), St Marys, and the recently constructed Catholic church.

http://s0.geograph.org.uk/geophotos/01/92/35/1923535_23526cc8.jpg

http://www.catholicchurchbridgend.org.uk/

The church in the story above is prehaps an overblown version of the Catholic one. The story in no way represents the actual church nor any of the people involved with it in any way. In truth the story came about independently of this place but I couldn’t think of a similar place to set the story and prehaps should have left it out of the series as an independant vignette as it came from a very brief story concept scribbled one day years ago and only typed up in one sitting just now. The two priests of the real place are quite young and I met them when attended a wedding once. Its a nice place but personally I have always preferred the older churchs and cathedral designs as they offer a sense of awe, as was the intent when built, and that you are in a special place. The modern design, in keeping with certain other very recently built locations around town, seems all too modern and I wonder how soon it will be that we will look back at it as modern generations do now the concrete tower blocks and awkward designs of the 1960s?

Feedback and comments are welcome.