First Things - Religion and Public Life Donate to First Things
Login forgot password? | register Close

The Parting

This poem is dedicated to Hannah Overton, and to all women who have suffered forcible separation from their children. She held the baby for the final time.No time was long enough, no word could sayWhat must be said. The heedless moments passed:Too callously the hour crossed a line;The guards came . . . . Continue Reading »

Cold Prose

For this last half year I have been troubled by the disease (as I may call it) of translation; the cold prose fits of it . . . are always the most tedious with me . . .—John Dryden, “On Translation” Cold prose fits, wrote Dryden. Yes, but wheredoes it fit? Oasis in the desert:hot . . . . Continue Reading »

The Lesser Angels of Our Nature

The lesser angels of our present dangerArraign the better angels of our natureAnd rearrange the stature of our hatredOn which the union of our state is wagered. For Madison if men could angels beNo government could claim necessity;If angels governed men there’d be no needFor mechanisms to suppress . . . . Continue Reading »

Return to St. Thomas

Here we are, with four children, at late Mass,   The nave a bloated hull of tin, the cross   Dangling from double chains, its weight of lossMoored in midair as listing decades pass.A few gray heads, behind, recall a past   When the bright sharded window cast its . . . . Continue Reading »

Who Are We Not to Judge?

The precepts of the Lord are pretty clear—What’s right or wrong is plain enough to see.And yet the question that we often hear,Is who are we to judge what shouldn’t be.It seems the ban on judgment trickled downFrom other people to the deeds performed;To say, “that’s wrong,” will . . . . Continue Reading »

The Way Of Love

Don’t be afraid; and never yield to hate,whilst knowing love, appearing so pristine,contrasted to a thing as desolateas death, that faker some men think supreme,as if it were the arbiter of time.When trapped, I feel all enmity and loss,and disillusion like a nauseous crimeagainst the . . . . Continue Reading »

Clarify Me, Please, God of the Galaxies

The English poet Elizabeth Jennings had the peculiar fate of being in the right place at the right time in the wrong way. Her career began splendidly. Her verse appeared in prominent journals, championed by Oxford’s new generation of tastemakers. Her first publication, Poems (1953), . . . . Continue Reading »

The Cloud of Unknowing

Despite the doubt and forked ambivalence,Approach, avoid, ignore, yet hope to shareIn some impossible benevolence,To care and not to care my muted prayer;Despite the years of practiced lassitude,And fearful of the all-consuming dare,Adrift, unmoored, bereft of gratitude,Consumed, perplexed, and . . . . Continue Reading »

Prayer for the Farmers

Tonight I add a fourth chapter to prayer.I pray first for the ministries of priestswho serve me at our sacramental feastsand showed a way back from my black despair. I pray next for the sick, for I am one,an aging man with badly injured shoulderwho hopped so nimbly once boulder to boulder,though . . . . Continue Reading »

Filter Tag Articles