Wednesday, January 25, 2012


The rubble of the Roman reign

Alone and left without the will
Their weakened world to ward
Broken Britons bereft of aid
Fell prey to every foreign raid
The angle of the Anglish blade
And steel of Saxon sword

Between the eve of Arthur's dream
And Alfred's English morn
In Mercia's marshy borderland
Beneath a sign, the blood-red hand
Good Guthlac there was born

At fifteen he took up the sword
And fought for Ethelred
He took to heart the blood-red hand
And with his faithful warrior band
Became a bane upon the land
And filled his foes with dread.

7th c.

Wulfere was king (first Christian convert)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Considerations for the Poem

Theme: Being a Christian (ie. saint) does not mean "acting good."  Nor does it mean "doing good works."  Both of those are important and necessary for the larger goal, but they are not the goal.  Being a Christian is being transformed into Christ, becoming by grace what He is by Nature.  Theosis.  In Protestant terms, you might say it is sanctification or glorification rather than justification (although both are really the same).  Anyway, when you truly become Christian, you begin to transform the world around you.  Or, rather, the life of Christ in your begins to redeem the world around you.

  • Use as many phrases from the Old English poems as possible
  • Basic ballad form (ABCB)
    • Rhyming: A/B/C/B, A/B/C/C/C/B
    • A and C lines are 8 syllables, B lines are 6 syllables


Outline: (Read the whole poem, so far, or one section at a time.  The sections will eventually have the sources I used for inspiration.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Death of Guthlac

Heed the words, the life of Christ
And ask not how or why
Death conquers when you try to live (win)
Yet loses when you die.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Prophecy to Pega

This part is unnecessary, but I'm going to go ahead and start writing it until I decide not to use it.  Guthlac prophecies to Pega of  many things, including the coming of the Reformers:

The Sovereign God is all they know
Omnipotent above
So desperate, they, to make Him King
God-in-control of everything
(or "God is in control," they sing)
Conductor, pulling every string
That He forgets He's Love

Yes, Christ is King! He reigns in ways
We cannot comprehend
He makes a throne of maiden-womb
A cradle, cross and stone-sealed tomb
And, bringing light to Sheol's gloom,
He reigns and brings death's end.

The Cure of Crowland

St. Bartholomew gives Guthlac the scourge, at which point Guthlac begins wildly running about Crowland, like Quixote at the windmills, chasing away the demons that only he can see.

Let God arise, and scattered wide
Be all His enemies (let all His en'mies be)
And let all those who hate His face
Before His presence flee

The brethren, baffled, could not find
The foe at which he flailed
From foe to foe .... fly
His scouring scourge fell from on high
And "Kyrie!" his battle-cry
The demons he assailed

A mad berserker's crazed attack
As feral, fierce and wild
Yet holy joy was in his face
As the running, leaping saint gave chase
A bizzare ballet, a perplexing race
As giddy as a child

Like Jesus in the temple court
With tables tipped and thrown
And just as once in Jericho (or "like Joshua at Jericho")
The walls came tumb'ling down

Monday, March 14, 2011


So (or Hwaet), let us now praise famous men
The fathers of our faith
The saints who from their labours rest
Now full of Truth and Grace

(This section, and the two that follow, are mostly based on Ecclesiasticus 44.  Also, I have included a send-up to the hymn "For All the Saints."  As an aside, I highly recommend the Indelible Grace rendering of the hymn.  The "truth and grace" line is meant to show that we are to "become by grace what Christ is by nature" as St. Athanasius says in "On the Incarnation.")

The Lord, by them, great glory wrought
Through prophet, priest and king
Through virgin pure and martyr meek
The poor in spirit, silent, weak,
Through Roman, Hebrew, Celt and Greek
And golden-tongues that sing.

And there are some that we forget
As though they'd never been
Yet, God remembers each one still
And still, they are our kin.

(This stanza comes from Ecclesiasticus 44 as well, but is unnecessary.)

They filled the earth with holiness
As bread is filled with leaven
As the Word of God once, with His birth
In weakness laid aside His worth
Thus dragging heaven down to earth
And earth, with Him, to heaven.

(This sets the theme for the whole poem.  Following the kenotic ... if that's a word ..., self-emptying Way of Christ is how we become Christians and, thus, saints.  But this path is not about acting holy or even about becoming holy.  It's about transformation participating in the transformation of the world, the redemption of the world.  Guthlac doesn't just become holy.  He makes the world around him holy.)

O! Ubi sunt sancti Dei
The blessed by God who bless
The soldiers of the risen Son
Who waged the war of faith and won (or fought the fight of faith)
Is there not left on earth just one?
O! Sancte, ubi es?

(This section is based on the excellent and somewhat ironic lament of St. Ephrem the Syrian.)

Though vulgar Cretins here, behold! (or "ornery orphans")
Their cloud surrounds us still
From prayers raised in Ninian's cave
To Mary Hazel's holy grave
And Brendan's mass at Whale-on-wave
All following God's will

(The second line is a reference to Hebrews 12:1.   When I went to Scotland, I was blessed to visit St. Ninian's Cave.  It made an impression on me.  St. Mary Hazel of Sleep Hollow is from the Celtic Catholic Church.  The line regarding St. Brendan references his celebration of the Eucharist on the back of a whale and the penchant for English towns to be named "Something-on-Something".  English nerd humour.  It doesn't get more obscure than that.)

The holy ones and watchers come
As we, on Christ, are fed
Iona's monks the dead-paths race
While six-winged seraphs hide their face
And singing, "Sanctus," join in praise
When God becomes the bread.

The throne of God descends to earth
The temple veil is furled
All heav'n surrounds us as we sup
Prostrate before the holy cup
With wine and blood and God filled up
The center of the world

Ideas and Phrases from Old English Poems

Phrases and ideas to use:
  • wrack-kin, wreck, rack, rock, wretched, rack for avarice
  • fated-farer on your way to the holy home
  • all earthly abundance elders and from their beauty fruiting things fade
  • earth-weal over eternal warfare
  • God's poorling
  • wide is the wilderness
  • worldly weapon
  • heaved up harm-songs
  • sighed their sorrow
  • vicious verses / division of death
  • indwells and increases
  • souls of the soothfast
  • middle earth is shared out in halves / The Lord watches wheret hey dwell that keep His law / He sees His judgments decline every day and stray / from the worldly rule that He established by His own Word / He finds many, but few will be selected
  • Some dwell in desert places, they willingly seek out and occupy homes in the shadows
  • wise in woven-lies
  • all things of earth were fleeting in the wind
  • he denied his body house
  • “Alone, I can oppress you all – while on my rump – without much hardship”
  • sacred soul-mysteries indwells and increases
  • Wretched ghasts / wights
  • dwelling on the dale, his desired home
  • Thus, a warrior should always campaign for God in his heart
  • He does not allow the Olden-Foe to misturn his mind from his Maker
  • wretched and wracking
  • blame-babblers
  • Greater still that Christ sought middle earth himself / and she his blood into the hands of slayers / He held dominion over both life anddeath / when He suffered willingly and meekly / the malice of persecutors on earth. / Therefore it is now fitting tht we consider / the deeds of law-fast men / and say praise to the Lord for all these examples / the wisdom that His books reveal for our sakes / through His glorious works.
  • Bone-bag
  • God of beginnings
  • the fumbling of life nor tumbling of body the crumbling of delight nor the coming of death
  • Mortal-making morsel (Eve's apple)
  • shoved into the struggling world, shamefully shivering in a strange land
  • sin-wrack
  • God-guilty grief
  • heart-sorrowed and tremble-minded
  • death-powered host of devils, in gangs shorn of glory
  • denied shape
  • hour of horrid ghasts
  • malicious man-harmers
  • holy from the heights
  • help-mighty, secret cell, bliss in his breasts, bone-coffer
  • brand-hot love triumph true
  • bone-case burned, barrel was tapped that Eve brewed for Adam at the start of the world. The Enemy first poured it for that woman and afterwards she served up that bitter tankard for Adam, her own dear husband
  • That miserable drink, the deep death-cup
  • bitter bane-sickness
  • This soul house, this fated flesh-home, must be covered over in its earth-lodge, my limbs in a loamy shroud
  • mold-way
  • It is no hardship to suffer the will of the Prince, my Lord: I have no sorrow in my mind for death in this infirm hour, nor do I dread much the reaving raiders of Hell's thegns, nor can sin's first-born set any torment or frailty of body upon me. Instead, they must be frustrated in flame, seething in pain and welling in sorrow, weeping in the wrack-way.
  • Succour of Souls
  • beorg: hill, mountain, mound, barrow, grave, burial place, fortress, defense