Nov. 10, 2008

Sole watchman of the flying stars, guard me
against my flicker of impulse lust: teach me
to see them as sisters & daughters. Sustain
my grand endeavours: husbandship & crafting.

Forsake me not when my wild hours come;
grant me sleep nightly, grace soften my dreams;
achieve in me patience till the thing be done,
a careful view of my achievement come.

Make me from time to time the gift of the shoulder.
When all hurt nerves whine shut away the whiskey.
Empty my heart toward Thee.
Let me pace without fear the common path of death.

Cross am I sometimes with my little daughter:
fill her eyes with tears. Forgive me, Lord.
Unite my various soul,
sole watchman of the wide & single stars.

from "Eleven Addresses to the Lord"

"3" by John Berryman from Collected Poems 1937-1971. © The Noonday Press, 1989. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Irish poet and patriot Padraic Pearse, (books by this author) born in Dublin (1879). Though he spent most of his short life as an academic and writer, he's best known as a leader of the Easter Rising of 1916, a failed Irish rebellion against Britain.

He wrote:

The beauty of the world hath made me sad, This beauty that will pass. […] Things bright and green, things young and happy; And I have gone upon my way Sorrowful.

Pearse began studying Gaelic at the age of 12. He joined the Gaelic League, an organization dedicated to the revival of the language and culture. He thought that the British-imposed school system stripped young people of their Irish identity. He believed that the Gaelic language was a fundamental part of Irish identity, and so he set out to establish bilingual schools in Ireland.

Eventually, Pearse became convinced that Irish independence could be obtained only by revolt. He was recruited into the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and because he was so eloquent, was chosen as the group's spokesperson. He helped organize the Easter Rebellion of 1916, and from the steps of the General Post Office in Dublin, which the rebels had taken over, he proclaimed: "We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies."

He was declared the provisional president of the provisional Ireland. Militarily, the Irish rebels didn't have a chance of winning. British troops destroyed Irish property and slaughtered civilians. Six days later after his initial proclamation, Pearse delivered a speech of surrender. He was captured by the British, imprisoned, and a week later, at the age of 36, executed by a firing squad.

It's the birthday of poet and theologian Martin Luther, (books by this author) born in Eisleben, Saxony (1483). He wrote: "A mighty fortress is our God/ A bulwark never failing." He's best known as the man who sparked the Protestant Reformation, but he was also an extraordinarily productive writer. After he posted his 95 Theses and had to go into exile, he completed the first translation of the Bible into German. He wrote theology, hymns, poetry, liturgies, sermons, commentaries, translations, and polemics. Toward the end of his life, Luther began to regret how many books he had written. He said, "The multitude of books is a great evil. There is no limit to this fever for writing." Today, most of Luther's writings are only read by theologians.

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