Moments of Vision: a Poem

By Andrew Thornton-Norris

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Moments of Vision

1. The Apophatic (After T.E. Hulme)

O moon hanging there not lighting up
The darkness but just leaving it obscure,
Reflecting light that’s hidden for a time:
You are the blessed sacrament that shines
Upon the darkness of their majesty.

2. Helen’s Face

The female body is the battlefield
In the war that’s taking place between
The Word, the world, the devil and the flesh:
The judgement cast upon it, lust that it
Betrays and crimes that are committed there.

3. The Hymn of the Nuptial Mystery

In intimate relation we are in
Eternal intimate relationship
Within our souls and beating in our hearts
The passion of transcendent being back
Together that we thought we’d left behind.

4. Lent

The Forty Days and Forty Nights is when
God’s Kingdom is the desert where we meet
Him in the hidden fasting and the prayer
That separates us from the world outside
And brings us to the peace of penitence.

5. Dead Souls

All beauty’s holy and eternal and
Destroyed by commodification,
Which brings it back to dust in an
Embittered fall from heaven earthward but
The hope of faith is in the Death of God.

6. The Flower Bed

When I went back to the place where I
Had slept and saw the mess of lying there
I felt forboding of the grave and rushed
To get away but now I see perhaps
One heaven sent and love to contemplate.

7. WWW

When the whole world and all its life
And history is here to hand and at
The touch or click upon a button then
The only way to turn to get away
Is inwards, walk into the world within.

8. Sapperton Tunnel

Between the catchment of the Severn and
The Thames, the way of life is different,
The valley sides that crumble down into
The houses flowing streamward down below,
Suggestive of the valley of the Wye.

9. The Passion of the Lord is the Birth of Love

As fires from tiny flames great cities fell
My love for you began with just a glance
A word and then the conflagration grew
Until the world was all aflame like stars
That fall from skies above into our hearts.

10. The Walled Garden

Narcissus, yellow archangel, and then,
Because of sympathetic magic, so
Called lungwort: metaphysicians of the spring;
But why are winter snowdrops purest white,
O winter what has happened to your sting?

Brief note for students

This poem deals again with the subject of central concern to me: the deepest longings of the human heart, for love, joy, and peace for example, their frustrations, and how these experiences are most perfectly responded to, of any available belief system, by Catholicism. Its form is ten titled sentences of blank verse or unrhymed iambic pentameter. I chose this form because this is roughly how the ideas for the individual stanzas came to me as a group all around the same time. The idea of collage, or collection of disparate elements arranged around an overall theme rather than a logical narrative or argumentative structure is a modernist technique employed in other arts as well. Here it is combined with the most traditional form of English verse. The overall title is from a collection of poems published by Thomas Hardy in 1917.He is the last representative of a peculiarly English late-Romanticism, described as the last words of a dying protestantism by John Powell Ward in his book, The English Line. That line begins with Milton and only Philip Larkin was to attempt its resuscitation, describing himself as an “Anglican atheist”. In Catholic terms, the title represents the moments of vision or contemplation when the pure of heart see God. It is therefore an attempt to redeem the Romantic form and subject through re-establishing the proper relationship of art to religion that I described in the last post.

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