No 3 - 1974
Cardinal Newman Remembers an Excursion
Having been alone quite often then,
I was anxious to think of solitude,
not as a desperate enterprise,
but as a trial. At other times,
I would require evidence of Him;
there, on a steamer heading south,
it was enough to think of those peculiar birds
inhabiting the sea, whitish and supple
on the blurred horizon, in order to recall
that their deliverance was mine.
We kept clear of Catholics throughout our tour.
When the Monsignore requested me to remain in Rome,
I replied, ‘We have a work to do in England.’
On the journey to Sicily, seized
with a longing to conclude whatever chores
His hand assigned, Achilles’ words
occurred to me: ‘You shall know the difference,
now that I am back again.’
I struck into the middle of the island,
and fell ill of a fever at Leonforte.
It was in a small room above the plaza
that I suffered an experience
of terrible and anxious doubt
concerning the nature of this world.
The heat was intense, it being June,
and sunlight swam about me like a brilliant cloud,
from which burst forth a vision
so luminous that I sobbed
with a disturbing violence.
Beneath our window,
the town’s clamor swelled and fell;
the floor pitched like a ship’s deck
whenever I struggled to rise from bed.
Having observed this condition for several hours,
my servant believed that I was dying,
and begged for last directions.
I gave them, as he wished,
insisting all the while, ‘I shall not die,
I shall not die,
for I have not sinned against light,
I have not sinned against light.’
I found pleasure in beautiful scenes,
not in men and manners.
Walking through some wild landscape
at six in the morning,
I came upon a little church;
hearing voices, I looked in.
It was crowded,
and the congregation was singing.
I lingered beside a wall
composed of mouldering stones,
listening as if I alone were being summoned;
their urgent chorus inspired in me
the desire to live among such people,
dressed in thin, immodest clothes,
abandoned to simple wishes of the heart.
Stranded in Palermo for a month,
at last I secured passage on a boat
that had been painted orange,
and that was destined for Marseilles.
A mood of dejection descended on me then;
becalmed in the Straits of Bonifacio,
we were all dispirited.
Drenched in light, I became distressed
when His face appeared in a dream.
This visitation released me from dread,
and I returned to London
wanting the voyage to begin.
- 10th Muse
- Angel Exhaust
- Blithe Spirit
- Brando's hat
- Brittle Star
- Cannon's Mouth, The
- Coffee House, The
- Dream Catcher
- Floating Bear, The
- French Literary Review, The
- Frogmore Papers, The
- Global Tapestry
- Grosseteste Review
- Homeless Diamonds
- Interpreter's House, The
- Journal, The
- Lamport Court
- London Magazine, The
- Modern Poetry in Translation
- Monkey Kettle
- Neon Highway
- New Welsh Review
- North, The
- Obsessed with pipework
- Oxford Poetry
- Painted, spoken
- Paper, The
- Pen Pusher Magazine
- Poetry Cornwall
- Poetry London
- Poetry London (1951)
- Poetry Nation
- Poetry Review, The
- Poetry Salzburg Review
- Poetry Scotland
- Poetry Wales
- Private Tutor
- Purple Patch
- Rain Dog
- Reach Poetry
- Review, The
- Rialto, The
- Second Aeon
- Seventh Quarry, The
- Smiths Knoll
- Strange Faeces
- Tabla Book of New Verse, The
- Tolling Elves
- Ugly Tree, The
- Wolf, The
- Yellow Crane, The