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Poetry in Mission

In the same day I happened upon Richard Wilbur’s poem “John Chrysostom” and Samuel Hazo’s “Whatever Made Tertullian Rave.” We have, of course, discussed Phyllis McGinley’s “The Thunderer,” about St. Jerome.

Do you know other poems about the Fathers? I’m not talking about Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s translations of the Fathers’ verse (included in my book The Fathers of the Church). I mean poems about the Fathers.

It would make a cool anthology. I’m sure at least three of us would buy it.

6 thoughts on “Poetry in Mission

  1. I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine

    I dreamed I saw St. Augustine,
    Alive as you or me,
    Tearing through these quarters
    In the utmost misery,
    With a blanket underneath his arm
    And a coat of solid gold,
    Searching for the very souls
    Whom already have been sold.

    “Arise, arise,” he cried so loud,
    In a voice without restraint,
    “Come out, ye gifted kings and queens
    And hear my sad complaint.
    No martyr is among ye now
    Whom you can call your own,
    So go on your way accordingly
    But know you’re not alone.”

    I dreamed I saw St. Augustine,
    Alive with fiery breath,
    And I dreamed I was amongst the ones
    That put him out to death.
    Oh, I awoke in anger,
    So alone and terrified,
    I put my fingers against the glass
    And bowed my head and cried.

    by Bob Dylan!

  2. The Greek Fathers
    by Venerable John Henry Newman, C.O.

    Let heathen sing thy heathen praise,
    Fall’n Greece! the thought of holier days
    In my sad heart abides;
    For sons of thine in Truth’s first hour
    Were tongues and weapons of His power,
    Born of the Spirit’s fiery shower,
    Our fathers and our guides.

    All thine is Clement’s varied page;
    And Dionysius, ruler sage,
    In days of doubt and pain;
    And Origen with eagle eye;
    And saintly Basil’s purpose high
    To smite imperial heresy,
    And cleanse the Altar’s stain.

    From thee the glorious preacher came,
    With soul of zeal and lips of flame,
    A court’s stern martyr-guest;
    And thine, O inexhaustive race!
    Was Nazianzen’s heaven-taught grace;
    And royal-hearted Athanase,
    With Paul’s own mantle blest.

    St. Gregory Nazianzen
    by Venerable John Hnery Newman, C.O.

    Peace-loving man, of humble heart and true
    What dost thou here?
    Fierce is the city’s crowd; the lordly few
    Are dull of ear!
    Sore pain it was to thee,—till thou didst quit
    Thy patriarch-throne at length, as though for
    power unfit.

    So works the All-wise! our services dividing
    Not as we ask:
    For the world’s profit, by our gifts deciding
    Our duty-task.
    See in king’s courts loth Jeremias plead;
    And slow-tongued Moses rule by eloquence of

    Yes! thou, bright Angel of the East! didst rear
    The Cross divine,
    Borne high upon thy liquid accents, where
    Men mock’d the Sign;
    Till that cold city heard thy battle-cry,
    And hearts were stirr’d, and deem’d a Pentecost
    was nigh.

    Thou couldst a people raise, but couldst not
    So, gentle one,
    Heaven set thee free,—for, ere thy years were full,
    Thy work was done;
    According thee the lot thou lovedst best,
    To muse upon the past,—to serve, yet be at rest.

  3. “St Augustine and Monica” by Charles (Tennyson) Turner (1808-1879)

    When Monica’s young son had felt her kiss —
    Her weeping kiss — for years, her sorrow flowed
    At last into his wilful blood; he owed
    To her his after-life of truth and bliss:
    And her own joy, what words, what thoughts could paint!
    When o’er his soul, with sweet constraining force,
    Came Penitence — a fusion from remorse —
    And made her boy a glorious Christian saint.
    Oh ye, who tend the young through doubtful years
    Along the busy path from birth to death,
    Parents and friends! forget not in your fears
    The secret strength of prayer, the holy breath
    That swathes your darlings! think how Austin’s faith
    Rose like a star upon his mother’s tears!

    He also wrote sonnets on “The Blush of Constantine at the Council of Nice”, “Constantine’s Amphitheatre at Treves”, “Julian’s Attempt to Build on the Site of the Temple”, “Terminus” about the Diocletian persecution, three sonnets on why “Christ and Orpheus” aren’t a good match, a complaint about bad explanations of “The Transfiguration”, and on and on and on! He’d have blogged sonnets, had he been alive now! Hee! (Collected Sonnets Old and New is on

  4. Ack! Shelley! Shelley wrote a poem on “The Death of St. Polycarp”!

    It starts “Wide, smooth, and deep is Smyrna’s bay”.

  5. I found another patristics poem for you. One Richard Chevenix Trench paraphrased the autobio from Dialogue with Trypho in “The Story of Justin Martyr”.

  6. Hey, Maureen! Thanks! Is that in an anthology, or did you see it in a book by the author?

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