Friday, March 31, 2006

The Flea

A poem by John Donne that I have not read in many years ... but its meaning improves with age!

MARK but this flea, and mark in this,
How little that which thou deniest me is;
It suck'd me first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled be.
Thou know'st that this cannot be said
A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead;
Yet this enjoys before it woo,
And pamper'd swells with one blood made of two;
And this, alas ! is more than we would do.

O stay, three lives in one flea spare,
Where we almost, yea, more than married are.
This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is.
Though parents grudge, and you, we're met,
And cloister'd in these living walls of jet.
Though use make you apt to kill me,
Let not to that self-murder added be,
And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.

Cruel and sudden, hast thou since
Purpled thy nail in blood of innocence?
Wherein could this flea guilty be,
Except in that drop which it suck'd from thee?
Yet thou triumph'st, and say'st that thou
Find'st not thyself nor me the weaker now.
'Tis true ; then learn how false fears be;
Just so much honour, when thou yield'st to me,
Will waste, as this flea's death took life from thee.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

And Death Shall Have No Dominion

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan't crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.

Dylan Thomas

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Letter to Peter

Dear Peter

I was at your funeral this morning, trying to make sense of it all, all that pain and hurt and sadness …. asking myself the question … “why?” And yet through the tears, I also asked, “why not?” After all we have no monopoly over life and death; why should it be early or late in life, and why should we always be able to predict the timing of this inevitable event?

I looked at faces racked by tears, red-stained eyes that looked worn and old, noses than ran sore and were wiped incessantly. I felt the collective heave of a community bound together in the grief of your death. Family, friends from school and from life, colleagues from work, and those who were there only because they knew your name and who you were, all caught up in what we hoped would be a celebration of your life, but inevitably became for many, a catharsis, and for some a trauma.

Phil talked about your illness, Ged about your life and work, but so many spoke only to themselves and to their God, knowing there was no answer to the questions “Why?” and “Why not?” We listened to these brave words from those who would do anything to go back a week, pick up a telephone, call at the house, do something different to change the course of history, and thus not need to be here today. All pointless … we cannot go back. We make our choices and must live by their reward.

Phil started and ended with the reminder that no event, no one illness can define or determine you or anybody else in our world. We are who we are with all our history, successes and failings, laughter and tears, choices made and avoided, friends and colleagues; we are all these things and not just the final event of our life.

It was good to hear this, reassuring, and it reminded us of all the pleasure that you gave us at home, at school, at work. Your work is not undone by death; it is perpetuated, complete. Your laughter, your energy and commitment is not lost; we are the people that you influenced, that you helped to form; and so your qualities and something of you, live on in us.

So, Peter, look down on us from wherever you are, smile your smile and talk your talk. Maybe when we look at sun or moon, your face will be there. When we hear the sound of that gentle wind it will carry your muffled words into our world. Whatever else you do, remember that we loved you, the person you were and the person you remain, and then, my friend, my child ….. rest in peace.