Friday 8 March 2024

Two Poems for Martyrs - James Matthew Wilson

Two Poems for Martyrs

Two Poems for Martyrs - James Matthew Wilson

This is the second volume from James Matthew Wilson I have read, last year I read Praying the Nicene Creed, and loved it. Wilson mentioned on social media that this was his shortest volume and he had copies available. He also mentioned Catholic Modernism and the Irish "Avant-Garde": The Achievement of Brian Coffey, Denis Devlin, and Thomas MacGreevy which is his longest. I have added several of his works to my watch list either for eBooks to become available or to be available via adaptive technology. I have a dual form of dyslexia and prefer eBooks so I can change the font and colour of the font and page to make reading easier. I might give in and pick one up but am slow to get around to reading physical books. But back to this volume.

This booklet is available from James directly or from the Benedict XVI Institute. This booklet contains two poems, they are:

In Memory of the North American Martyrs
Offertory Hymn for Ukraine

Often when I write a review of a volume of poetry I include a few poems that really hit me and why as examples. Considering there are only two poems in this booklet I have decided to share a few stanzas instead.

From In Memory:

Have true affection for them, first, he said,
For they, as you, arc ransomed by the blood
Of Christ; accept without complaint their cornmeal
However tasteless;

And yet, the best equipment you can bear
Is silence. Scat yourself in the canoe,
And speak no word, but churn your oar in silence
As they will do.

And though the Iroquois soon scattered all,
The priests remained to carry their own weight
To speak of Christ and love them as Christ did
These brethren.

The opening stanza of Offertory is:

Drums of war forever beating
On the gold Ukrainian fields;
From the east they ever come
From the west it never yields.
How amid such clamor can
Church endure or people pray?
How, when monk and priest arc shot
And in prison sits Andrei?

Another than really stuck was:

We who now sec death and exile
Recollect what came before,
Freedom known for but an hour
Then boots trample it once more.
Wisdom, Andrei preached, is peace
Set by Christ within the heart;
Wisdom give to us, we pray;
Wisdom from us never part.

And the final one:

Andrei and our faithful martyrs
Teach us as Saint James first taught
Wisdom shall be given to us
And perfect our wounded thought.
How grace sets our hearts ablaze,
When we merely ask and pray;
How our suffering finds an end
Where light shines in endless day.

Both poems are powerful and moving. I have read them each a few times now. And find myself wishing even more so that Wilson’s earlier works were available in digital editions. About these two pieces we are informed:

“The Hymn for the North American Martyrs was commissioned by the Benedict XVI Institute for our Year for St. Junipero Serra and the American Saints. The Offertory Hymn for Ukraine, celebrating the Catholic martyrs and white martyrs of Soviet Ukraine, was created for the Requiem Mass for the Forgotten, set to music by Frank La Rocca.”

This is an excellent little volume. I encourage you to reach out to James to pick up a signed edition. The two poems are masterfully written and will leave you wanting more. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2024 Catholic Reading Plan

Books by James Matthew Wilson:
The Vision of the Soul
The Hanging God
Some Permanent Things
The Fortunes of Poetry in an Age of Unmaking
The Strangeness of the Good
The River of the Immaculate Conception
Catholic Modernism and the Irish "Avant-Garde
Four Verse Letters

Contributed to:
The Slumbering Host
An Outcast Age
T. S. Eliot and Christian Tradition

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