Update: I have been receiving a lot of traffic for this from google searches and it looks like people are either looking for an interpretation of the poem or are seeking photos of the fountain. While I do have an interpretation of this poem, I’m not a professional literary critic and I’m, at best, a hack academic. However, I am happy to lend a hand to any Wilbur fans so do email me at m.jordan.lichens [at] gmail.com if you would like me to refer you to resources. For the photo hunters, I do have plenty of pictures of the fountain in the Villa Sciarra in Rome, which I had the pleasure of living next to. While the photos are mine, it must needs be said that I do not own the rights to this poem and am only quoting it to share the pure art. I am in no way turning a profit from this or claiming any ownership. Cheers, mjl.
Under the bronze crown
Too big for the head of the stone cherub whose feet
A serpent has begun to eat,
Sweet water brims a cockle and braids down
Past spattered mosses, breaks
On the tipped edge of a second shell, and fills
The massive third below. It spills
In threads then from the scalloped rim, and makes
A scrim or summery tent
For a faun-ménage and their familiar goose.
Happy in all that ragged, loose
Collapse of water, its effortless descent
And flatteries of spray,
The stocky god upholds the shell with ease,
Watching, about his shaggy knees,
The goatish innocence of his babes at play;
His fauness all the while
Leans forward, slightly, into a clambering mesh
Of water-lights, her sparkling flesh
In a saecular ecstasy, her blinded smile
Bent on the sand floor
Of the trefoil pool, where ripple-shadows come
And go in swift reticulum,
More addling to the eye than wine, and more
Interminable to thought
Than pleasure’s calculus. Yet since this all
Is pleasure, flash, and waterfall,
Must it no be too simple? Are we not
More intricately expressed
In the plain fountains that Maderna set
Before St. Peter’s – the main jet
Struggling aloft until it seems at rest
In the very act of rising, until
The very wish of water is reversed,
That heaviness borne up to burst
In a clear, high, cavorting head, to fill
With blaze, and then in gauze
Delays, in a gnatlike shimmering, in a fine
Illumined version of itself, decline,
And patter on the stones its own applause?
If that is what men are
Or should be, if those water-saints display
The pattern of our arête,
What of these showered fauns in their bizarre,
Spangled, and plunging house?
They are at rest in fullness of desire
For what is given, they do not tire
Of the smart of the sun, the pleasant water-douse
And riddled pool below,
Reproving our disgust and our ennui
With humble insatiety.
Francis, perhaps, who lay in sister snow
Before the wealthy gate
Freezing and praising, might have seen in this
No trifle, but shade of bliss –
That land of tolerable flowers, that state
As near and far as grass
Where eyes becomes the sunlight, and the hand
Is worthy of water: the dreamt land
Toward which all hungers leap, all pleasures pass.
Yesterday was the feast of a great holy man and martyr of the English Church, St. Thomas a Becket. Somehow, in all my impiety, I completely forgot about it! I had the pleasure of seeing what was the site of St. Thomas’ great shrine, which is now unfortunately destroyed and one candle shines where it once stood. St. Thomas’ memory is still alive and well, and pilgrims still cry to him for a cure and an example on how to live a holy life. Like St. Thomas More, Thomas a Becket shows us what it is to be a willing martyr for the Church in face of political opposition. I reccomend a reading of T. S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral to get a fine retelling of the story with the usual message that to act is to suffer and to suffer is to act. St. Thomas a Becket, ora pro nobis!
The Scientific breakthrough of the year has proved something that men like St. Augustine and TS Eliot had been affirming for centuries. According to SMH, reporting on Science’s monthly report on the Genome Project, “Memory of past events and imagination about the future are intimately linked. The part of the brain called the hippocampus plays a role in both.”
I may seem sarcastic when I say that science continues to prove what many philosophers and theologians have believed for ages, while also correcting many errors that they like to fall into. The “forgotten liberal art” is making leaps and bounds to affirm the other liberal arts in ways unimaginable in the foregoing materialist empirical age. Good show you great women and men who slave over your microscope!
Very quickly before my internet connection gets lost in our fine national capitol: there is much gloating from materialistic anti-theists about Bl. Teresa of Calcutta’s dark night of the soul and it is, to put it mildly, a little annoying if not disgusting. I suppose I’d be angry if it wasn’t for the fact that the ones who attack her are wealthy New York socialites who went to Harvard or Oxford and would never be seen with us commoners much less scrub a leper or care for an aids victim. This being said, these same socialites feel it’s their duty to degrade such a good woman with their whiny accents and tailored suits. ‘Tis no wonder, my constant reader, that I have always had the Chestertonian distrust of the wealthy.
That being said, may I recommend that everyone read GM Hopkins’ “Terrible Sonnets” as an introduction to this religious phenomenon? They are called the “Terrible Sonnets” because of the anguish the poet felt in his years as a priest and provide for a shorter view into this spiritual agony that is better expressed by St. John of the Cross. You can find the sonnets here.
|No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,|
|More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.|
|Comforter, where, where is your comforting?|
|Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?|