Three by Ely II
Poems from Sacred Paintings.
"This publication features twelve silkscreen prints by Martha Ann Walker and interpretive poems by Marie Schmitt Ely, and explanatory notes by E. Boyd Hall. The prints are renditions of 18th century paintings done by Franciscan missionaries. Because the original paintings were based oil canvases brought from Mexico on mission supply caravans. The silkscreen reproductions are meant to reconstruct the original paintings done in vegetable dyes on animal skins (chiefly deerskin). Since the originals are severely faded, the silkscreen print is an attempt to reconstruct its color and feel as closely as possible. The blank verse poems are written from the viewpoint of former users of the paintings."
St. John Nepomucene
In jaded courts of kings and emperors
Too oft is perfidy the rule.
To curry favor, man will sell his soul,
Betray his vows, and thus demean his God.
Bohemia, where Wenceslaus was king,
Had often seen this proved. The king was proud,
And jealous of his power, mistrustful
Of his queen. He sought in eager hate to find
The proof of what his fevered mind had built,
Into an edifice of vast proportions.
Confessor to the queen, San Juan Nepomuceno
Was called to Wenceslaus and told to break
The holy silence which the penitent received
When to her God she bared her sins.
But John was true, and stood steadfast
'Gainst desecration of his vows.
They tortured him with rack and fire
Such was the frantic furor of the king
To no avail. Nor for his constant virtue
Was John praised, but died a martyr's death.
King Wenceslaus was foiled again,
For over San Juan's floating corpse there glowed
A light so bright and pure it filled the sky.
The people, loyal, humble, full of faith,
Defied the king and claimed the saint for theirs.
The honored him and so his story lived.
Bohemia to Mexico his fame
Has spanned six hundred years and many miles,
And counsels us to hold in highest trust
The wise discretionary use of words,
The honor due a vow.
St. Barbara clasps a tower in her arm;
'Twas here she found the holy mystery
Of faith, and clasped it to her youthful soul.
Her father held her prisoned deep within,
But she had workmen carve three windows there
To symbolize the Holy Trinity.
In furious rage he sought to capture her
But angels bore her safe away from him.
A shepherd told him of her hiding place,
And he denounced her to the Roman wolves.
In spite of awful torture she endured
She would not yield to pain nor fear;
Staunch in her faith she gained at length the crown
Of martyrdom, and carries thus the palm.
Her earthly father dealt the blow
Which severed that fair head, and sent her soul
To rich rewards her Heavenly Father held.
Communion of the spirit gave her strength
And sustenance to bear her heavy woes;
Thus artists picture her with chalice in
Her hand, and gleaming Host above.
Saint Barbara is patroness of those
Who fashion armor, and she speeds the hands
Of those who haste to fortify their Lands.
She watches too, when thunder rumbles loud
And lightening flashes bright. Her steady faith
Stands as a tower of strength; her shining deeds
Show us the windows through to heaven.
St. John the Baptist
A comely man, with naught of arrogance
Or pride of self, nor yet desire for wealth,
He said he only came to lead the way,
To urge repentance of our sins;
He wished to take us by the hand
And baptize us to wash our guilt away.
His preaching had a desert tang, of strength
And fervor hardly won, but rooted deep.
He wore a tunic made of camel's hair
And cloak of some poor stuff. His staff was rough,
And bore the legend of the heartfelt words
He spoke when first he met his Lord
And baptised him: "Behold the Lamb of God!"
And from that time, he urged upon us more
And ever more a firmer sorrow
For our sins. Sometimes we'd think we saw a Lamb
Beside him there, with shining fleece, and face
Of such pure light we'd blink and scare could look.
Yea John was strange and strong
He stood alone and spoke his words with fire.
Sacred Paintings on Skin (1944), interpretive poems by Marie Schmitt Ely.
Herb Ely is putting his mother's poems on line, including the poetry in Sacred Paintings.
See also Three by Ely I: Poems from Sacred Paintings.
Lane Core Jr. CIW P Sun. 08/01/04 08:13:15 AM
Categorized as Literary & Religious & Sunday Poetry Series.