Three by Ely IV
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. Didacus of Alcala
A Spanish saint is Didacus,
Austere and holy man. A hermit schooled
Him in the ways of piety and zeal,
And he became a brother in the order
Of Saint Francis. In Rome his prayers
Brought health to hosts through trust in God.
St. Didacus is called San Diego, too;
And Spaniards brought his fame to Mexico
From whence it traveled north to Jemez,
Where his likeness lives upon a canyon wall.
With flowing hair and mantle closely wrapped,
He tarries there upon a burro's back.
Two legends of San Diego here survive
Of two opposing sides in battle grim.
'Tis irony when enemies beseech
Their Godthe selfsame only Godto aid
the causeannihilate their foe
When war itself is enemy to God.
Two hundred fifty years ago, as now,
This contradiction, too, was true.
De Vargas lead his Spaniards on against
The mesa where the Jemez Indians fought,
And San Diego urged them on to win.
The Indians, too beheld a heavenly guide
Who counseled them to make their peace.
They yielded to his wish, and on the cliff
They carved his figureso the Legend goes.
But other skill than moral etched those lines
Of everlasting praise to saintliness.
Brown-robed Franciscans, wearing belts of cord,
Bare footed friars, in their humble garb,
In spirit meek, in patience plentiful,
Have labored in New Mexico
For many long and trouble-burdened years
Four hundred years of never ending zeal.
'Tis yet a land of desert wide and dry
Of summer heat and winter cold,
Of drouth and parching throats and thirst,
But then the only towns were sun baked clumps
Of earthen houses where the Indians dwelt
No roads, nor signs, nor cars, nor maps.
The humble spirit of Saint Francis
Must have led them on and strengthened them
In all their struggles and their pain.
They taught the Indians and converted them
And lost, and won them back again.
They build their mission churches, block by block,
As a place of worship, and as a fortress, too.
The barren fruitless years marched endless on,
The quiet land must ne'er have seemed to change
But surely as the lingering chill of May
Becomes the blooming warmth of June's hot sun,
The missionaries saw their labor's fruit,
And, one by one, their flocks increased and grew.
We find them stillthe rope-girt, brown robed priests:
In cites, and in small untroubled towns,
And faring forth to scattered mission posts.
They keep their single-mindedness of aim,
And yet, as Francis of Assisi did,
They make each bird and beast and man their friend.
In the Likeness of Our Lord
The hallowed saints whom we revere
Are of the pasttheir lives and actions have
Been probed until the Church is without doubt
That they are worthy of this honored name.
But once they were as wewith doubts and fears,
Temptations, struggles, triumph over sin.
'Twas with the grace of God they built their lives
And fashioned them to honor God alone.
Thus in the pictures men have made of them
We find a curious similarity
In features, attitude, and general mien
As if a brotherhood united them.
The lying kiss which Judas gave to Christ
Was to distinguish Him from James the Less,
For James was Jesus' cousin, and so like
Unto his Master strangers oft confused
The two. And so in pictures of the saints
Each is identified by palm, or skull
Or lamb, or crosssome symbol of their life;
But in each face we find the artist has
Depicted heavenly light and calm repose
Which each has won from life and death.
If you think well upon the people whom
You know, as paintings lined upon a wall,
Those same potential marks of saintliness
Will be apparent to your eyes.
And if you, gazing further, think upon
Their deeds, you see eternal aptitude
For good or evil, ever balancing.
By every daily choice, of every man,
Our life, our death, our soul, our world is made.
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 III: Poems from Sacred Paintings.
Lane Core Jr. CIW P Sun. 08/15/04 08:04:03 AM
Categorized as Literary & Religious & Sunday Poetry Series.