Tabb Centenary Year XIV
Five sonnets by Rev. John B. Tabb.
To My Lamp
Companion of my vigil, silently,
At midnight, when the voiceful world is still,
Alone with me thou watchest. Peaceably
Thy radiance stems the darkened tide and chill
That floods the outer prospect. On thy ray
Night’s foamless torrent breaks not, but retires
As from a charmed circle, far away,
To glooms beyond. E’en so, Promethean fires,
Within my throbbing temples, fed of pain,
Resist the powers around them—wild desires,
Fevered of passion, as the troubled main
That slumbers not. Thy task with morn expires,
But nought to me of respite brings the day,
Till life is wasted, as thine oil, away.
1882 (p. 275, Sonnets)
I lift mine eyes, and lo! impetuous tears
Bedim them, as the tides of thought o’erflow
The soul’s expansion. On thy peaks of snow,
Above the boreal revel, Nature hears
The chorus of the night-enkindled spheres
Roll westward, while their flickering torches grow
Like phantoms, in the orient’s warmer glow,
Ere yet the Dawn’s imperial crest appears.
But on thy deep foundations slumber Night
And everlasting Silence. ’Tis their dream
Alone that lingers when the darkness wanes;
Amid the ephemeral seasons’ bloom and blight,
When earth and sky and ocean changeful seem,
That sovereign Calm inviolate remains.
1882 (p. 277, Sonnets)
As one who in the hush of twilight hears
The pausing pulse of nature, when the Light
Commingles in the dim mysterious rite
Of darkness with the mutual pledge of tears,
Till soft, anon, one timorous star appears,
Pale-budding as the earliest blossom white
That comes in winter’s livery bedight,
To hide the gifts of genial spring she bears—
So, unto me—what time the mysteries
Of consciousness and slumber weave a dream
And pause above it with abated breath,
Like intervals in music—lights arise,
Beyond prophetic nature’s farthest gleam,
That teach me half the mystery of death.
1894 (p. 285, Sonnets)
The Dead Tree
Erect in death thou standest gaunt and bare,
Thy limbs uplifted to the wintry sky,
To supplicate its pity, or defy
The threat of wrath with towering despair.
Around thee, like a wizard’s widening snare,
Lithe shadows in a web fantastic lie,
Spun of the moon, in midnight sorcery,
Down gazing with a madman’s vacant stare.
What reads she in thy ruin? Lives the past
Recorded in the present? Lingers here
The legend of a glory overcast,
The song of birds long silent, and the stir
Of leaves forever scattered to the blast,
Yet echoed in eternal dreams to her?
February 1890 (p. 286, Sonnets)
Altar whereon the lordly sacrifice
Of incense from the reverent vales below
Is offered at the dawn’s first kindling glow
And when the day’s last smouldering ember dies,
Around thee, too, the kindred sympathies
Of life—itself a vapor—breathe and flow,
And yearn beyond thy pinnacle of snow
To wing the trackless region of the skies.
Thy shadow broods above me, and mine own
Sleeps as a child beneath it. O’er my dreams
Thou dost, as an abiding presence, pour
Thy spirit in the melancholy moan
Of cavern winds and far-resounding streams,
As sings the ocean to the listening shore.
December 1883 (p. 289, Sonnets)
[“Ad Montem”: Latin, To the Mountain; the first few words of the poem may be an echo of the opening words of Levavi oculos, Psalm 120. “Glimspes”: in line 9, “what time” means “when”.]
The references (page number and section) are to The Poetry of Father Tabb, ed. Francis A. Litz, Ph.D. (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1928). All of Tabb's poems published here in the Father Tabb Centenary Year were originally published before 1923.
Biblical references link to the New Advent Bible comprising Bishop Challoner's edition of the Douay-Rheims Bible (English) and the Sixto-Clementine edition of the Vulgate (Latin), since they are the versions which Father Tabb would have used as a Catholic.
The year 2009 is the centenary of the death of Rev. John Banister Tabb, November 19, 1909.
Lane Core Jr. CIW P Sun. 03/08/09 12:49:40 PM
Categorized as Father Tabb Centenary Year & Literary.