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Tabb Centenary Year XXXIV

Five sonnets by Rev. John B. Tabb.

The Hermit

High on the hoary mountain-top he dwelt
Alone with God, whose handiwork above
The wonders of the firmament approve
In an eternal silence. There he spelt
The name of the Omnipotent, and knelt
In lowly reverence of adoring love.
Beneath him, all the elements that move
In Nature’s prayerful harmonies he felt
And knew their mystic meaning. Thus the tone
Of lifted billows and the storm that sways
The forest-seas in chorus spake alone
Divinity, scarce hidden from his gaze;
And with their mighty voices blent his own
In one majestic utterance of praise.

1882 (p. 296, Sonnets)

Restraint

Pause while thine eyes are alien to the scene
That lies before thee. Let the Fancy range,
As yet she may, sole sovereign of the strange
Uncharted region of that wide demesne
Where Truth the tyrant never yet hath been.
He, once supreme, as in a narrowed grange
Thenceforth abides forever—Chance and Change
Foregone his guarded barriers between.
Pass not; before the all-discerning Light
The angels veil their faces. To the wise
The tree of Knowledge in their Eden stands
Untasted, lest the Death that in it lies
Prevail, the bud of Innocence to blight,
And cloud the glimpse of ever-widening lands.

1897 (p. 299, Sonnets)

The Druid

Godlike beneath his grave divinities,
The last of all their worshippers, he stood.
The shadows of a vanished multitude
Enwound him, and their voices in the breeze
Made murmur, while the meditative trees
Reared of their strong fraternal branches rude
A temple meet for prayer. What blossoms strewed
The path between life’s morning hours and these?
What lay beyond the darkness? He alone
The sunshine and the shadow and the dew
Had shared alike with leaf, and flower, and stem:
Their life had been his lesson; and from them
A dream of immortality he drew,
As in their fate foreshadowing his own.

August 1896 (p. 295, Sonnets)

The Petrel

A wanderer o’er the sea-graves ever green,
Whereon the foam-flowers blossom day by day,
Thou flittest as a doomful shadow gray
That from the wave no sundering light can wean.
What wouldst thou from the deep unfathomed glean,
Frail voyager? and whither leads thy way?
Or art thou, as the sailor legends say,
An exile from the spirit-world unseen?
Lo! desolate, above a colder tide,
Pale Memory, a sea-bird like to thee,
Flits outward where the whitening billows hide
What seemed of Life the one reality—
A mist whereon the morning bloom hath died,
Returning, ghost-like, to the restless sea.

September 1883 (p. 287, Sonnets)

Unuttered

Waiting for words—as on the broad expanse
Of heaven the formless vapors of the night,
Expectant, wait the oracle of light
Interpreting their dumb significance;
Or like a star that in the morning glance
Shrinks, as a folding blossom, from the sight,
Nor wakens till upon the western height
The shadows to their evening towers advance—
So, in my soul, a dream ineffable,
Expectant of the sunshine or the shade,
Hath oft, upon the brink of twilight chill,
Or at the dawn’s pale glimmering portal stayed
In tears, that all the quivering eyelids fill,
In smiles, that on the lip of silence fade.

June 1883 (p. 282, Sonnets)

[“Restraint”: a demesne (a word of French origin that has only two syllables; the second is pronounced “main”) is a territory or region; see Genesis, Chapter 2 and Chapter 3, for Eden and the tree of Knowledge. “The Druid”: druids were a learned and/or priestly class in ancient Celtic and Gallic regions of Europe, about whom little is actually known but much has been fancied. “The Petrel”: petrels are seabirds that live in open oceans or seas, returning to land only to breed.]


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. 05/31/09 07:17:33 PM
Categorized as Father Tabb Centenary Year & Literary.

   
         
         

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Cor ad cor loquitur J. H. Newman — “Heart speaks to heart”