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The Weblog at The View from the Core - Sun. 09/27/09 05:42:58 PM

Tabb Centenary Year LII

Five sonnets by Rev. John B. Tabb.

The Portrait

Each has his Angel-Guardian. Mine, I know,
Looks on me from that pictured face. Behold,
How clear, between those rifted clouds of gold,
The radiant brow! It is the morning glow
Of Innocence, ere yet the heart let go
The leading-strings of Heaven. Upon the eyes
No shadow: like the restful noonday skies
They sanctify the teeming world below.
Why bows my soul before it? None but thou,
O tender child, has known the life estranged
From thee and all that made thy days of joy
The measure of my own. Behold me now—
The man that begs a blessing of the boy—
His very self; but from himself how changed!

January 1893 (p. 292, Sonnets)


All night a rose, with budding warmth aglow,
Above a sleeper’s dreamful visage hung,
Pale with intenser passion than the tongue
Of man is tuned to utter. Breathing low,
The night winds, fledged with odor, to and fro
Went wandering the languid leaves among;
While darkling woke a mocking-bird, and sung
All echoes that the noonday warblers know.
The dream, the song, the odor, each in one
Upbreathing as a starry vapor, spread,
And from the golden minarets of morn,
Far heralding the unawakened sun,
A rapture as of poesy outshed
Upon the spirit of a babe unborn.

1897 (p. 293, Sonnets)


Thou wast to me what to the changing year
Its seasons are—a joy forever new;
What to the night its stars, its heavenly dew,
Its silence; what to dawn its lark-song clear;
To noon, its light—its fleckless atmosphere,
Where ocean and the overbending blue,
In passionate communion, hue for hue,
As one in Love’s circumference appear.
O brimming heart, with tears for utterance
Alike of joy and sorrow! lift thine eyes
And sphere the desolation. Love is flown;
And in the desert’s widening expanse
Grim Silence, like a sepulchre of stone,
Stands charnelling a soul’s funereal sighs.

November-December 1892 (p. 283, Sonnets)

The Agony

I wrestled, as did Jacob, till the dawn,
With the reluctant Spirit of the Night
That keeps the keys of Slumber. Worn and white,
We paused a panting moment, while anon
The darkness paled around us. Thereupon—
His mighty limbs relaxing in affright—
The Angel pleaded: “Lo, the morning light!
O Israel, release me, and begone!”
Then said I, “Nay, a captive to my will
I hold thee till the blessing thou dost keep
Be mine.” Whereat he breathed upon my brow;
And, as the dew upon the twilight hill,
So on my spirit, over-wearied now,
Came tenderly the benediction, Sleep.

March 1893 (p. 285, Sonnets)


To die in sleep—to drift from dream to dream
Along the banks of slumber, beckoned on
Perchance by forms familiar, till anon,
Unconsciously, the ever-widening stream
Beyond the breakers bore thee, and the beam
Of everlasting morning woke upon
Thy dazzled gaze, revealing one by one
Thy visions grown immortal in its gleam.
O blessed consummation! thus to feel
In death no touch of terror. Tenderly
As shadows to the evening hills, he came
In garb of God’s dear messenger to thee,
Nor on thy weary eyelids broke the seal,
In reverence for a brother’s holier name.

1894 (p. 290, Sonnets)

[“The Portrait”: the first line alludes to Matthew 18:10: “See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” “Solitude”: a charnel is a repository for bones or dead bodies. “The Agony”: Father Tabb was a chronic insomniac; the poem is based on the Old Testament story of Jacob wrestling with the angel, Genesis 32:22-32.]

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. 09/27/09 05:42:58 PM
Categorized as Father Tabb Centenary Year & Literary.


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