The new song

Poem for a Tuesday — “The new song” by Sydney Carter

“Be faithful to the new song

thrusting through your

earth like a daffodil.

Be flexible

and travel with the rhythm.

Let your mind

be bent by what is coming:

making is

a way of being made

and giving birth

a way of being born.

You are the child

and father of a carol,

you are not

the only maker present.

How you make

is how you will be made.

Be gentle to

the otherness you carry,

broken by

the truth you cannot tell yet.

Mother and be

mothered by your burden.

Trust, and learn

to travel with the music.

in Sydney Carter. The Two-Way Clock: Poems (London: Stainer & Bell, 2000).

Sydney Carter (1915-2004) was an English poet, writer, and musician. He graduated from Balliol College, Oxford, in 1936. Carter’s commitment to pacifism led to his controversial stance as a conscientious objector during World War II. He was among 1,300 Quaker volunteers who served as drivers in the Friends’ Ambulance Unit, spending his war years in Greece, Palestine, and Egypt. Sydney Carter was best known for writing Lord Of The Dance in 1963, as an adaptation of the Shaker hymn Simple Gifts. He once said that he saw Christ as “the incarnation of the piper who is calling us. He dances that shape and pattern which is at the heart of our reality. By Christ, I mean not only Jesus; in other times and places, other planets, there may be other lords of the dance. But Jesus is the one I know of first and best. I sing of the dancing pattern in the life and words of Jesus.”

(quote from Carter’s obituary in The Guardian, March 16, 2004)

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God speaks to each

Poem for a Tuesday — “Gott spricht zu jedem” by Rainer Maria Rilke

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,

then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,

got to the limits of your longing.

Embody me.

Flare up like flame

and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.

Just keep going. No feeling is final.

Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.

You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

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Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) was a Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist. He was the only son of an unhappy marriage. His mother mourned the death of an earlier daughter. During Rilke’s early years, she sought to recover the lost girl through the boy. According to Rilke, he had to wear “fine clothes” and “was a plaything [for his mother], like a big doll.” He attended military school and trade school before studying literature, art history, and philosophy in Prague and Munich. He was a mystic, proto-modernist, and early proponent of psychoanalysis. He traveled extensively throughout Europe and Russia before settling in Switzerland. At the time of his death from leukemia, his work was largely unknown to the reading public, but his posthumous followers have been many. He is now considered the most lyrical and influential of the German early modernists.

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