Philosophy and the Seven Liberal Arts

Philosophy and the Seven Liberal Arts

Philosophy, the Queen, sits in the center of the circle. She wears a crown with three heads labeled ethica, logica, and physica (a traditional Platonic division of philosophy that was common in the early Middle Ages). The scroll she holds reads, "All wisdom comes from the Lord God; the wise alone achieve what they desire." To Philosophy's right is an inscription which says that "seven streams of wisdom, called the Liberal Arts, flow from Philosophy."

To her left the inscription asserts that the Holy Spirit inspired seven liberal arts: grammatica, rethorica, dialectica, musica, arithmetica, geometa, and astronoma. The legend on the inner circle tells us "I, Godlike Philosophy lay out seven arts which are subordinate to me; by them I control all things with wisdom."

Below Philosophy, seated at desks, are Socrates and Plato, identified as those scholars of the Gentiles and sages of the world who first taught ethics, natural philosophy, and rhetoric.

From Philosophy emerge seven streams, three on her left and four on her right. These are the seven liberal arts, inspired by the Holy Spirit: grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, music, arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy.

Arrayed around the circle are the liberal arts. Three correspond to the rivers which emerge from Philosophy's left and are concerned with language and letters: grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic. Together they comprise the trivium. The four others, which emerge on Philosophy's right, form the quadrivium, arts which are concerned with the various kinds of harmony: music, arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy. Each of the seven arts holds something symbolic, and each is accompanied by a text displayed on the arch above it.

Grammar (at 12 o'clock) holds a book and a whip. The text reads: Through me all can learn what are the words, the syllables, and the letters.

Rhetoric (at 2 o'clock) holds a tablet and stylus. The text reads: Thanks to me, proud speaker, your speeches will be able to take strength.

Dialectic (at 4 o'clock) points with a one hand and holds a barking dog's head in the other. The text reads: I allow arguments to join, dog-like, in battle.

Music (at 5 o'clock) holds a harp, and other instruments are nearby. The text reads: I teach my art using a variety of instruments.

Arithmetic (at 7 o'clock) holds a cord with threaded beads, like a rudimentary abacus. The text reads: I base myself on the numbers and show the proportions between them.

(at 9 o'clock) holds a staff and compass. The text reads: It is with exactness that I survey the ground.

Astronomy (at 11 o'clock) points heavenward and holds in hand a magnifying lens or mirror. The text reads: I hold the names of the celestial bodies and predict the future.

The large ring around the whole scene contains four aphorisms and the stages through which Philosophy works (investigation, writing, and teaching): What it discovers is remembered; Philosophy investigates the secrets of the elements and all things; Philosophy teaches arts by seven branches; It puts it in writing, in order to convey it to the students.

Below the circle are four men seated at desks -- poets or magicians, outside the pale and beyond the influence of Philosophy. According to the text they are guided and taught by impure spirits and they produce only tales or fables, frivolous poetry, or magic spells. Notice the black birds speaking to them (the antithesis of the white dove, symbol of the Holy Spirit).


*Art: Hortus Deliciarum: Philosophy and the Seven Liberal Arts is a Medieval Ink Drawing created by German Abbess, Herrad of Landsberg (c. 1130–1195) around 1170. 

Further Reading: Herrad of Landsberg (A Medieval Woman's Companion)

The Doves Have Flown

The Doves Have Flown
Jamie Dedes

what must it be like for you in your part of the world?
there is only silence, i don’t know your name, i know only
that the fire of Life makes us one in this, the human journey,
trudging through mud, by land and by sea, reaching for the sun
like entering a ritual river without a blessing or a prayer
on the street where you lived, your friends are all gone
the houses are crushed and the doves have flown
there is only silence, no children playing, no laughter
here and there a light remains to speak to us of loneliness,
yet our eyes meet in secret, our hearts open on the fringe,
one breath and the wind blows, one tear and the seas rise,
your tears drip from my eyes and i tremble with your fear

*Read more of Jamie Dedes' poetry here.

"Dear children, you must try to say something when you are in need. Don't confuse hunger with greed; and don't wait until you are dead." ~ Ruth Stone (1915-2011), Advice

Lucille Clifton

“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.” ~ Lucille Clifton (1936-2010)

What is a Classic?

"...There comes a time in life when, all our journeys over, our experiences ended, there is no enjoyment more delightful than to study and thoroughly examine the things we know, to take pleasure in what we feel, and in seeing and seeing again the people we love: the pure joys of our maturity...

...We cling to our friends, to those proved by long intercourse...Old wine, old books, old friends. We say to ourselves with Voltaire in these delightful lines:—“Let us enjoy, let us write, let us live, my dear Horace!… I have lived longer than you: my verse will not last so long. But on the brink of the tomb I shall make it my chief care—to follow the lessons of your philosophy—to despise death in enjoying life—to read your writings full of charm and good sense—as we drink an old wine which revives our senses.”

  In fact, be it Horace or another who is the author preferred, who reflects our thoughts in all the wealth of their maturity, of some one of those excellent and antique minds shall we request an interview at every moment; of some one of them shall we ask a friendship which never deceives, which could not fail us; to some one of them shall we appeal for that sensation of serenity and amenity (we have often need of it) which reconciles us with mankind and with ourselves."    

~ Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve (1804-1869), What is a Classic?

Literary Friendships

Literary Friends (and Lovers)

My quest for learning about the value
of literary friendships began with
Emma and Emily, authors of the book,
A Secret Sisterhood,” telling stories
of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte,
George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf.

Many literary friendships are famous
throughout history, such as
Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her
husband, Robert, and Ralph Waldo
Emerson sharing his land with
Henry David Thoreau, influencing
the prose poem, "Walden." You can’t
think of one without the other.

Christina Rossetti was supported by
her artist brother, Dante Gabriel,
as they collaborated together on
Goblin Market and other Poems.”
You can’t think of one without the other.

Rainer Maria Rilke had a close bond
with his patron, Lou Andreas-Salome,
while Kahlil Gibran’s friend, Mary
Haskell was not only his patron, but
became his artistic muse and model.
You can’t think of one without the other.

My favorite husband and wife team
were Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon.
A couple who encouraged each other
to write and publish poetry and prose.
You can’t think of one without the other.

These friendships can be life-changing
and stimulating at best, to motivate
one another to achieve literary goals,
but are not without risks. Even Zelda
assisted her husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald
as his ghost writer at times. You can’t
think of one without the other.

More literary friendships went sour, such
as Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein,
who ran the infamous Paris Salon.
Some even having illicit affairs like
Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West.
You can’t think of one without the other.

Other famous expatriates were Ezra Pound
and T.S. Eliot. If not for Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot
may never have produced “The Wasteland.”
You can’t think of one without the other.

Better to be friends than rivals they say.
Companionship, cooperation and
collaboration beat competition any day.

Sara Teasdale began her poetry career
with other women writers in the Potters
Group of St. Louis. Then later she met her
friend and editor, Jessie B. Rittenhouse.
You can’t think of one without the other.

My literary sisters and brothers lift me up
and urge me to keep writing.  I admire
poets and teachers, and singers and
writers; So many who keep me inspired.
(Some are even kind enough to share
their work as Guest Posts for my readers.)

And we all know the worth of great editors,
such as Maxwell Perkins, whose Genius
contributed to the fame of Thomas Wolfe.
You can’t think of one without the other.

I am still mourning the loss of my editor friends,
Lynn Wasnak and Jamie Dedes. They
may not be well-known by the general public,
but they are dearly missed indeed.

We all need good friends in whatever we do,
helping one another in our dreams to pursue.

By Denise Fletcher


Tim McGee

(The Storming of the Capitol, 6 January 2021: A literary perspective...
If classics are classics it’s because they speak to our now!)

“Many perceive it no more,
Yet disregard the advantage
Of building it...”
    -Rilke's Duino Elegies, Seventh Elegy

Sounds like Dickens’ times, both worst and best: the family-
Fabric torn by storm, leaving only violence, disregard, finger
Pointing (or wagging) as a final (but is it ever final?) response.
Like Homer’s Odysseus having to sail between that rock and a

Hard place of Scylla’s pal Charybdis: the only way out is through!
Like Hamlet’s daddy who can’t endure poison poured in the ear:
It only takes words, words, words to sicken a rotting Denmark
Anyway!  Like Golding’s Jack (convinced that Machiavelli must

Be right and the violent-stronger will always trump the soft-spoken-
Weaker) who solves the problem of dissenters by-with dropping rocks
On heads or burning up the only island they’ve got: the solution to

A problem is to create a more prodigious problem!  Like Dante’s
Lost-in-the-dark-wood-of-error-pilgrim: later or (maybe) sooner
Fatigue’s resignation takes over: where’s Virgil to whisper, “Get up!”?


Dr. Tim McGee has been teaching high school students since the late ‘80s. He also teaches English composition, literature, and philosophy to College students.  He has received endorsements or degrees from Abilene Christian University, York College, the University of Nebraska, and Trinity College in English and psychology, philosophy, and theology. He graduated with honors from the University of Nebraska, where he earned his master's degree in education, and he earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy of Theology from Trinity College. Professor McGee has been nominated for several teaching awards, including Master Teacher. He has published in several journals, including The English Journal and Poets Magazine. He received the National Endowment for the Humanities reading award and the Wyoming Arts Council New Fiction Award. Dr. McGee is the founder of, and serves as an educational consultant and a motivational speaker to students and teachers.

*Note: Listen to Dr. Tim McGee recite his poem (in part B) of the lecture on Sainte Beuve’s What is a Classic? (Part A and Part B). Read the Harvard Classic Essay, What is a Classic? by Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve (1804-1869) on Bartleby here.


Sara Teasdale, 1884–1933

Alone in the night
On a dark hill
With pines around me
Spicy and still,

And a heaven full of stars
Over my head
White and topaz
And misty red;

Myriads with beating
Hearts of fire
The aeons
Cannot vex or tire;

Up the dome of heaven
Like a great hill
I watch them marching
Stately and still.

And I know that I
Am honored to be
Of so much majesty.

In a Dark Time

In a Dark Time
Theodore Roethke, 1908–1963

In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;   
I hear my echo in the echoing wood—
A lord of nature weeping to a tree.
I live between the heron and the wren,   
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.

What’s madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day’s on fire!   
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall.   
That place among the rocks—is it a cave,   
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.

A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,   
And in broad day the midnight come again!   
A man goes far to find out what he is—
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,   
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.   
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,   
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.   
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,   
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.

To Be, or Not To Be

To be, or not to be, that is the question
William Shakespeare, 1564–1616
To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there's the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause—there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
 For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th'oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of dispriz'd love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th'unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovere'd country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.

[from Hamlet, spoken by Hamlet]



Freezing cold water
The Greek boys dive for the cross
Receiving blessings

By Denise Fletcher

*Epiphany celebration every year in Tarpon Springs, Florida.

To Poesy

To Poesy
John Clare, 1793-1864

O sweetly wild and 'witching Poesy!
Thou light of this world's hermitage I prove thee;
And surely none helps loving thee that knows thee,
A soul of feeling cannot help but love thee.
I would say how thy secret wonders move me,
Thou spell of loveliness! -but 'tis too much:
Had I the language of the gods above me
I might then venture thy wild harp to touch,
And sing of all thy thrilling pains and pleasures;
The flowers I meet in this world's wilderness;
The comforts rising from thy spell-bound treasures,
Thy cordial balm that softens my distress:
I would say all, but thou art far above me;
Words are too weak, expression can't be had;
I can but say I love, and dearly love thee,
And that thou cheer'st me when my soul is sad.

[From The Village Minstrel, and Other Poems (London, 1821)]

Bright Star

 Bright Star

John Keats, 1795-1821

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art--
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors--
No--yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever--or else swoon to death.

[Originally written in April 1818. Published in The
Plymouth and Devonport Weekly Journal,

*Note: Watch the wonderful movie, Bright Star (2009), about the life of John Keats and his romance with Fanny Brawne (1800-1865), which was cut short by Keats' untimely death at age 25.

The Great Scarf of Birds

The Great Scarf of Birds
John Updike, 1932-2009

Playing golf on Cape Ann in October
I saw something to remember.

Ripe apples were caught like red fish in the nets
of their branches. The maples
were colored like apples,
part orange and red, part green.
The elms, already transparent trees,
seemed swaying vases full of sky. The sky
was dramatic with great straggling V’s
of geese streaming south, mare’s-tails above them.
Their trumpeting made us look up and around.
The course sloped into salt marshes,
and this seemed to cause the abundance of birds.

As if out of the Bible
or science fiction,
a cloud appeared, a cloud of dots
like iron filings which a magnet
underneath the paper undulates.
It dartingly darkened in spots,
paled, pulsed compressed, distended, yet
held an identity firm: a flock
of starlings, as much one thing as a rock.
One will moved above the trees
the liquid and hesitant drift.

Come nearer, it became less marvellous,
more legible, and merely huge.
“I never saw so many birds!” my friend exclaimed.
We returned our eyes to the game.
Later, as Lot’s wife must have done,
in a pause of walking, not thinking
of calling down a consequence,
I lazily looked around.

The rise of the fairway above us was tinted,
so evenly tinted I might not have noticed
but that at the rim of the delicate shadow
the starlings were thicker and outlined the flock
as an inkstain in drying pronounces its edges.
The gradual rise of green was vastly covered;
I had thought nothing in nature could be so broad
  but grass.

And as
I watched, one bird,
prompted by accident or will to lead,
ceased resting; and, lifting in a casual billow,
the flock ascended as a lady’s scarf,
transparent, of gray, might be twitched
by one corner, drawn upward and then,
decided against, negligently tossed toward a chair:
the southward cloud withdrew into the air.

Long had it been since my heart
had been lifted as it was by the lifting of that great


Short film about “murmurations”: the mysterious flights of the Common Starling. It is still unknown how the thousands of birds are able to fly in such dense swarms without colliding. Every night the starlings gather at dusk to perform their stunning air show. Because of the relatively warm winter of 2014/2015, the starlings stayed in the Netherlands instead of migrating southwards. This gave filmmaker Jan van IJken the opportunity to film one of the most spectacular and amazing natural phenomena on earth. A film by Jan van IJken, The Netherlands

*Note: A special thanks to Dr. Tim McGee for introducing me to this poem.

Ring out, wild bells

Ring out, wild bells
Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1809-1892

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
   The flying cloud, the frosty light:
   The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
   For those that here we see no more;
   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
   And ancient forms of party strife;
   Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
   The faithless coldness of the times;
   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
   The civic slander and the spite;
   Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
   Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
   Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
   The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
   Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807–1882

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth," I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

A Visit from St. Nicholas

A Visit from St. Nicholas
Clement Clarke Moore, 1779-1863

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

To Know All Is to Forgive All

To Know All Is to Forgive All
Nixon Waterman, 1859-1944

If I knew you and you knew me —
If both of us could clearly see,
And with an inner sight divine
The meaning of your heart and mine —
I'm sure that we would differ less
And clasp our hands in friendliness;
Our thoughts would pleasantly agree
If I knew you, and you knew me.

If I knew you and you knew me,
As each one knows his own self, we
Could look each other in the face
And see therein a truer grace.
Life has so many hidden woes,
So many thorns for every rose;
The " why " of things our hearts would see,
If I knew you and you knew me.

Christopher McCandless

“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” ~ Christopher McCandless (1968-1992)

Dream On

Dream On
James Tate, 1943-2015

Some people go their whole lives
without ever writing a single poem.
Extraordinary people who don't hesitate
to cut somebody's heart or skull open.
They go to baseball games with the greatest of ease
and play a few rounds of golf as if it were nothing.
These same people stroll into a church
as if that were a natural part of life.
Investing money is second nature to them.
They contribute to political campaigns
that have absolutely no poetry in them
and promise none for the future.
They sit around the dinner table at night
and pretend as though nothing is missing.
Their children get caught shoplifting at the mall
and no one admits that it is poetry they are missing.
The family dog howls all night,
lonely and starving for more poetry in his life.
Why is it so difficult for them to see
that, without poetry, their lives are effluvial.
Sure, they have their banquets, their celebrations,
croquet, fox hunts, their sea shores and sunsets,
their cocktails on the balcony, dog races,
and all that kissing and hugging, and don't
forget the good deeds, the charity work,
nursing the baby squirrels all through the night,
filling the birdfeeders all winter,
helping the stranger change her tire.
Still, there's that disagreeable exhalation
from decaying matter, subtle but everpresent.
They walk around erect like champions.
They are smooth-spoken, urbane and witty.
When alone, rare occasion, they stare
into the mirror for hours, bewildered.
There was something they meant to say, but didn't:
"And if we put the statue of the rhinoceros
next to the tweezers, and walk around the room three times,
learn to yodel, shave our heads, call
our ancestors back from the dead--"
poetrywise it's still a bust, bankrupt.
You haven't scribbled a syllable of it.
You're a nowhere man misfiring
the very essence of your life, flustering
nothing from nothing and back again.
The hereafter may not last all that long.
Radiant childhood sweetheart,
secret code of everlasting joy and sorrow,
fanciful pen strokes beneath the eyelids:
all day, all night meditation, knot of hope,
kernel of desire, pure ordinariness of life
seeking, through poetry, a benediction
or a bed to lie down on, to connect, reveal,
explore, to imbue meaning on the day's extravagant labor.
And yet it's cruel to expect too much.
It's a rare species of bird
that refuses to be categorized.
Its song is barely audible.
It is like a dragonfly in a dream--
here, then there, then here again,
low-flying amber-wing darting upward
then out of sight.
And the dream has a pain in its heart
the wonders of which are manifold,
or so the story is told.

*Listen to a close reading of this poem by Dr. Tim McGee here.

If you love for the sake of beauty

If you love for the sake of beauty
Friedrich Rückert, 1788-1866

If you love for the sake of beauty, O never love me!
Love the sun, which has bright golden hair.
If you love for the sake of youth, O never love me!
Love the spring, which is reborn each year.
If you love for the sake of wealth, O never love me!
Love the mermaid, whose pearls are rich and clear.
If you love for the sake of love alone, O yes then, love me!
Love me as I love you—forever!

(Anonymous Translator)

There's Snow On The Fields

There's Snow On The Fields
Christina Georgina Rossetti, 1830-1894

There's snow on the fields,
And cold in the cottage,
While I sit in the chimney nook
Supping hot pottage.
My clothes are soft and warm,
Fold upon fold,
But I'm so sorry for the poor
Out in the cold.


Czeslaw Milosz, 1911-2004

Love means to learn to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills—
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.

Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesn’t always understand.

Translated by Robert Hass

Christmas Carol

Christmas Carol

Sara Teasdale, 1884–1933

The kings they came from out the south,
   All dressed in ermine fine;
They bore Him gold and chrysoprase,
   And gifts of precious wine.
The shepherds came from out the north,
   Their coats were brown and old;
They brought Him little new-born lambs—
   They had not any gold.
The wise men came from out the east,
   And they were wrapped in white;
The star that led them all the way
   Did glorify the night.
The angels came from heaven high,
   And they were clad with wings;
And lo, they brought a joyful song
   The host of heaven sings.
The kings they knocked upon the door,
   The wise men entered in,
The shepherds followed after them
   To hear the song begin.
The angels sang through all the night
   Until the rising sun,
But little Jesus fell asleep
   Before the song was done.

*Art: The Angels Appearing to the Shepherds (1809) by William Blake (1757-1827)

A Christmas Carol


A Christmas Carol
Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894

In the bleak mid-winter
   Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
   Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
   Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
   Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
   Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
   When He comes to reign:
In the bleak midwinter
   A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty
   Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
   Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
   And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
   Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
   Which adore.

Angels and archangels
   May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
   Thronged the air;
But only His mother
   In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
   With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
   Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
   I would bring a lamb,
If I were a Wise Man
   I would do my part,—
Yet what I can I give Him,
   Give my heart.

*Listen to a close reading of this poem by Dr. Tim McGee here

*Art: A Christmas Carol by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)

The Sound of A Distant Waterfall

The Sound of A Distant Waterfall
Vladimir Solovev, 1853-1900

The distant sound of a waterfall
Resounds through the forest,
Quiet joy wafts down
From the dusky heavens.

Just the white vault of the sky
Just the white dream of the earth...
My heart obediently fell silent,
All my worries drifted away.

Slow joy,
Everything flows together as if in sleep...
The distant sound of a waterfall
Resounds in the silence.

*Photography: Angel Falls in Venezuela

Sutras of Unspeakable Joy

Sutras of Unspeakable Joy: Nine
Meggan Watterson

                 Love is the force that renders us all equal.
               The other is the self; there is no separation.
        Eye to eye, every man, woman, animal and angel,
                      we are all aching toward the light.
             More than the stability of hearth and home,
                   I have always wanted to be my own.
          To love and be loved from a place of freedom,
               a love without possession or addiction,
                         a love that is more than love.
This is what I live for: to source my own love from within.
                        To ready your arrival, beloved,
           in this field, this expanse of my well lit heart.

[From The Sutras of Unspeakable Joy, 2016]


Meggan Watterson is the author of REVEAL, The Sutras of Unspeakable Joy, The Divine Feminine Oracle, and Mary Magdalene Revealed. She is a feminist theologian with a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University. Meggan facilitates the REDLADIES—a community of radical love that lets her preach about female saints, mystics, gurus, and poets who inspire and teach us to live in service of love. Her work has appeared in media outlets such as The New York Times, Forbes, The Huffington Post, and Marie Claire.

Official website: Meggan Watterson

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia  
Thomas Merton, 1915-1968

The Expression of the Divine Feminine.

I. Dawn. The Hour of Lauds.

There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden whole-ness. This mysterious Unity and Integrity is Wisdom, the Mother of all, Natura naturans. There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence that is a fount of action and joy. It rises up in word-less gentleness and flows out to me from the unseen roots of all created being, welcoming me tenderly, saluting me with indescribable humility. This is at once my own being, my own nature, and the Gift of my Creator's Thought and Art within me, speaking as Hagia Sophia, speaking as my sister, Wisdom.

I am awakened, I am born again at the voice of this,
my Sister, sent to me from the depths of the divine

Let us suppose I am a man lying asleep in a hospital.
I am indeed this man lying asleep. It is July the second,
the Feast of Our Lady's Visitation. A Feast of Wisdom.

At five-thirty in the morning I am dreaming in a very
quiet room when a soft voice awakens me from my
dream. I am like all mankind awakening from all the
dreams that ever were dreamed in all the nights of the
world. It is like the One Christ awakening in all the
separate selves that ever were separate and isolated
and alone in all the lands of the earth. It is like all minds
coming back together into awareness from all distractions,
cross-purposes and confusions, into unity of love. It is like
the first morning of the world (when Adam, at the sweet voice
of Wisdom awoke from nonentity and knew her), and like the Last
Morning of the world when all the fragments of Adam will return from
death at the voice of Hagia Sophia, and will know where they stand.

Such is the awakening of one man, one morning, at
the voice of a nurse in the hospital. Awakening out
of languor and darkness, out of helplessness, out of
sleep, newly confronting reality and finding it to be

It is like being awakened by Eve. It is like being
awakened by the Blessed Virgin. It is like coming
forth from primordial nothingness and standing in
clarity, in Paradise.

In the cool hand of the nurse there is the touch of all
life, the touch of Spirit.

Thus Wisdom cries out to all who will hear (Sapientia
clamitat in plateis) and she cries out particularly
to the little, to the ignorant and the helpless.

Who is more little, who is more poor than the helpless
man who lies asleep in his bed without awareness and
without defense? Who is more trusting than
he who must entrust himself each night to sleep?
What is the reward of his trust? Gentleness comes to
him when he is most helpless and awakens him,
refreshed, beginning to be made whole. Love takes him
by the hand, and opens to him the doors of another
life, another day.

(But he who has defended himself, fought for himself
in sickness, planned for himself, guarded himself, loved
himself alone and watched over his own life all night, is
killed at last by exhaustion. For him there is no newness.
Everything is stale and old.)

When the helpless one awakens strong as the voice of
mercy, it is as if Life his Sister, as if the Blessed Virgin,
(his own flesh, his own sister), as if Nature made wise
by God's Art and Incarnation were to stand over him and
invite him with unutterable sweetness to be awake and to
live. This is what it means to recognize Hagia Sophia.

II. Early Morning. The Hour of Prime.

O blessed, silent one, who speaks everywhere!

We do not hear the soft voice, the gentle voice, the
merciful and feminine.

We do not hear mercy, or yielding love, or non-resistance,
or non-reprisal. In her there are no reasons and no answers.
Yet she is the candor of God's light, the expression of His

We do not hear the uncomplaining pardon that bows
down the innocent visages of flowers to the dewy
earth. We do not see the Child who is prisoner in all
the people, and who says nothing. She smiles, for
though they have bound her, she cannot be a prisoner.
Not that she is strong, or clever, but simply that
she does not understand imprisonment.

The helpless one, abandoned to sweet sleep, him the
gentle one will awake: Sophia.

All that is sweet in her tenderness will speak to him
on all sides in everything, without ceasing, and he
will never be the same again. He will have awakened
not to conquest and dark pleasure but to the impeccable
pure simplicity of One consciousness in all and through all:
one Wisdom, one Child, one Meaning, one Sister.

The stars rejoice in their setting, and in the rising of
the Sun. The heavenly lights rejoice in the going
forth of one man to make a new world in the morning,
because he has come out of the confused primordial dark
night into consciousness. He has expressed the clear silence
of Sophia in his own heart. He has become eternal.

III. High Morning. The Hour of Tierce.

The Sun burns in the sky like the Face of God, but
we do not know his countenance as terrible. His light
is diffused in the air and the light of God is diffused
by Hagia Sophia.

We do not see the Blinding One in black emptiness.
He speaks to us gently in ten thousand things, in
which His light is one fullness and one Wisdom.
Thus He shines not on them but from within them.
Such is the loving-kindness of Wisdom.

All the perfections of created things are also in God;
and therefore He is at once Father and Mother. As
Father He stands in solitary might surrounded by
darkness. As Mother His shining is diffused, embracing
all His creatures with merciful tenderness and light.
The Diffuse Shining of God is Hagia Sophia.
We call her His "glory." In Sophia His power is
experienced only as mercy and as love.

(When the recluses of fourteenth-century England
heard their Church Bells and looked out upon the
wolds and fens under a kind sky, they spoke in their
hearts to "Jesus our Mother." It was Sophia that had
awakened in their childlike hearts.)

Perhaps in a certain very primitive aspect Sophia is
the unknown, the dark, the nameless Ousia. Perhaps
she is even the Divine Nature, One in Father, Son, and
Holy Ghost. And perhaps she is in infinite light unmanifest,
not even waiting to be known as Light. This I do not know.
Out of the silence Light is spoken. We do not hear it or see
it until it is spoken.

In the Nameless Beginning, without Beginning, was
the Light. We have not seen this Beginning. I do not know
where she is, in this Beginning. I do not speak of her as a
Beginning, but as a manifestation.

Now the Wisdom of God, Sophia, comes forth, reaching
from "end to end mightily." She wills to be also
the unseen pivot of all nature, the center and significance
of all the light that is in all and for all. That which is poorest
and humblest, that which is most hidden in all things is
nevertheless most obvious in them, and quite manifest, for it
is their own self that stands before us, naked and without care.

Sophia, the feminine child, is playing in the world,
obvious and unseen, playing at all times before the Creator.
Her delights are to be with the children of men. She is their sister.
The core of life that exists in all things is tenderness, mercy, virginity
the Light, the Life considered as passive, as received, as given, as
taken, as inexhaustibly renewed by the Gift of God. Sophia is
Gift, is Spirit, Donum Dei. She is God-given and God
Himself as Gift. God as all, and God reduced to Nothing:
inexhaustible nothingness. Exinanivit semetipsum. Humility as
the source of unfailing light.

Hagia Sophia in all things is the Divine Light reflected in them,
considered as a spontaneous participation, as their invitation
to the Wedding Feast.

Sophia is God's sharing of Himself with creatures. His outpouring,
and the Love by which He is given, and known, held and loved.

She is in all things like the air receiving the sunlight. In her
they prosper. In her they glorify God. In her they rejoice to reflect
Him. In her they are united with him. She is the union between them.
She is the Love that unites them. She is life as communion, life as
thanksgiving, life as praise, life as festival, life as glory.

Because she receives perfectly there is in her no stain.
She is love without blemish, and gratitude without
self-complacency. All things praise her by being themselves
and by sharing in the Wedding Feast. She is the Bride and the
Feast and the Wedding.

The feminine principle in the world is the inexhaustible source
of creative realizations of the Father's glory. She is His
manifestation in radiant splendor! But she remains unseen,
glimpsed only by a few. Sometimes there are none who
know her at all.

Sophia is the mercy of God in us. She is the tenderness
with which the infinitely mysterious power of pardon
turns the darkness of our sins into the light of grace.
She is the inexhaustible fountain of kindness, and would
almost seem to be, in herself, all mercy. So she does in us
a greater work than that of Creation: the work of new being
in grace, the work of pardon, the work of transformation from
brightness to brightness tamquam a Domini Spiritu. She
is in us the yielding and tender counterpart of the power, justice
and creative dynamism of the Father.

IV. Sunset. The Hour of Compline. Salve Regina.

Now the Blessed Virgin Mary is the one created being
who enacts and shows forth in her life all that is hidden in Sophia.
Because of this she can be said to be a personal manifestation
of Sophia, Who in God is Ousia rather than Person.

Natura in Mary becomes pure Mother. In her, Natura
is as she was from the origin from her divine birth. In Mary Natura
is all wise and is manifested as an all-prudent, all-loving, all-pure person:
not a Creator, and not a Redeemer, but perfect Creature, perfectly
Redeemed, the fruit of all God's great power, the perfect expression
of wisdom in mercy.

It is she, it is Mary, Sophia, who in sadness and joy, with the full awareness
of what she is doing, sets upon the Second Person, the Logos, a crown
which is His Human Nature. Thus her consent opens the door of created
nature, of time, of history, to the Word of God.

God enters into His creation. Through her wise answer, through her obedient
understanding, through the sweet yielding consent of Sophia, God enters
without publicity into the city of rapacious men.

She crowns Him not with what is glorious, but with
what is greater than glory: the one thing greater than
glory is weakness, nothingness, poverty.

She sends the infinitely Rich and Powerful One forth
as poor and helpless, in His mission of inexpressible
mercy, to die for us on the Cross.

The shadows fall. The stars appear. The birds begin to sleep.
Night embraces the silent half of the earth. A vagrant, a destitute
wanderer with dusty feet, finds his way down a new road. A
homeless God, lost in the night, without papers, without
identifications, without even a number, a frail expendable exile
lies down in desolation under the sweet stars of the world and
entrusts Himself to sleep.

Amen! and Amen!

via Ecumenicus

The Fiery Life of Divine Wisdom

The Fiery Life of Divine Wisdom

Hildegard of Bingen, 1098–1179

I heard a voice speaking to me:

“The young woman whom you see is Love. She has her tent in eternity… it was love which was the source of this creation in the beginning when God said: ‘Let it be!’ And it was. As though in the blinking of an eye, the whole creation was formed through love. The young woman is radiant in such a clear, lightning like brilliance of countenance that you can’t fully look at her… She holds the sun and moon in her right hand and embraces them tenderly… the whole of creation call this maiden ‘Lady.’ For it was from her that all creation proceeded, since Love was the first She made everything… Love was in eternity and brought forth, in the beginning of all holiness, all creatures without any admixture of evil. Adam and Eve, as well were produced by love from the pure nature of the Earth.”

I, the fiery life of Divine Wisdom,
I ignite the beauty of the plains, I sparkle the waters,
I burn in the sun,
and the moon,
and the stars.
With wisdom I order all rightly.
Above all I determine truth.

I am the one whose praise echoes on high.
I adorn all the earth.
I am the breeze
that nurtures all things green.
I encourage blossoms to flourish with ripening fruits.
I am led by the spirit to feed the purest streams.
I am the rain
coming from the dew
that causes the grasses to laugh with the joy of life.
I call forth tears,
the aroma of holy work.
I am the yearning for good.

Invisible life that sustains all,
I awaken to life everything
In every waft of air.
The air is life, greening and blossoming.
The waters flow with life. The sun is lit with life.
All creation is gifted with the ecstasy of God’s light.

In doing good, the illumination of a good conscience
is like the light of the earthly sun.
If they do not see me in that light,
how can they see me in the dark of their hearts?
I am
for all eternity
the vigor of the Godhead.
I do not have my source in time.
I am the Divine Power
through which God decided and sanctioned
the creation of all things.
With my mouth
I kiss my own chosen creation.
I uniquely,
embrace every image
I have made
out of the Earth’s clay.

[From The Book of Divine Works, 1173]

*Art: Theophany of Divine Love by Hildegard of Bingen

Further Reading: Divine Sophia

On Friendship

On Friendship
Kahlil Gibran, 1883-1931

Your friend is your needs answered.
He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.
And he is your board and your fireside.
For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.

When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the "nay" in your own mind, nor do you withhold the "ay."
And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart;
For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed.
When you part from your friend, you grieve not;
For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.
For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.

And let your best be for your friend.
If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also.
For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?
Seek him always with hours to live.
For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness.
And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.
For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Writers aren’t people exactly. Or, if they’re any good, they’re a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)

Ars Poetica

Ars Poetica
Czeslaw Milosz, 1911-2004

I have always aspired to a more spacious form
that would be free from the claims of poetry or prose
and would let us understand each other without exposing
the author or reader to sublime agonies.

In the very essence of poetry there is something indecent:
a thing is brought forth which we didn’t know we had in us,
so we blink our eyes, as if a tiger had sprung out
and stood in the light, lashing his tail.

That’s why poetry is rightly said to be dictated by a daimonion,
though its an exaggeration to maintain that he must be an angel.
It’s hard to guess where that pride of poets comes from,
when so often they’re put to shame by the disclosure of their frailty.

What reasonable man would like to be a city of demons,
who behave as if they were at home, speak in many tongues,
and who, not satisfied with stealing his lips or hand,
work at changing his destiny for their convenience?

It’s true that what is morbid is highly valued today,
and so you may think that I am only joking
or that I’ve devised just one more means
of praising Art with the help of irony.

There was a time when only wise books were read
helping us to bear our pain and misery.
This, after all, is not quite the same
as leafing through a thousand works fresh from psychiatric clinics.

And yet the world is different from what it seems to be
and we are other than how we see ourselves in our ravings.
People therefore preserve silent integrity
thus earning the respect of their relatives and neighbors.

The purpose of poetry is to remind us
how difficult it is to remain just one person,
for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors,
and invisible guests come in and out at will.

What I’m saying here is not, I agree, poetry,
as poems should be written rarely and reluctantly,
under unbearable duress and only with the hope
that good spirits, not evil ones, choose us for their instrument.

Terza Rima

Terza Rima
Vivian Laramore Rader, 1892-1975

The poet is a conscientious liar
Who says in sonnets what no one believes,
Who dances to the tune of his desire
And wears a painted dragon on his sleeves.
On rare occasions he is given wings
To soar above the grief of that which grieves;
But almost always he’s a child that clings
To any finger offered in the dark,
A child that makes a refuge of such things
As song and sentiment; and when the spark
That lights him for a little hour or two
Takes on the cunning of the question mark,
He hides behind magenta words and blue,
Magnificently saying what’s untrue.



Remember Me.

Return to your first love.

Remember Me in your every breath.

Return to your first love.

Remember Me in your every thought.

Return to your first love.

Remember Me in your every word.

Return to your first love.

Remember Me in your every deed.

Return to your first love.

Remember Me in the breaking of the Bread.

Return to your first love.

Remember Me in the drinking of the Cup.

Return to your first love.

Do this in Remembrance of Me.

By Denise Fletcher

*Art: Emmaus, Christ breaking bread by Pier Leone Ghezzi (1674–1755)

Prayer of Thanks

Prayer of Thanks

Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

For flowers that bloom about our feet;
For tender grass, so fresh, so sweet;
For song of bird, and hum of bee;
For all things fair we hear or see,
Father in heaven, we thank Thee!

Prayer During a Pandemic

Prayer During a Pandemic

Loving God, Holy One,
Your desire is for our wholeness and well-being.

We hold in tenderness and prayer the collective suffering of our world at this time.

We grieve precious lives lost and vulnerable lives threatened.

We ache for ourselves and our neighbors, standing before an uncertain future.

We pray: May love, not fear, go viral.

Inspire our leaders to discern and choose wisely, aligned with the common good.

Help us to practice social distancing and reveal to us new and creative ways to come together in spirit and in solidarity.

Call us to profound trust in your faithful presence,
You, the God who does not abandon, You, the Holy One,
breathing within us,
breathing among us,
breathing around us
in our beautiful yet wounded world.

- Sisters of IHM, Scranton, Pennsylvania

*Read more: Prayers During the Coronavirus Pandemic


Tim McGee

You have whispered what you know longer want: a world
Of country with raging hate, distrust of any other who
Lacks the correct color of skin or soul, who screams for
Justice for just those marching with corporate-made signs

On the RIGHT or the LEFT.  That’s a song you won’t sing
Anymore, but what now DO you want?  If you (and I) are
The story-songs we sing or don’t sing, we accept or reject,
Then what story will now be yours (and my) story?  Why

Must the hero always have only one of two choices?  We
Both know love is usually more complicated than that.  Right?
We both realize that hugging and punching look the same

When the hands leave our sides and journey towards another.
Can it be we both already know lives matter enough to be
Ready to live (and die if we must) to sing at peace together?


Dr. Tim McGee has been teaching high school students since the late ‘80s. He also teaches English composition, literature, and philosophy to College students.  He has received endorsements or degrees from Abilene Christian University, York College, the University of Nebraska, and Trinity College in English and psychology, philosophy, and theology. He graduated with honors from the University of Nebraska, where he earned his master's degree in education, and he earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy of Theology from Trinity College. Professor McGee has been nominated for several teaching awards, including Master Teacher. He has published in several journals, including The English Journal and Poets Magazine. He received the National Endowment for the Humanities reading award and the Wyoming Arts Council New Fiction Award. Dr. McGee is the founder of, and serves as an educational consultant and a motivational speaker to students and teachers.

When This Is Over

When This is Over
Laura Kelly Fanucci

When this is over,

may we never again take for granted;

A handshake with a stranger, Full shelves at the store,

Conversations with neighbors,

A crowded theater, Friday night out,

The taste of communion, A routine checkup,

The school rush each morning, Coffee with a friend,

The stadium roaring, Each deep breath!  A boring Tuesday.  Life itself.

When this ends, may we find that we have become more like the people we wanted to be,

we were called to be,

we hope to be,

and may we stay that way — better for each other because of the worst.

The Healing

The Healing
Tanaya Winder

By the time you hear this you might think it’s too late,
it’s your fate to give up to give in never win.
If you feel lost in an uphill battle inside your heart,
It’s the hunger that’s tearing you apart.

But, you need to feed your spirit, let it breathe.
Grieve the ghosts that show where scars bleed
Follow the ache to see where it all starts—
Choosing to heal is the hardest part.

[From Why Storms are Named After People and Bullets Remain Nameless, 2020]


Tanaya Winder is an author, singer / songwriter, poet, motivational speaker and educator who comes from an intertribal lineage of Southern Ute, Pyramid Lake Paiute, and Duckwater Shoshone Nations where she is an enrolled citizen. Her heritage also includes African American and Diné. Tanaya’s performances and talks emphasize the importance of “heartwork” – the life path one is meant to follow by using his/her/their gifts and passions. She blends storytelling, singing, and spoken word to teach about different expressions of love (self love, intimate love, social love, community love, and universal love). She is the Director of the University of Colorado Boulder's Upward Bound program; during her 10 years there she has served hundreds of Indigenous youth. She also co-founded Sing Our Rivers Red's MMIW earring exhibit. Tanaya believes everyone has a gift they’ve been placed on this earth to share. Her specialties include: youth & women empowerment, healing trauma through art, creative writing workshops, and mental wellness advocacy.

Official website: Tanaya Winder

Give Me Freedom!

Give Me Freedom!
Fred Turpin

I pray to be released
From every sense of confinement,
Confident that day will come,
Come to lift me away and out of myself.
No longer bound to ego, identity,
Memories of past or hopes for future.
Free me from all limitations of words,
Fears and even dreams of freedom.

Unlock my cage and dissolve all iron bars
That hold me firm upon the Earth.
Let me rise as warm air into cold night,
Drift into eternal Light that beckons,
Washes over Soul and cleanses me.
It is not enough to hear the silence.
Allow me to embody Silence as a gift.

I need no reasons to prove, no necessary facts,
No inward road to follow. Let me rest in the place
Where everything waits in stillness, yet moves.
Warms but never burns. Creates, destroys,
Recreates to change a lasting chorus of joy.
Tears will freely flow until all pain
Has bled out of every artery and vein.

Let me be forgotten, unremembered….
And so to finally be at Peace,
Lulled to sleep yet also awakened
In that place where even Sun steps back a pace.
Held only in the Mind of God
I will finally wonderfully be absolved,
Dissolved, merged into only One.


Dr. Fred Turpin is a psychoanalyst specializing in working with individuals, couples and families. An avid environmentalist, he appreciates spirituality and enjoys writing poetry while looking at the lake outside his living room window.  He and his black labrador, Spirit, live in Ridgefield, CT. Follow his poetry blog: Headwinds

Gibran on Poetry

"Poetry, my dear friends, is a sacred incarnation of a smile. Poetry is a sigh that dries the tears. Poetry is a spirit who dwells in the soul, whose nourishment is the heart, whose wine is affection." ~ Kahlil Gibran, Poets and Poems

A Tear And A Smile

A Tear And A Smile
Kahlil Gibran, 1883-1931

I would not exchange the sorrows of my heart
For the joys of the multitude.
And I would not have the tears that sadness makes
To flow from my every part turn into laughter.

I would that my life remain a tear and a smile.

A tear to purify my heart and give me understanding
Of life's secrets and hidden things.
A smile to draw me nigh to the sons of my kind and
To be a symbol of my glorification of the gods.

A tear to unite me with those of broken heart;
A smile to be a sign of my joy in existence.

I would rather that I died in yearning and longing
  than that I live Weary and despairing.

I want the hunger for love and beauty to be in the
Depths of my spirit, for I have seen those who are
Satisfied the most wretched of people.
I have heard the sigh of those in yearning and Longing,
  and it is sweeter than the sweetest melody.

With evening's coming the flower folds her petals
And sleeps, embracing her longing.
At morning's approach she opens her lips to meet
The sun's kiss.

The life of a flower is longing and fulfilment.
A tear and a smile.

The waters of the sea become vapor and rise and come
Together and area cloud.

And the cloud floats above the hills and valleys
Until it meets the gentle breeze, then falls weeping
To the fields and joins with brooks and rivers
to Return to the sea, its home.

The life of clouds is a parting and a meeting.
A tear and a smile.

And so does the spirit become separated from
The greater spirit to move in the world of matter
And pass as a cloud over the mountain of sorrow
And the plains of joy to meet the breeze of death
And return whence it came.

To the ocean of Love and Beauty----to God.

The Gift

The Gift
Forugh Farrokhzad, 1934-1967
I speak from the deep end of night.
Of end of darkness I speak.
I speak of deep night ending.
O kind friend, if you visit my house,
bring me a lamp, cut me a window,
so I can gaze at the swarming alley of the fortunate.

(Translated by Sholeh Wolpé)


Sara Teasdale, 1884-1933

I am wild, I will sing to the trees,
  I will sing to the stars in the sky,
I love, I am loved, he is mine,
  Now at last I can die!

I am sandaled with wind and with flame,
  I have heart-fire and singing to give,
I can tread on the grass or the stars,
  Now at last I can live!

[From Rivers to the Sea, 1915]

That I did always love

That I did always love
Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886

That I did always love
I bring thee Proof
That till I loved
I never lived—Enough—

That I shall love alway—
I argue thee
That love is life—
And life hath Immortality—

This—dost thou doubt—Sweet—
Then have I
Nothing to show
But Calvary—

A Smile And A Sigh

A Smile And A Sigh
Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894

A smile because the nights are short!
  And every morning brings such pleasure
Of sweet love-making, harmless sport:
  Love that makes and finds its treasure;
  Love, treasure without measure.

A sigh because the days are long!
  Long, long these days that pass in sighing,
A burden saddens every song:
  While time lags which should be flying,
  We live who would be dying.

To Christina Rossetti

To Christina Rossetti
Dora Greenwell, 1821-1882

Thou hast fill'd me a golden cup
With a drink divine that glows,
With the bloom that is flowing up
From the heart of the folded rose.
The grapes in their amber glow,        
And the strength of the blood-red wine,
All mingle and change and flow
In this golden cup of thine,
With the scent of the curling vine,
With the balm of the rose's breath,    
For the voice of love is thine,
And thine is the Song of Death!

To Christina Rossetti

To Christina Rossetti
Michael Field

Lady, we would behold thee moving bright
As Beatrice or Matilda mid the trees,
Alas! thy moan was as a moan for ease
And passage through cool shadows to the night:
Fleeing from love, hadst thou not poet’s right
To slip into the universe? The seas
Are fathomless to rivers drowned in these,
And sorrow is secure in leafy light.
Ah, had this secret touched thee, in a tomb
Thou hadst not buried thy enchanting self,
As happy Syrinx murmuring with the wind,
Or Daphne thrilled through all her mystic bloom,
From safe recess as genius or as elf,
Thou hadst breathed joy in earth and in thy kind.

*Note: Elegy by ‘Michael Field’ - the joint pen-name for Katherine Harris Bradley (1846–1914) and her niece Edith Emma Cooper (1862–1913).

Beginning My Studies

Beginning My Studies
Walt Whitman, 1819-1892

Beginning my studies, the first step pleas'd me so much,
The mere fact consciousness, these forms, the power of motion,
The least insect or animal, the senses, eyesight, love,
The first step I say awed me and pleas'd me so much,
I have hardly gone and hardly wish'd to go any farther,
But stop and loiter all the time to sing it in ecstatic songs.

*Listen to the Wordman recite this poem here.

Forever Reading

My Current Reading List

Following is a list of a few of my favorite books and some of my current reading.  

If you are looking for ideas for reading material, you may want to consider some of my recommendations.  I like to read a wide variety of books, both fiction and non-fiction on poetry, history, faith, health, and even politics to stir my interest.

The Collected Poems of Sara Teasdale

The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (edited by Thomas H. Johnson)

The Complete Poems of Robert W. Service

Depression-Free for Life by Gabriel Cousens, M.D.

Duino Elegies & The Sonnets to Orpheus by Rainer Maria Rilke

Emerson: Essays & Lectures (Library of America)

Goblin Market and Other Poems by Christina Rossetti

The Kingdom of God is Within You by Leo Tolstoy

Letters To a Young Novelist by Mario Vargas Llosa

A Mind Apart: Poems of Melancholy, Madness and Addiction

On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder

The Portable MFA in Creative Writing by New York Writers Workshop

The Power to Write by Caroline Joy Adams

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

The Shape of Poetry: A Practical Guide to Writing and Reading Poems by Peter Meinke

The Treasured Writings of Kahlil Gibran

The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James

Walt Whitman: Poetry & Prose (Library of America)

The Wisdom of the Native Americans by Kent Nerburn

Happy Reading!


Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894

The lilies of the field whose bloom is brief:--
    We are as they;
    Like them we fade away,
As doth a leaf.

The sparrows of the air of small account:
    Our God doth view
Whether they fall or mount,--
    He guards us too.

The lilies that do neither spin nor toil,
    Yet are most fair:--
    What profits all this care
And all this coil?

The birds that have no barn nor harvest-weeks;
    God gives them food:--
Much more our Father seeks
    To do us good.