F. C. Kolbe


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A Sonnet on the Sonnet

A sonnet is the body of a thought
Which enters suddenly into the poet's mind
And breathes its way mysterious as the wind,
Unrecognised, as first it was unsought.
Whilst yet unformed, 'tis kindred to the Naught
Whence it arose: the poet still must find
Some spirit-worthy shape in which to bind
The subtle life wherewith his mind is fraught.

A stanza from the mental deep,
Rhymes well-disposed with rhythm of even flow;
Full use of sense, due length of limb it gives,
A body fit. The thought, aroused from sleep,
Flushes the rhythm with a poetic glow,
And in the sonnet's form for ever lives.

"Out of the Strong came forth Sweetness"

Great Table Mountain, which I daily scan
With still increasing joy, this morn was framed
In a low rainbow Phœbus rightly aimed
Just to include the outline in its span.
And surely never since the world began
Was Nature's ruggedness more sweetly tamed.
Yet through my heart a sudden terror flamed;
Heaven's smile more dread inspires than earthly ban.

Such is the alchemy of sun and rain:
Touching earth's choicest dream of loveliness,
It turned life's daily pleasure into awe.
And pray what meant it? Nay, I cannot guess:
But all that is within me--soul, heart, brain--
Was dumbly glorified by what I saw.

A Rainbow at Victoria Falls

A child, I chased the rainbow once, and wept
Because I could not reach its glorious ray.
In life's decline I stood amid the spray
Where all Zambesi down its gorges leapt;
And as into the cloud I careless stept,
The rainbow forward moving came my way.
With round completed on the grass it lay.
And o'er my feet the rosy radiance crept.
So do we chase our fancies, and despair
At length of joys that made our youth so sweet;
Till, some day, God's ideal, now unsought,
Bodies itself in some diviner air,
And filling with its radiance all our thought,
Completes its circle at our very feet.

Humility and Fruit

Only upon its tendrils blooms the vine--
Those tendrils by whose aid it soars aloft
And lifts its bannered leafage, broad and soft,
Above the stronger elm. Its gold shoots twine
High up in the air in sweet mock-martial line
As if its strength were all its own. Yet doff'd
Of these its tendrils, prone upon the croft
In barren weakness must it soon recline.

Only the tendril blooms; only the flower
Gives fruit; and only for the fruit it brings
Does the vine live. The Christian soul likewise
Only in humble clinging finds its power;
And like the Master's Vine, piercing the skies,
Bears fruit in that alone whereby it clings.

Love's Violence

When first he came, angels 'mid heavenly glow,
By sweet compulsion drawn to earth to sing,
Made the clear welkin with their Gloria ring.
Men wondering asked, "Why sing ye here below?"

When from the mount they saw him upward go,
His glad disciples stood a-marvelling,
As if their souls they after him would fling,
Angels in wonder asked, "Why gaze ye so?"

Thus near His presence both in wonder are;
But once we see our God, the mystery ends.
Where the sun rises, there must be the morn.
Where the Babe smiles, or where our King ascends,
Thither all hearts are violently borne
And, captive, follow Love's triumphal car.

Veni, Creator

Creator Spirit, Lord of life and light,
Under Thy brooding care the world began.
Through Thee the elements together ran
And built up order from the void of night.
Through Thee life, darkling, struggled into sight;
Then, adding power to power, placed in the van
A being, soul-endowed, Thy creature man,
Lifted by Thee beyond all earthly height.

O Love, who through this elemental strife
Didst bring a universe to such increase,
Brood o'er the chaos of my sin-fraught soul.
Let there be light in me: let order, life,
Reason and grace resume their sway, and peace
Subdue my little world from pole to pole.

A Conversion

Behold that dark brown chrysalis, seeming dead--
Can such things live? Will life's reviving might
Arouse this sleeper from so dark a night?
Yes, see!--there issues from it[s] tomb-like bed
A creature from whose airy wings are shed
Bright beams of living, many-coloured light.
Thus have I seen a spirit take its flight.
Over its wings had error's meshes spread
The bonds of lie and prejudice and hell:
And the beholder in an underbreath
Sighed sadly as he whispered, "This is death!"
But no--a power thrills through the lifeless shell;
And into glorious morn the spirit springs,
The light of heaven gleaming from its wings.

"How shall this be done?"

Heaven's balance was all trembling when it eyed
Mary, unwonted trouble on her brow,
Confronting God with an imperial "How?"
For once, this once, Heaven hoped to be denied,
Nor hoped in vain. To be no earthly bride
Was always Mary's gift to Heaven; and now,
Strong in the splendour of her virgin vow,
She waives the Motherhood of God aside.
O queenly spirit! O Heart Immaculate!
This world contained no measure of thy worth.
All other souls with inward strife are torn;
Thou wert so heavenly, thy royal state
So towered supreme above the dross of earth,
That even thy temptations were heaven-born.