In his book Radiant, Richard Hannula documents one of Katherine Parr’s favorite prayers:
Lord Jesus, I pray You give me the grace to rest in You above all things, and to make me prefer You above all things, and to make me prefer You above all creatures, above all glory and honor, above all dignity and power, above all health and beauty, above all riches and treasure, above all joy and pleasure, above all fame and praise. (114)
Katherine Parr by Master John, 1545
Parr was the last of the wives of King Henry VIII.
From ‘The Murder of William Remington’ by Howard Nemerov:
There is the terror too of each man’s thought,
That knows not, but must quietly suspect
His neighbor, friend, or self of being taught
To take an attitude merely correct;
Being frightened of his own cold image in
The glass of government, and his own sin,
Frightened lest senate house and prison wall
Be quarried of one stone, lest righteous and high
Look faintly smiling down and seem to call
A crime the welcome chance of liberty,
And any man an outlaw who aggrieves
The patriotism of a pair of thieves.
From Milton’s Paradise Lost, the creation of Eve:
MINE eyes he closed, but open left the cell
Of fancy, my internal sight, by which
Abstract, as in a trance, methought I saw,
Though sleeping, where I lay, and saw the shape
Still glorious before whom awake I stood;
Who, stooping, opened my left side, and took
From thence a rib, with cordial spirits warm,
And life-blood streaming fresh; wide was the wound,
But suddenly with flesh filled up and healed:
The rib he formed and fashioned with his hands;
Under his forming hands a creature grew,
Manlike, but different sex, so lovely fair,
That what seemed fair in all the world seemed now
Mean, or in her summed up, in her contained,
And in her looks, which from that time infused
Sweetness into my heart, unfelt before,
And into all things from her air inspired
The spirit of love and amorous delight.
She disappeared, and left me dark; I waked
To find her, or forever to deplore
Her loss, and other pleasures all abjure:
When out of hope, behold her, not far off,
Such as I saw her in my dream, adorned
With what all earth or Heaven could bestow
To make her amiable. On she came,
Led by her heavenly Maker, though unseen,
And guided by his voice, nor uninformed
Of nuptial sanctity and marriage rites:
Grace was in all her steps, Heaven in her eye,
In every gesture dignity and love.
I, overjoyed, could not forbear aloud:
“This turn hath made amends; thou hast fulfilled
Thy words, Creator bounteous and benign,
Giver of all things fair, but fairest this
Of all thy gifts, nor enviest. I now see
Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, myself
Before me; Woman is her name, of man
Extracted: for this cause he shall forego
Father and mother, and to his wife adhere;
And they shall be one flesh, one heart, one soul.”
In a description of John Donne, David L. Edwards gives marching orders to poets everywhere:
Here is a man who is thoroughly human, and energetically masculine, as well as being highly intelligent, yet he cannot stop talking about religion when he is supposed to be talking about sex, anymore than he can stop talking about sex when we expect him to be pious.
To Athena’s whim,
Laughed at Troy with spear and shield,
Drank with gods the war-cry’s sound,
And crippled the man enough a fool
To stand against Tydeus’ son.
For Helen and home, he sailed the wine-dark sea.
From Heaven he comes to seek his beloved.
He stands though slain; from the grave, firstborn.
The strong, he cripples. The wise, he fools.
He drinks wine to resurrection songs,
Laughs to scorn men’s unbent knees.
Christ obeyed, is free.