Grappling with Agape

The swetnesse of mannes welefulnesse is spraynd with many bitternesses.



I wonder if Bartholomaeus,
as a teen in 1220
worn out by studying,
all of summer, say,
(having finished winter
and spring)

just at the cusp of fall
ever found himself down
at the field outside the wall
under stars instead of home

head awhirl with a girl
who lived on the Rue St. Victor,

lying alone and looking up
at Charlemagne’s Wayne
and Watling Street

imagining the music
as Marcianus told it,
watching the world’s clock
working and not
understanding why

there were no easy answers
for Boethius, whom he’d read
died seven hundred years before
in prison for serving his countrymen,
(to the tune of these same spheres)

wondering whether consolation
is in philosophy after all
love is no sure venture

and left the long thought,
strung out, run-on,
wrung out in the grass
abandoned again to its Answer.

note: Bartholomaeus Anglicus was a Franciscan scholar born in the early 1200s who compiled an encyclopedia entitled De Proprietatibus Rerum, or On the Properties of Things. He taught in Paris and probably also at Oxford. Marcianus Capella and Boethius are two authors whom Bartholomaeus cited in his enyclopedia. Marcianus is cited frequently in Book 8, which is about celestial bodies, including ‘Cherlemaynes Wayne,’ (Charlemagne’s Chariot, or Ursa Major) and ‘Watling Street’. Boethius wrote Consolation of Philosophy while he was in prison. It was later translated by Chaucer into Middle English. The opening quote for this poem is from Chaucer’s translation.

 Wiser Words

“And Septentriones, þat is comounliche iclepid in englische ‘Cherlemaynes Wayne’, gooþ nouȝt downe, for þilke seuene sterris ben ful nyȝe to þe pole, þat is þe hiest sterre.”  —Bartholomaeus Anglicus 

” But whateuer philosophris telliþ herof, we schal holde certeinliche þat it longiþ not tovs to ȝif dome. For þe laste ende schal come, and whanne it schal be, onliche he knowiþ þat is maker of tymes and conteyneþ in his power and myȝt momentis and tymes.” —Bartholomaeus Anglicus

“Also Marcianus seiþ þat sterres passiþ in hir cerclis wiþ armonye, for al tones and acord of musik ben ifounde among sterres.” —Bartholomaeus Anglicus

“Yif thow wolt gadere vyolettes, ne go thow nat to the pupre wode whan the feeld, chirkynge, agryseth of cold by the felnesse of the wynd that hyghte Aquilon.” —Boethius

“Know, I was like you. And the sun came down and the dust blew around over me.” — from “Go to Me,” Jordan Klassen


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