Resurrecting the Christian Knight (an introduction to the Chivalric Code)

November 20th, 2017

The valley was festooned with armor, weapons and chariots.
And bones.
The bones of fallen warriors were littered everywhere, half buried in the sand.
There were vary many. And they were very dry.
Not only had the bodies been severed in battle, but since that fateful day the wolves, the lions, the bears, and the buzzards had continued the work. It was as though there had been some divine mandate to make sure every bone was as far removed from its natural partner as possible.
Why had God translated the prophet, by supernatural means, to this valley, to walk about this sad scene of a long forgotten battle?
Just as the seer, Ezekiel, inhaled to manifest the question of his heart, he heard the quiet, low distant rumble of God’s voice ask a question of His own.

“Can these bones live?”

The prophet’s mind began to work the question like a camel works the cud-
No… of course not… I mean… with God all things are possible but not by any natural means…

“O sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

And the voice of God came again, saying “Prophecy to the dry bones for me. Tell them, that I will reconstruct them. Tell them I will breath on them, and that they will live again.”

So the seer did as he was instructed. While he yet prophesied the words God had instructed him, there began a rumbling. Pebbles began to roll from their place. Then stones. Then boulders. They churning sky began to crack with thunder and snap in flashes of lightning and with the potency of power that came from the prophet uniting his will with God’s will and speaking that will into existence.

Dry bones, that hardly resembled their original form from the hacking and gnawing, at first began resuming their original form, and then proceeded to slide across the valley floor to connect again with their original partner, like blind lovers groping in dark room to unite with one another.

The aura of power continued to crescendo in lightnings and earthquakes after the skeletons were reassembled. Next, the dust and earth around the bones began to lose its form, like iron when it is smelted. It then poured upward over the bones, forming cartilage, then organs, then muscles and tendons, and then, lastly, skin poured up over the bodies from the dust of the earth, enveloping the corpses.

And then… silence.

There they lay- massive, muscled, warriors- naked of garments other than their metal armaments. Lifeless. And the earth and sky were still.
After a few moments, the seer began to fear he had not done something right. But again, before he could form the question in his mouth, God answered,

“Now prophecy to the four winds and speak what I tell you to speak to them”

Springing from the confidence of the previous prophecy, the prophet boldly spoke as God instructed.

“Breath! Spirit! Four winds of God, Blow through this valley, breath the spirit of life back into these ancient warriors, so that they may live again!”

Slowly and gently, at first, the sky began to churn over the valley, like the beginnings of a tornado.
North, South, east, And West. The four spirits swirled together in the churning heavens and then- at last spiraled down into the valley and rushed over each of the valiant fallen. Pouring into their mouths and nostrils until their chests began to heave with life.

Alive. They stood to their feet. A mighty company of warriors.

MERCY: A Dan Direach of Tròcair

November 16th, 2017

Blessed are the merciful-
They are true nobility-
For they shall receive mercy
This is God’s great guarantee

Give it- Never plead for it-
In noble knightly fashion
Cowards are cruel in combat
Courageous show compassion

When we fail in courtly love
May Mercy bear us witness
May Grace prepare her banquet
Where we feast on Forgiveness

Forgive us our debts, o Lord,
As we forgive our debtors
From the letter of the Law
Free us from those forged fetters

Nothing else makes unjust just
No weapon is more useful
For making friends of rivals
Blessed are the merciful

Why I write structured poetry rather than free verse.

November 15th, 2017

Why I write structured poetry rather than free verse.

Today I had a dear and lifelong friend send multiple videos of slam poetry to me.
each of the videos were of young white upper middle class women throwing tantrums about first world problems.
They were talented in their art and the performances were exceptional.

But my friend followed up the links with a comment that only a lifelong friend would feel comfortable saying to someone that writes structured poetry;

“Anyone can string lines together and give them rhyme. But… this to me is poetry”

She unwittingly walked into a whirlwind of strong feelings that I have on this topic.
I kept beginning replies to her and then I’d stop myself saying, “You need to write on this anyway, so just save it.”
So here it is.

We live in an age that “throws off restraint.” We don’t like rules. We don’t like government. We don’t like structure. We care little for the “old landmarks.”
Art imitates life, imitates art.
Our poetry is as unstructured as an Apple office space that’s done away with rooms and partitions.
Abstract expressionist art of paint flung on canvases hangs on the walls of those that take pride in having no structure to their lives or relationships. Our music too has evolved to a place of little discernibility, just as our faith has cast of “religion for relationship.”
I am not writing here to say that an artist throwing paint on a canvas is not art. Nor am I writing here to say that free verse is not poetry. On the contrary, I’ve dabbled in free verse and even have some examples of it in my book of poetry. It is, to me, akin to taking my sleddog team off their leads and letting them run freely. It is a joy to watch.

But when my sled dogs are hitched to the sled, in tandem, each in their designated places, they accomplish something different. Something that could not be accomplished otherwise. Their running becomes directed, toward a goal. Rather than running in circles with no real purpose other than to amuse, we accomplish a mission together in our structure. They travel further. Not only do they get themselves to a destination they would not have otherwise, but they contribute to the delivery of heavy cargo that none of them would have been able to budge on their own.

So why do I write structured and metered poetry? I know it is considered old fashioned.
Why, do I further isolate myself from any hope of a readership by seeking greater and more complicated structures to create in, than to follow the mainstream?

Because I believe in structure.
I believe that structure in life, in art, in faith, is a good thing. I believe in structure for the same reason I held to pure martial art forms when all my comrades abandoned the disciplined for mixed martial arts.
Because I truly am an artist.
I would like for my art to get the readership needed to make an impact, but that is not why I make it. I make it because my soul compels me to. I do not follow the popular abstract expressionist art in both visual and written forms, because I am not a product of the society. The poets soul is to be a prophets soul. A seers soul. And the prophet, the seer, the poet, is set apart from the masses and care nothing for social norms.

Anyone who thinks that “Anyone can string lines together and give them rhyme” has obviously never tried to write a poem using the structure of the Arabian Masnavi or a dan Direach as I have.
Consider for a moment my current project.
The casual reader will say, “Jonathan has written 12 poems on Chivalry. All of them have 4 lines per verse and every other line rhymes… that’s boring.’

But upon closer examination, there appears a solved puzzle to the writer, that is an architectural marvel to a reader in the know.
See, this project is on the Chivalric Code, so I searched until I found a Celtic form from the British isles from the medieval time period I am writing about. Then I superimposed that structure on the things I wanted to write about.

The Dan Direach (or direct verse), has more rules than I care to innumerate, but here are a few.
In addition to the rhyming lines,
Each line must have exactly the same number of syllables.
The second line of each pairing must also end with a word that is one syllable longer than the last word of the line preceding it.
Each verse must be a complete thought on its own.
Each poem must begin and end with the same line.
In addition to the rhyme scheme, you must weave as much alliteration and in stanza rhyming as possible.
And after all of that, I must find my way to write something that, not only flows and makes sense, but that conveys a deep and meaningful truth.

Which is art?

So I put it to my reader now. Does it take less skill for me to write a poem that beautifully conveys the purposeful message I’ve set out to deliver within these artistic parameters than it does for a creator of free verse to say what they want to say with no restrictions whatsoever?
Or course the answer is no.
It is as my dean of music used to say back when I was in college, “You should not go breaking the (musical) rules, until you know what they are, and have a good reason for breaking them.”

Some people would throw stones into a heap, or wood into a pile, and say, “Here is art!”
I do not disagree.
But for me, I’d rather look to the artistic marvels of castles, and cathedrals, pyramids, synagogues and mosques and say, “Here is art!”
I would hate to have to walk onto a slam poetry stage, unprepared, and deliver their art.
But I would suggest, that those who think “anyone can write structured poetry” try their hand at an ancient structured form before casting judgement.

LOVE: A Dan Direach of Gaol

November 15th, 2017

Love- The bond of unity-
Calls us to integrity
Lifts souls out of poverty
Manifests Divinity

We war- not for hate of those
whom against us have aligned
We war for the selfless love
Of those at home behind

I will that I will not love
Self in my queen’s company
but love her in her presence
As Christ loved me- selflessly

He has given us this law-
And exemplified Himself-
“Love the Lord with all thy heart
Love thy neighbor as thyself”

Love is kind- waits patiently
Calls us to community
Calls us to offer freely
Love- The bond of unity

JUSTICE: A Dan Direach of Ceartais

November 14th, 2017

May justice flow like rivers
With ravenous wanderlust
And let judgment fall like rain
On the just and the unjust

Those of us who bare the sword
Know peace has not come bloodless
We bare not the sword in vain
Armastice comes by justice

We covenant our courage
War prowess and power
To protect the weak and poor
To guard a lady’s honor

God is just in all His ways
Truth in action will avenge
The oppressed- the martyrs slain
Righteousness is not revenge

Divide the wheat from the chaff
Humble saints from proud sinners
Evan so, Lord quickly come
May justice flow like rivers

DISCERNMENT: A Dan Direach of Lèirsinn

November 10th, 2017

Power to see the unseen
Free my mind from internment
Grant me this gift of wisdom-
Spiritual discernment

Just as the scorched and salty
Sailor reads the firmament
Teach me to read the battle
read rivals in tournament

You call to me with sweetest voice
To love in peace and quiet
But if I scorn you, you will
Flout my descent into riot

I will learn, in God’s presence,
to discern the counterfeit
Reflecting on the secret
Knowledge of the Authentic

May I manifest this gift-
To discern- with sword- between
What is truth and what is lie
Power to see the unseen

PERSERVERANCE: A Dan Direach of Buanseasmhacht

November 10th, 2017

Though I fall I shall arise
For falling is not failing
Where some survive, I will thrive
Into the tempest sailing

Two parents- Plenty and Peace
Cradle their quibbling Coward
But Suffering and Hardship
Raise Warriors empowered

When the Tempter tries our love
And seeks our souls to sever
We will welcome winds with wings
And Let it lift us higher

My sword nor my armaments
gives rise to audacity
My majestic Messiah
Endows my tenacity

O rejoice not against me
Do not devise my demise
Greater is He that is in me
Though I fall I shall arise

Honesty: A Dan Direach of Ionracas

November 8th, 2017

By truth you are sanctified
In knightly ascendency
by no richer legacy
than honest integrity

In war too walk thou honestly
but avoid transparency
Walk truthfully with allies
Shroud your steps from the enemy

Only Speak the truth in love
and learn, your tongue to harness
May you learn that silence is
The ally of the honest

The father of lies, Satan
Sews seeds of sin, unfruitful
Our God is the God of Truth
His Spirit makes one truthful

In the Great Book of Wisdom
The first chapter canonized
Reads that little lies defile
By truth we are sanctified

SUBMISSION: A Dan Direach of Taisceadh

November 7th, 2017

The beauty of chivalry
is a kind disposition
from a man of great power-
A knight’s willful submission

Never ask, “Who shall serve me?”
When joining in the battle
Rather ask, “Whom shall I serve?”
For God exalts the humble

Submit all your might and main
to your lady to command
earn her favors, setting out
upon her quests and errands

If our Master and our Lord
Washed our feet as a servant
How much more ought we, brothers,
submit without deterrent?

Though you may be powerful
Yield unto authority
So all the earth may behold
The beauty of chivalry

VALOUR: A Dan Direach of Calmacht

November 6th, 2017

O mighty men of valor
Like Joseph and Pelagius
In danger be thou daring
Be fearless and courageous

Death will not overtake you
Until your God is ready
So in battle- as in bed-
Be steadfast and be steady

May your maiden never fear-
Though with her tears she sparges
The champions favors who
Into her battles charges

Victory is no one’s right
But God may grant you favor
By bestowing to you the
God given gift of valor

Having done all to stand- Stand
Be brave, Be bold, with honor
For God is always with you
O mighty man of valor