Every Morning He Hallowed Himself

While still a student, wandering abroad
    But lodged in Dublin for the summer, I
    Would pass, each day, through King Street with a sigh
Dismissing all I couldn’t afford as fraud,
And turn, at the butt-end of Grafton Street
    To join the host of tourists on their way
Beneath the Fusilier’s arch, in fanned retreat
    Into the Green beyond, and there delay
      Before bronze statues set along the path
      To figure those who’d felt the empire’s wrath.
I’d take the route that bridged the small lake’s heart
    And come out just beside the bust of Joyce,
    Listening as he did to that clamorous voice
Which formed a sentence on each place and part:
The vulgar, hocking wares; the verdant growth
    Surrounding those immortalized in loss
And who spoke only through a diecast oath
    That made on history’s text a marginal gloss;
      The narrow gate, where branching birch and lime
      Gave shade like Marvell’s garden out of time.
And then, before the stoop-browed church of brick
    That Newman built, scrunched in between a pair
    Of Georgian homes, I’d silence thought for prayer
And leave behind the mind’s desultory tick:
Stray images from Mahon, lines from Yeats,
    Some thought of Maritain’s I couldn’t decide
The sense of, but left, now, with other freights—
    The future’s shadow, past wounds to my pride—
      As if they dropped in the green postbox there,
      Before I’d mount the lion-sentried stair.
Once in the college’s marmoreal cool,
    I’d take the narrow staircase at the rear,
    Where Hopkins muttered once in self-sunk drear,
Where Joyce had tramped with martyr, crank, and fool;
And Newman raised his cassock round the knee
    To climb, as I did, marking each flight’s turn
With prayer before each statue that he’d see,
    The mind’s lit incense pausing there to burn
     For, Joseph, Mary, and, at last, the Lord,
     That soul and body rise with one accord.
How callow it must seem, that first attempt
    To measure out my days as if they were
    Some liturgy whose borrowed form might moor
A life adrift, misshapen, and unkempt.
We pass so absently from phase to phase—
    I know—that conscious disciplines seem vain;
But even now it sets my heart ablaze
    To see that young man bow to foreign reign.
      With him, I, older and unruly still,
      Would have my will reordered by His will.

James Matthew Wilson

James Matthew Wilson is the author, most recently, of The Strangeness of the Good (Angelico, 2020). He serves as poetry editor for Modern Age magazine, series editor of Colosseum Books, and as director of the Colosseum Institute. He is the director of the MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Saint Thomas.

'Every Morning He Hallowed Himself' has 1 comment

  1. May 25, 2020 @ 9:50 am Cynthia Erlandson

    You’ve painted a very engaging scene. I especially liked the image of dropping things from the past and future into a postbox, and also the phrase “The mind’s lit incense”. And you taught me two new words: marmoreal, and callow!


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