The HyperTexts

The Popemobile and Other Equivocations
Poems by and about Famous Popes and Saints of the Catholic Church
Karol Jozef Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II)
Joseph Alois Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
Alexander Pope
with Disclaimers by the Archpoet (a medieval Latin heretic) and other Poets

Originally titled "The Pope Poems"

by Michael R. Burch, an editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry

This page contains poetry by and about famous Popes and Saints of the Catholic Church. I have decided to present both sides of the coin, allowing the Popes and Saints to speak in their own words, then permitting poets to ask such interesting questions as: if God is all-powerful, and the Popes are men of faith, why do they need bulletproof Popemobiles? Do they trust in God, really?

One of my favorite heretical poets is the Archpoet, a medieval Latin poet who wrote on the cusp of the first Inquisition, when to disagree with (or merely question) a Pope was to risk being burned alive. Please be sure to read the Archpoet's wonderful "Confession," which appears toward the bottom of this page.  Major poets are also represented here, including Alexander Pope, A. E. Housman, Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens and William Blake (who was said to have seen and communicated with angels on a daily basis, but was no fan of religious orthodoxy). I have also included poems by contemporary poets like Ann Drysdale, X. J. Kennedy, T. Merrill, Sharon Olds, Joe Ruggier and Joe Salemi.

Pope John Paul II

Karol Jozef Wojtyla was an unknown Polish poet before he became world-famous as Pope John Paul II.  Some of his early poems appeared in Polish journals under the pseudonym Andrzej Jawien. His poetry was later collected and published in The Place Within—The Poetry of Pope John Paul II, with translations and notes by Jerzy Peterkiewicz.

Lines from "Meditations on the Book of Genesis: at the Threshold of the Sistine Chapel"
by Karol Jozef Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II)
translation by Jerzy Peterkiewicz

"From dust you came, and to dust you shall return";
What had shape is now shapeless.
What was alive is now dead.
What was beautiful is now the ugliness of decay.
And yet I do not altogether die,
what is indestructible in me remains!…
What is imperishable in me
now stands face to face before Him Who Is!

These are nice lines, but on the other hand, how can a man who claims to be the Vicar of Christ be so profoundly lacking in wisdom that he tells human beings it's a "sin" to use condoms and other contraceptives? To command teenagers not to use condoms is to condemn many of them to harrowing deaths. Who are the Popes, to consign children to dust, before their time? And the ones who don't die prematurely may unwisely contribute to the overpopulation of the planet, with all the suffering that entails. Here's a rejoinder of mine, on the subject:

Simple Simon
by Michael R. Burch

Be fruitful and multiply?
Great advice: for a fruitfly!
But for women and men,
Simple Simon, say "When!"

In my poem, "Simon" is a pun, as the name of the first Pope was Simon Peter. But Simon Peter was married, so this begs the question: why are Roman Catholic priests required to remain celibate, if the first and greatest Pope was married? This question seems especially pertinent today because many children have been molested and raped by Catholic priests. Is priestly celibacy the "wisdom of God" or the folly of human religion?

More poems by and about Pope John Paul II appear later on this page.

Pope Benedict XVI

Here's my translation of a poem written in German by Joseph Ratzinger, better known to the world as Pope Benedict XVI:

Gott Allein Genügt
by Joseph Alois Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)

Gott allein genügt:
Was das Herz auch sonst noch liebt,
Was es sehnend will umfangen,
Was es dränget zu erlangen,
Ist von ihm ein Schimmer nur,
Der uns weist auf seine Spur—
Er ist´s, der Dies alles gibt:
Gott allein genügt.

God Alone Is Sufficient
translation by Michael R. Burch

God alone is sufficient:
What else the heart would also love,
What it yearns to embrace,
What it is driven to achieve,
These are merely intimations of Him,
Are merely the spoor that point us toward Him —
He is the One who gives everything:
God alone is sufficient.

But what sort of "loving" God refuses to speak to human beings personally, then damns them to an "eternal hell" for not "believing" in Him? How is it possible for human beings to "love" a God who is so petty, cruel and unjust? I find it impossible to reconcile a God of love, wisdom, justice and compassion with a petty being who has eternal hissy fits if people don't "believe" in him, when he is either unable or unwilling to communicate with them personally. If God loves human beings and wants them to believe in him, why doesn't he just say "Hello"? If he doesn't speak to people, how can he fault them for not believing in him? Is God irrational, or is it the religion that's nuttier than a fruitcake? And while the Popes claim there are rewards for pursuing God, poets like Hillaire Belloc are not so sure:

Is there any reward?
by Hillaire Belloc

Is there any reward?
I'm beginning to doubt it.
I am broken and bored,
Is there any reward
Reassure me, Good Lord,
And inform me about it.
Is there any reward?
I'm beginning to doubt it.

Perhaps the only possible reasonable, compassionate reactions to the "good news" of Christianity are despair and "foxhole humor." In the poem above, Belloc resorts to wry good humor.

My main complaint against Ratzinger/Benedict (very interesting names, for a man who claims to be the Vicar of Christ) is that he has yet to excommunicate a single pedophile from the ranks of Catholic priests, and yet he continues to excommunicate Catholics who are trying to do good things in the world, such as women who offer the sacraments. Which is worse, a woman who offers the sacraments, or a man who rapes innocent children? How can anyone believe that Ratzinger/Benedict is capable of speaking "infallibly," when he doesn't know the first thing about compassion or justice? 

Tea at the Palaz of Hoon
by Wallace Stevens

Not less because in purple I descended
The western day through what you called
The loneliest air, not less was I myself.

What was the ointment sprinkled on my beard?
What were the hymns that buzzed beside my ears?
What was the sea whose tide swept through me there?

Out of my mind the golden ointment rained,
And my ears made the blowing hymns they heard.
I was myself the compass of that sea:

I was the world in which I walked, and what I saw
Or heard or felt came not but from myself;
And there I found myself more truly and more strange.

This is an interesting poem because Wallace Stevens seems to have been an atheist, and yet he wrote one of the most mystical poems in the English language. Many people claim to have mystical experiences. Such experiences are not exclusive to Christians. Yet according to Popes and Evangelists, only they can go to heaven. But why would God reward men who are fiercely dogmatic, when other people are more tolerant and openminded? Does God love only close-minded thugs and churls? If so, how will heaven be heaven?

Alexander Pope

The most famous Pope to write poetry was not a Roman Pontiff, but an English layman: Alexander Pope. Alexander Pope was a major poet and a wonderful epigrammatist:

I am his Highness' dog at Kew;
Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?
― Alexander Pope

Kings and Popes strive to make other human beings their obedient lapdogs. But are Christian parents "wise" to allow their children to be trained to jump through the hoops of an unjust religion, like poodles? Alexander Pope's ironic lines question the "divine right" of Kings and the self-appointed tyrants of organized religion: Popes, Cardinals, Bishops and evangelists like Billy Graham. What right do these tyrants have to tell children that if they don't believe as they're commanded, they'll go to "Hell" and suffer for all eternity? Could a loving, wise, just God have concocted such a hateful, irrational, unjust religion?

An honest man's the noblest work of God.
― Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope's epigram begs the question: are the Popes honest men, or do they play loose, dangerous games with the "truth"? The dogma of "Hell" is the perfect (or, more correctly, perfectly evil) example. According to the Old Testament a place called "Hell" and the possibility of suffering after death were never even mentioned by God or his prophets. Anyone who has studied the Old Testament knows that "hell" was never mentioned to Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, King David, Solomon, et al. Therefore "Hell" clearly did not pre-exist. But there is no verse in the entire Bible in which the creation and purpose of "hell" were ever announced. ("Hell" just pops up in some of the later-written books of the Bible like the weasel in the silly song.) But if the Bible is the revelation of a loving, wise, just God, then surely he would have announced the creation and purpose of "Hell" if he created it, along with detailed instructions about how to avoid it. But he didn't. Obviously "Hell" was invented by Christian "theologians" because it was very, very good for church business. Later, long after the New Testament books had been canonized, the Catholic Church and its "theologians" would also invent "Limbo" out of thin air, saying innocent babies unlucky enough to die without being splashed with magical water by even-more-magical priests would be denied the grace of God, and thus entrance to heaven. But of course Jesus, Peter, Paul and the other apostles never once mentioned the urgent need for newborn babies to be splashed with water, in order to avoid eternal suffering. If Jesus was the Son of God, why didn't he know anything about Limbo, the need for infant baptism, or the mysterious "age of accountability," which Protestants invented when they decided they didnt' need magical priests to keep babies from going to hell? And how can anyone believe in the "infallibility" of Popes who invent places like "Hell," "Limbo" and "Purgatory," then use them to cause Christian mothers two millennia of terrible emotional anguish, by making them believe  such evil nonsense? What sort of "God" punishes babies for dying before they're old enough to believe such sickening crap? (By the way, Pope Benedict now seems to be saying that Limbo doesn't really exist, but then how can he explain 1,500 years of Catholic waffling on the issue, if hundreds of other Catholic Popes were able to speak infallibly and spare Christian parents so much anguish? "Oh, what a tangled web we weave / when first we practice to deceive!")

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
― Alexander Pope

Popes claim that God causes or allows unbaptized babies to suffer for all eternity, in "Hell" or "Limbo." Would any angel dare make such a terrible claim?

Other Poets

Are the Popes wise men, or fools and charlatans? They claim to represent an all-powerful God, but they ride around in bulletproof Popemobiles. They say God is loving, wise and just, but they also say that innocent babies who die unbaptized are in danger of places called "Hell" and "Limbo," even though such infernal regions were never mentioned by the God of the Bible or the Hebrew prophets. Here is a poem of mine about the strange, dark vision of God created by his alleged "representatives," the Popes and Evangelists:

In His Kingdom of Corpses
by Michael R. Burch

In His kingdom of corpses,
God has been heard to speak
in many enraged discourses,
high, high from some mountain peak
where He’s lectured man on compassion
while the sparrows around Him fell,
and babes, for His meager ration
of rain, died and went to hell,
unbaptized, for that’s His fashion.
In His kingdom of corpses,
God has been heard to vent
in many obscure discourses
on the need for man to repent,
to admit that he’s a sinner;
give up sex, and riches, and fame;
be disciplined at his dinner
though always he dies the same,
whether fatter or thinner.

In his kingdom of corpses,
God has been heard to speak
in many absurd discourses
of man’s Ego, precipitous Peak!,
while demanding praise and worship,
and the bending of every knee.
And though He sounds like the Devil,
all religious men now agree
He loves them indubitably.

Originally published by The Chimaera and Lucid Rhythms

Please keep in mind that my poem is not about God, per se, but the strange, dark vision of an unjust God created by Christian theologians. If God is able to save human beings by grace, as Christian theologians avow, and if no human being is able to save himself, as they also avow, why would God save one human being at the expense of another? If God is the only Savior, as the Bible constantly claims, why doesn't God just save everyone? Human doctors and lifeguards don't cherry-pick one person to save, then throw away next one away as "unworthy." Are human doctors and lifeguards more gracious than God?

Are the Popes wise men, really? To me, the poets seem wiser. Here's a wonderfully ironic poem by one of the best  American poets. Should men beg God for forgiveness, or vice versa?

Forgive, O Lord
by Robert Frost

Forgive, O Lord, my little jokes on Thee
And I'll forgive the great big one on me.

I find the poets to be far more honest and compassionate than allegedly "Christian" Popes, Evangelists and Theologians. Here's one of my favorite poems by a contemporary poet who happens to be an atheist:

Come Lord and Lift
by Tom Merrill

Come Lord, and lift the fallen bird
   Abandoned on the ground;
The soul bereft and longing so
   To have the lost be found.

The heart that cries—let it but hear
   Its sweet love answering,
Or out of ether one faint note
   Of living comfort wring.

And I find it ironic that one of the very best poems about Christianity in the English language was written by an atheist:

Easter Hymn
by A. E. Housman

If in that Syrian garden, ages slain,
You sleep, and know not you are dead in vain,
Nor even in dreams behold how dark and bright
Ascends in smoke and fire by day and night
The hate you died to quench and could but fan,
Sleep well and see no morning, son of man.

But if, the grave rent and the stone rolled by,
At the right hand of majesty on high
You sit, and sitting so remember yet
Your tears, your agony and bloody sweat,
Your cross and passion and the life you gave,
Bow hither out of heaven and see and save.

At least Housman didn't ask Jesus to save him by grace, while allowing the rest of suffering mankind to burn in hell. Housman's non-faith seems better to me than the dubious "faith" of the Popes and evangelical Protestants like Billy Graham, Jerry Fallwell and Pat Robertson. How can anyone listen to them prattle on about other people going to "hell," while they are saved by "grace," without vomiting?

One of the very best poets on spiritual matters was William Blake, who was said to have seen angels on a daily basis. Blake had no sympathy for the black-robed priests of organized religion, who erected a "Thou Shalt Not" sign over his Garden of earthly, sexual human Love:

The Garden Of Love
by William Blake

I laid me down upon a bank,
Where Love lay sleeping;
I heard among the rushes dank
Weeping, weeping.

Then I went to the heath and the wild,
To the thistles and thorns of the waste;
And they told me how they were beguiled,
Driven out, and compelled to the chaste.

I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen;
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.

And the gates of this Chapel were shut
And "Thou shalt not," writ over the door;
So I turned to the Garden of Love
That so many sweet flowers bore.

And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tombstones where flowers should be;
And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys and desires.

Here's a wonderful poem by a contemporary poet who captures the dilemma children face when they're commanded to "confess" their "sins" to God and his devilish minions:

First Confession
by X. J. Kennedy

Blood thudded in my ears. I scuffed,
Steps stubborn, to the telltale booth
Beyond whose curtained portal coughed
The robed repositor of truth.

The slat shot back. The universe
Bowed down his cratered dome to hear
Enumerated my each curse,
The sip snitched from my old man's beer,

My sloth pride envy lechery,
The dime held back from Peter's Pence
with which I'd bribed my girl to pee
That I might spy her instruments.

Hovering scale-pans when I'd done
Settled their balance slow as silt
While in the restless dark I burned
Bright as a brimstone in my guilt

Until as one feeds birds he doled
Seven our Fathers and a Hail
Which I to double-scrub my soul
Intoned twice at the altar rail

Where Sunday in seraphic light
I knelt, as full of grace as most,
And stuck my tongue out at the priest:
A fresh roost for the Holy Ghost.

I have absolutely loved this poem by X. J. Kennedy since the day I first read it. In what dimension is eternal damnation a just recompense for boys being boys, and girls being girls? Only the witchdoctors (er, "theologians") of Christianity could arrive at the dubious math of boy + girl = eternal damnation, or boy + boy = eternal damnation, etc. But in any case, Joe Kennedy's poem captures both the spirit and the sense of a boy's "First Confession," and his truant tongue's triumphant revenge. His poem reminds me of the Archpoet's magnificent "Confession," which follows later on this page.

Pope John Paul II

Karol Jozef Wojtyla was born in Wadowice, in an apartment that looked out on the Church of Our Lady where he would later serve as an altar boy. His birthday was May 18, 1920, an auspicious day for modern Poles, now known as "the Polish Miracle." On that day, Marshal Jozef Pilsudski won a major battle and seized Kiev from the Soviet Union. It was Poland's first major military victory in over two centuries. Wojtyla's middle name was chosen by his father in honor of Jozef Pilsudski. But Jesus renounced earthly power and riches, so why do Popes seek to accumulate earthly power and vast fortunes?

Lines from "Meditations on the Book of Genesis: at the Threshold of the Sistine Chapel"
by Karol Jozef Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II)
It is here, beneath this wondrous Sistine profusion of color
that the Cardinals assemble―
the community responsible for the legacy of the
keys of the Kingdom.
They come here, to this very place.
And once more Michelangelo wraps them in his vision.
"In him we live and move and have our being."
The colors of the Sistine will then speak the
word of the Lord:
Tu es Petrus (Mt 16:18)―once heard by Simon, son of John.
"To you I will give the keys of the Kingdom."
During the Conclave Michelangelo must teach them―
Do not forget: Omnia nuda et aperta sunt ante oculos Eius.
You who see all, point to him!
He will point him out …

As everyone knows, the Catholic Church has great wealth and power. But Jesus told the "rich young ruler" that if he wanted to be perfect, he should give everything he possessed to the poor and follow the example of Jesus, who died owning only the clothes on his back. So why do Popes sit on thrones, carry scepters and wear tiaras, while living on the tithes of the poor people who break their backs to support them? Are Popes exempt from the commandments of Christ, or do they not believe what they preach to other people?

And what about the afflictions Popes and Evangelists heap on innocent children? This poem by a Catholic poet illustrates the terrible dilemma orthodox Christianity creates for innocent children:

The Missionary's Position
by Joseph S. Salemi

I maintain it all was for the best―
We hacked our way through jungle and sought out
These savage children, painted and half-dressed,
To set their minds at ease, and dispel doubt.

Concerning what? Why, God's immense design,
And how it governs all we do and see.
Before, they had no sense of the divine
Beyond the sticks and bones of sorcery.

Granted, they are more somber and subdued,
Knowing that lives are watched, and judged, and weighed.
Subject to fits of melancholy mood,
They look upon the cross, and are afraid.

What would you have me say? We preached the Word
Better endured in grief than left unheard.

Is this what we want for suffering children? Heaven forbid that a child should told by a Catholic, an evangelical Protestant, a Mormon, a Jehovah's Witness and a Muslim that he must "believe" in the correct religious dogma, or go to "hell." Various religious sects claim to hold the keys to heaven, but as the saying goes, "the proof is in the pudding." How can anyone claim to represent a loving God, then present innocent children with infernal "gospels" that leave them eternally damned if they guess wrong? Should a child facing starvation be accosted with the fear-inspiring image of an unjust, vengeful God who refuses to speak to human beings, then condemns them to eternal suffering for not "believing" in him?

One of the most harrowing aspects of Christianity for children is the idea that sex is "evil" and that God demands that human beings refrain from sex (and even thinking about sex) until they are safely married. But this is patently ridiculous, since children reach puberty around their early teens and won't generally get married until they're in their twenties or thirties. Is every young person who has sex, or who thinks about sex, in danger of "Hell"? Here's a wonderfully ironic poem on the subject by Sharon Olds, who in an interview with Dwight Garner for Modern American Poetry mentioned growing up in a "hellfire Episcopalian religion":

The Pope's Penis
by Sharon Olds

It hangs deep in his robes,
a delicate clapper at the center of a bell.
It moves when he moves,
a ghostly fish in a halo of silver seaweed,
the hair swaying in the dark and the heat—
and at night while his eyes sleep,
it stands up in praise of God.

Sharon Olds explained the genesis of her poem as follows: "I didn't understand, until years later, that this poem was kind of a return gesture. This man, the Pope, seemed to feel that he knew a lot about women and could make decisions for us — various decisions about whether we could be priests or not, and who would decide whether we could have an abortion or not. He had crossed our line so far — this is according to my outsider's point of view — that hey, what's a little flirtatious poem that went across his line somewhat?"

Here's another poem on a similar subject by another contemporary poet, Ann Drysdale:

Word Made Flesh
by Ann Drysdale

On the broad steps of the Basilica
The feckless hopefully hold out their hands,
Often with some success; the privileged
Lighten their consciences by a few pence
On their way to receive the sacrament.

On the seventeenth step two beggars sit
Paying no regard to the worshippers
Who file past on their way to salvation.
They do not ask for alms. They are engrossed,
Skillfully masturbating one another.

Most who have noticed this pretend they haven’t;
Some of the other beggars wish they wouldn’t.
Poor relief is incumbent on the rich
And by taking things into their own hands
They spoil the scene for everybody else.

Our Lord said, “silver and gold have I none
But such as I have give I thee”. The words
Are here made flesh; with beatific sigh
One gives the other benison, slipping
All that he has into the waiting hand
Of somebody who shares his human need.

The newly shriven filter down the steps
Averting their eyes from the seventeenth,
Where the first beggar, in a state of grace,
Works selflessly towards the second coming.

I absolutely love Ann Drysdale's poem. If only there was a God whose grace extended to beggars masturbating each other on the steps of a Basilica! But then what use would there be for the hellfire-and-brimstone condemners of humankind?

The problems with Christian theology are legion. For example, the Bible suggests that man is responsible for suffering and death entering the world, due to the "original sin" and "fall" of Adam and Eve. But this makes no sense, because we now know that trillions of animals suffered and died long before man ever walked the planet, and even if the Bible's creation account was true, it makes no sense, because the animals didn't disobey God or obtain the knowledge of good and evil, and yet they still suffer and die. Here's a poem of mine on the subject:

Willy Nilly
by Michael R. Burch

for the Demiurge, aka Jehovah

Isn’t it silly, Willy Nilly?
You made the stallion,
you made the filly,
and now they sleep
in the dark earth, stilly.
Isn’t it silly, Willy Nilly?

Isn’t it silly, Willy Nilly?
You forced them to run
all their days uphilly.
They ran till they dropped—
life’s a pickle, dilly.
Isn’t it silly, Willy Nilly?

Isn’t it silly, Willy Nilly?
They say I should worship you!
Oh, really!
They say I should pray
so you’ll not act illy.
Isn’t it silly, Willy Nilly?

Another problem for Popes and Christian theologians is the evil, absurd idea that Jesus Christ will return to earth to become the greatest mass murderer in the history of the planet:

What Would Santa Claus Say
by Michael R. Burch

What would Santa Claus say,
I wonder,
about Jesus returning
to Kill and Plunder?

For he’ll likely return
on Christmas Day
to blow the bad
little boys away!

When He flashes like lightning
across the skies
and many a homosexual

when the harlots and heretics
are ripped asunder,
what will the Easter Bunny think,
I wonder?

One thing that galls me about Christian theology is the bizarre idea that miserly Popes and Christian theologians can be saved by "grace," while homosexuals can't. The following poem is from a collection of mine entitled "Why I Left the Religious Right":

I’ve got Jesus’s face on a wallet insert
by Michael R. Burch

I’ve got Jesus’s face on a wallet insert
and "Hell is for Queers" on the back of my shirt.
     And I uphold the Law,
     for Grace has a Flaw:
the Church must have someone to drag through the dirt.

I’ve got ten thousand reasons why Hell must exist,
and you’re at the top of my fast-swelling list!
     You’re nothing like me,
     so God must agree
and slam down the Hammer with His Loving Fist!

For what are the chances that God has a plan
to save everyone: even Boy George and Wham!?
     Eternal fell torture
     in Hell’s pressure scorcher
will separate homo from Man.

I’m glad I’m redeemed, ecstatic you’re not.
Did Christ die for sinners? Perish the thought!
     The "good news" is this:
     soon my Vengeance is His!,
for you’re not the lost sheep He sought.

Pope John Paul II

Returning to the poetry of the Popes ... I must confess that I like the poetry of Pope John Paul II best when he embraces humanity and puts aside highly dubious Christian theology:

by Karol Jozef Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II)

Listen: the even knocking of hammers,
so much their own,
I project on to the people
to test the strength of each blow.
Listen now: electric current
cuts through a river of rock.
And a thought grows in me day after day:
the greatness of work is inside man.
Hard and cracked
his hand is differently charged
by the hammer
and thought differently unravels in stone
as human energy splits from the strength of stone
cutting the bloodstream, an artery
in the right place.
Look, how love feeds
on this well-grounded anger
which flows in to people's breath
as a river bent by the wind,
and which is never spoken, but just breaks high vocal cords.
Passers-by scuttle off into doorways,
someone whispers: "Yet here is a great force."
Fear not. Man's daily deeds have a wide span,
a strait riverbed can't imprison them long.
Fear not. For centuries they all stand in Him,
and you look at Him now
through the even knocking of hammers.


Bound are the blocks of stone, the low-voltage wire
cuts deep in their flesh, an invisible whip—
stones know this violence.
When an elusive blast rips their ripe compactness
and tears them from their eternal simplicity,
the stones know this violence.
Yet can the current unbind their full strength?
It is he who carries that strength in his hands:
the worker.


Hands are the heart's landscape. They split sometimes
like ravines into which an undefined force rolls.
The very same hands which man only opens
when his palms have had their fill of toil.
Now he sees: because of him alone others can walk in peace.
Hands are a landscape. When they split, the pain of their sores
surges free as a stream.
But no thought of pain—
no grandeur in pain alone.
For his own grandeur he does not know how to name.


No, not just hands drooping with the hammer's weight,
not the taut torso, muscles shaping their own style,
but thought informing his work,
deep, knotted in wrinkles on his brow,
and over his head, joined in a sharp arc, shoulders and veins vaulted.
So for a moment he is a Gothic building
cut by a vertical thought born in the eyes.
No, not a profile alone,
not a mere figure between God and the stone,
sentenced to grandeur and error.

The Archpoet

My favorite poet on religious matters is the Archpoet, a medieval Latin poet. He wrote on the cusp of the first Inquisition and was no fan of highly dubious Christian theology. His wonderfully heretical "Confession" should cause the Popes to reconsider their blasphemies, which turn God into the Devil:

His Confession
by the Archpoet

circa 1165; translated from
the  original Medieval Latin
by Helen Waddell

Seething over inwardly
With fierce indignation,
In my bitterness of soul,
Hear my declaration.
I am of one element,
Levity my matter,
Like enough a withered leaf
For the winds to scatter.

Since it is the property
Of the sapient
To sit firm upon a rock,
it is evident
That I am a fool, since I
Am a flowing river,
Never under the same sky,
Transient for ever.

Hither, thither, masterless
Ship upon the sea,
Wandering through the ways of air,
Go the birds like me.
Bound am I by ne'er a bond,
Prisoner to no key,
Questing go I for my kind,
Find depravity.

Never yet could I endure
Soberness and sadness,
Jests I love and sweeter than
Honey find I gladness.
Whatsoever Venus bids
Is a joy excelling,
Never in an evil heart
Did she make her dwelling.

Down the broad way do I go,
Young and unregretting,
Wrap me in my vices up,
Virtue all forgetting,
Greedier for all delight
Than heaven to enter in:
Since the soul is in me dead,
Better save the skin.

Pardon, pray you, good my lord,
Master of discretion,
But this death I die is sweet,
Most delicious poison.
Wounded to the quick am I
By a young girl's beauty:
She's beyond my touching? Well,
Can't the mind do duty?

Hard beyond all hardness, this
Mastering of Nature:
Who shall say his heart is clean,
Near so fair a creature?
Young are we, so hard a law,
How should we obey it?
And our bodies, they are young,
Shall they have no say in’t?

Sit you down amid the fire,
Will the fire not burn you?
To Pavia come, will you
Just as chaste return you?
Pavia, where Beauty draws
Youth with finger-tips,
Youth entangled in her eyes,
Ravished with her lips.

Let you bring Hippolytus,
In Pavia dine him,
Never more Hippolytus
Will the morning find him.
In Pavia not a road
But leads to venery
Nor among its crowding towers
One to chastity.

Yet a second charge they bring:
I'm forever gaming.
Yea, the dice hath many a time
Stripped me to my shaming
When an if the body's cold,
If the mind is burning,
On the anvil hammering,
Rhymes and verses turning?

Look again upon your list.
Is the tavern on it?
Yea, and never have I scorned,
Never shall I scorn it,
Till the holy angels come,
And my eyes discern them,
Singing for the dying soul,
Requiem aeternam.

For on this my heart is set:
When the hour is nigh me,
Let me in the tavern die,
With a tankard by me,
While the angels looking down
Joyously sing o'er me,
Deus sit propitius
Huic potatori.

'Tis the fire that's in the cup
Kindles the soul's torches,
‘Tis the heart that drenched in wine
Flies to heaven's porches.
Sweeter tastes the wine to me
In a tavern tankard
That the watered stuff my Lord
Bishop has decanted.

Let them fast and water drink,
All the poets' chorus,
Fly the market and the crowd
Racketing uproarious.
Sit in quiet spots and think,
Shun the tavern's portal
Write, and never having lived,
Die to be immortal.

Never hath the spirit of
Poetry descended,
Till with food and drink my lean
Belly was distended,
But when Bacchus lords it in
My cerebral story,
Comes Apollo with a rush,
Fills me with his glory.

Unto every man his gift.
Mine was not for fasting.
Never could I find a rhyme
With my stomach wasting.
As the wine is, so the verse:
'Tis a better chorus
When the landlord hath a good
Vintage set before us.

Good my lord, the case is heard,
I myself betray me,
And affirm myself to be
All my fellows say me.
See, they in thy presence are:
Let whoe’er hath known
His own heart and found it clean,
Cast at me the stone.

Joe M. Ruggier

But rather than ending on a sour note, here's a closing poem by a Catholic poet who suffered at the hands of Catholicism, and yet still found it in his heart to write in praise of Pope John Paul II:

Man of Destiny
an elegy for John Paul II
by Joe M. Ruggier

He was mighty.  He was strong—a Super-Power ...
He was a Pillar of the Faith, a Tower.
He lasted longer than any Pope but two.
He rent the Iron Curtain, adored the Poor.
He adored Youth; Youth adored Him.
He honored Suffering. He was likewise gentle
with the ignorant ... yet He was worthy of the name
of "intellectual", "man of letters".
He had mastered the Art of body-communication
arising from His genuine theatrical flair—
a dramatist's unerring sense of timing—
conveying innermost Spirit through outward stance.
He was of all the Popes the most widely-traveled
with a reputation for building community
wherever He landed ... His Parish the wide, wide Earth!
He honored five hundred Saints and thrice as many
"Beati", whose glorious ranks He yet may join,
as Time confirms His Holiness ...
a total Man of colossal Honor and Integrity—
"breadwinner" to all the Church. Yet He was gentle
and forbearing with me, a total stranger:
He noticed my writings, however insanely busy ...
and often sent me gracious acknowledgments—
the last received mere days before He died.
The mere touch of His words, as of Christ's garment,
was enough ... allowing me to use Him to grow.
He bore my insults for the Gospel
with a genuine forbearance,
passing them over with a heroic Silence
and always pointing only to what was positive.
May His shining Spirit embrace and shield me always
to inspire and to bless me and encourage me!
May the Father reward Him richly; the Son
confirm the task well-done; and may the Spirit
spread His influence throughout the Ages
through all the Saints He honored, as He tried hard
to build bridges between Heaven and Earth.

Copyright © Joe M. Ruggier, April 5th-9th, 2005

The HyperTexts