A Poem From Tasmania


Cradle Mountain, central highlands, Tasmania

Incarnate Word, in Whom all nature lives,
Cast flame upon the Earth, raise up contemplatives
Among us, men* who walk within the fire
Of ceaseless prayer, impetuous desire,
Set pools of silence in this thirsty land:
Distracted men who sow their hopes in sand
Will sometimes feel an evanescent sense
Of questioning, they do not know from whence.
Prayer has an influence we cannot mark,
It works like radium in the dark.
And next to prayer the outward works of grace:
Humility that takes the lower place,
Serene content that does not ask for more,
And simple joy, the treasure of the poor,
And active charity that knocks on any door.
It’s easy said – I wish my words might chime
With fitting deeds as easily as they rhyme.
Yet somehow between prayer and common sense
Hearts may be touched, and lives have influence.
And when the heart is once disposed to see,
Then reason can unlock faith’s treasury.
To rapt astonishment is then displayed
A cosmic map Mercator never made.

* and women!

(By James McAuley, formerly Professor of Poetry, University of Tasmania)

About GC

Poor sinner.
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10 Responses to A Poem From Tasmania

  1. GC says:

    McAuley was quite a busy hymn-writer as well, Brother B. His friend Richard Connolly set his hymns to music and they published them in the Hymns for the Year of Grace. They were quite decent hymns and were widely sung in previous decades, accompanied by the organ. Such as this one:

    Jesus, in your heart we find
    Love of the Father and mankind.
    These two loves to us impart –
    Divine love in a human heart.

    May we stand within the fire
    Of your Sacred Heart, and raise
    To our God in joyful choir
    All creation’s song of praise.

    In our hearts from roots of pride
    Deadly growths of evil flower;
    But from Jesus’ wounded side
    Streams the sacramental power.

    To the depths within your heart
    Draw us with divine desire,
    Hide us, heal us, and impart
    Your own love’s transforming fire.

    James P. McAuley (1917-1976)

    I recall another being sung during Pope Benedict’s visit to Sydney in 2008, “By Your priestly power, O risen Lord”. He also wrote the “Song of Songs ” for the English edition of the Jerusalem Bible and Malcolm Williamson (Master of the Queen’s Music) set quite a bit of McAuley’s work to music.

  2. johnhenrycn says:

    That was beautiful, GC. Tracked it down and added it to my wish list; but tell me this: is it an amateur CD? I’m not sure. Here’s an
    amateur production
    from Finland. The minor key is very typical of Finnish music

  3. GC says:

    Hello JH, I am not too sure where to place them on the dedicated amateur/professional scale. I know they are quite young.

    They have their own facebook which says a new CD is on the way:


    The Australia Incognita blog (Kate Edwards in Canberra) wrote about them:


  4. GC says:

    The Finnish singers do very well, JH. Piae Cantiones, quite a few well known songs come from that collection.Thanks, very nice.

    Strange, they don’t remind me at all of the Finnish darts club members we encountered that day at that English-style pub.

  5. johnhenrycn says:

    The amateur / professional divide is important to me in reference to religious music because it speaks to where the singers are coming from. Not saying that professionals are just in it for the money, but I listen with a different ear to amateur choirs. I’m going to a Jewish synagogue later this morning. A friend invited me for the cultural experience. Wonder what their hymnody will be like.

  6. johnhenrycn says:

    “Jewish synagogue”

    Tautology alert, but don’t tell anyone, especially that guy whose name I can’t remember.

  7. johnhenrycn says:

    Is “Jewish Synagogue” a true tautology or just a prolixity? I’m the only lawyer I know of who has ever been officially complimented for prolixity by a judge in a reported decision. I will provide The Raven with the case reference on request, but it’s so old, I don’t know if the case is online. He’ll have to go to his law library to confirm my boast.

  8. GC says:

    Let me rescue you, JH, from your deep embarrassment. If you rewrite your post in Persian, synagogue and church sound much the same as they do in Arabic also, so the tautology is cunningly lost. I think both words in Greek have the main idea of “assembly” anyway.

    Don’t forget to take a pic at the synagogue, JH. I feel that a kippah would look good on you.

  9. johnhenrycn says:

    “Kippah”? Is that one of them beanie hats my friend says I have to wear? Him, being Jewish, talked me into treating him to lunch afterwards. And his wife too 😉

  10. GC says:

    Yes, I know what you mean exactly about the amateur/professional divide, JH. My guess is that they are trained amateurs/semi-professionals mostly, not averse to earning a little to cover their national tour expenses.
    Here’s a bit of a scoop (?) on them.

    I wonder whether their concert at the Tumbarumba convent was packed?

    Yes, you heard right, JH. That’s t-u-m-b-a-r-u-m-b-a, Tumbarumba. On the edge of the Snowy Mountains, not all that far from Nurenmerenmong.


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