Saturday, December 25, 2010

Poverty of Compline: Wynken, Blynken, and Nod

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod by Mandy Moore
i hope you had a merry, warm day and a meaningful christmas, if you are a christian. 

in the course of this very busy day (for me!), something struck me hard in the chest as deeply true:

i would sleep unperturbed, and enough, were the monks to gather nightly round my bed -- say, sometime between their usual 9 pm and my normal 3 am -- and sing me off to SlumberLand with the lullaby of compline.

but let's face it, friend:  despite the cistercians just over the apple orchard wall, despite frequent visits from their runaway abbott (he jumps the wall and checks in, incognito, as a Manor Guest whenever the trials of monastery life press too close), i am in poverty of compline.

our neighboring brothers maintain a couple of websites, that we know of, mostly dedicated to the worldly business of raising money and providing for their keep.  to fit in, they also provide links to larger catholicdom, and in this way i sometimes work up a SeriousPretend, as i transport myself to dark churches in the night, the shadows pierced as much by sound as light.  the sound of a leather sandal on stone, those creaks, the sudden snap and electrical quick-sizzle click of a monk turning on the electric bulb in his choir stall. 

they enter the church from more entrances than i knew existed, though before reconvening for the next Hour, i sleuth out the newest portals, if -- that is -- i am not barred -- non-monk, woman, visitor, silent retreatant (slightly suspect, altogether forgettable).

they make loving reverence to mary, to the altar. they make a bee line right to her.

those were the only moments that risked a show of pride, if pride can exist unconsciously.

the reverence to mary.

i usually sat up in the balcony, in the back, the better to see it all, hear it, have the chance to match sandal to shadow, leather slap to sound.   there is this conceit -- that they all look alike, hooded brown, most slender, schooled even as to the angle of the head.

they might as well sport individual numbered jersies, their god names ironed-on in shiny block letters.  when they bow to the mother of god, they are ardent, yearning lovers, lost in adoration or need, and the form of their reverence is as individual as a brushstroke in burnt umber.  some of the oldest monks proffer jaunty youth, closer to their beloved than the young man just professed, young in the way they mean young: young in the life.

they bow not so much with a fluorish as with energy -- impatient energy, smooth, conserved energy, ragged i'm-gonna-burst ecstacy.  they shit on the old laws of thermodynamics and all that preservation, conservation, transfer but not creation!  when in SeriousPretend, i'm up there looking down, they're down there, looking at nothing but mary (even mary as piled up lectionaries psalms psalters liturgies...).

were i there, and huddled up there, all ready for bed except the going, my bed turned down back in my humdrum retreat house room, tans on beiges over a nightmare of neutrals, were i there, up there in the balcony, the tired happy brothers would sing and say these things (among other things) for me, tonight, and now, according to the day, the 25th of december:

Compline (Night Prayer)

O God, come to my aid.
O Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
Amen. Alleluia.

Christ, thou who art the light and day,
Who chasest nightly shades away,
Thyself the Light of Light confessed,
And promiser of radiance blest:
O holy Lord, we pray to thee,
Throughout the night our guardian be;
In thee vouchsafe us to repose,
All peaceful till the night shall close.
O let our eyes due slumber take,
Our hearts to thee forever wake:
And let thy right hand from above
Shield us who turn to thee in love.
O strong defender, hear our prayers,
Repel our foes and break their snares,
And govern thou thy servants here,
Those ransomed with thy life-blood dear.
Almighty Father, this accord
Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord,
Who with the Holy Ghost and thee
Doth reign through all eternity.

Canticle Nunc Dimittis

Keep us safe, Lord, while we are awake,
and guard us as we sleep,
so that we can keep watch with Christ and rest in peace.
Now, Master, you let your servant go in peace.
You have fulfilled your promise.
My own eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all peoples.
A light to bring the Gentiles from darkness;
the glory of your people Israel.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.

Keep us safe, Lord, while we are awake, and guard us as we sleep, so that we can keep watch with Christ and rest in peace.

May the almighty Lord grant us a quiet night and a perfect end.

we should all take such care before we close our eyes at the end of day!  unconscious sleep is nothing to be entered into lightly.

ah, but they aren't here, my monastery friends. there is no twinkly-eyed brother william, forever being punished for breaking silence, for laughing, then set the unenviable task of scrubbing the flagstone on his knees. no formidable old father anthony, old arsehole monk, guestmaster, rulemeister. (arsehole anthony was bone weary and when inclined toward the virgin, clearly beseeching, clearly begging to go home.)

i have tapes, i have memory, i have worship aids galore but i cannot reproduce the loving send-off, confident of my safety, of my lasting, of my waking -- intact.  dead, possibly, but awake, intact. 

the dearth of compline, my lack of monk, is making me feel hopeless and lost, and my obéissance an absolute insult.

so i had this desperate thought that made me smile. what do you think? wynken, blynken, and nod, as lay compline?  it might not fly in rome, or even over the apple orchard wall, but it has cadence, and memory, and just as many a promise.

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod (Dutch Lullaby)

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe---
Sailed on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew.
"Where are you going, and what do you wish?"
The old moon asked the three.
"We have come to fish for the herring fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we!"
Said Wynken,
And Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe,
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew.
The little stars were the herring fish
That lived in that beautiful sea---
"Now cast your nets wherever you wish---
Never afeard are we";
So cried the stars to the fishermen three:
And Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam---
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
Bringing the fishermen home;
'T was all so pretty a sail it seemed
As if it could not be,
And some folks thought 't was a dream they 'd dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea---
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
And Nod.

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
Is a wee one's trundle-bed.
So shut your eyes while mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea,
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:
And Nod.

-- Eugene Field

say good night, prof...

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