Triumph (Wulfkien)

“Hosanna!” hollered the heaving crowd,
Casting coats and cutting palm fronds
To lay along the Lord’s path.
“Hosanna in the highest!” they hailed
The Messiah, mule-borne yet mightier
Than Rome’s rebellious and bloody rule.

Rejoice, for Royalty humbly rides
To die an undeserved death,
For sinners’ sakes Glory stooped,
Penniless, to provide peace in this place.

“Crucify!” cried the ruthless crowd,
Spitting and spewing filth like slime.
Blaspheming, betraying, and breathing
Threats with throats opened through grace.
“Surely the Son of God is slain!”
But Death was denied and defeated.

Rejoice, for Royalty gloriously rises
To sit as Son in heavenly session
For sinners’ sakes Glory soared
Ascending to intercede for adopted sons.

“Kurios!” confesses the countless masses
Kneeling before the now-known King.
Robed in radiance, He reigns forever:
Glorious God and Guardian of His own.
Enemies eliminated and eternally bound,
Sorrows salved and sins atoned.

Rejoice, for Royalty graciously reigns
Divine delight deigns to welcome
Adam’s offspring into Eternal Love
Trinity triumphing in tangible glory.

2015 Reading Log: Boys of Blur

Wilson, N.D. Boys of Blur.

I believe I can accurately classify myself as an N.D. Wilson fanboy. This is actually my second time through Boys of Blur; I devoured in in less than two days when it originally released.

Taper, Florida is a small town that lives and breathes two things: sugar cane and high school football. Charlie Reynolds and his family return to Taper for the funeral of Charlie’s stepdad, Coach Willie Wisdom. Charlie meets his “step-second-cousin” Cotton, and they are confronted with mysterious sights (and smells) among the cane fields.

The Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf plays a key role in the story; in fact, it was Boys of Blur that piqued my interest in Beowulf enough to get me to read two different versions of it. After finishing those, I re-read Boys of Blur, and enjoyed it even more.

This book was an unusually fast read for me. I have the Kindle version, and it seemed like no time at all between 50% progress and 85-90%. The story is set up well, and picks up momentum like a freight train. Even the second time through, I found myself finishing the book far faster than I expected. It really is a good read, and it’s a great introduction to Wilson’s fiction (my favorite is his Ashtown Burials series, whose fourth volume can’t come out soon enough).

Boys of Blur is exciting, entertaining reading. But for me, it’s also more: it’s encouraging reading. There is much wisdom woven into the story. Parents are not oppressive buffoons, but sources of stability and goodness. For example, Charlie’s stepdad Mack teaches Charlie,

“Your father made mistakes. We all do. But instead of working to set things right, he chose to protect those mistakes–he let them be. He even fed them, which made them so much worse. Mistakes don’t just hang on the wall like ugly pictures. Mistakes are seeds.” He thumped his chest. “In here. They grow. They take over. You make a mistake, you gotta make it right. Dig that seed out. Old Wiz used to say, ‘Fruit rots, wood rots, but lazy-ass boys rot the fastest.’ … His mistakes are yours to overcome, but they don’t need to grow in you. You’ll make plenty of your own” (49).

It always encourages my own heart, and even more so when I think of the countless Charlies reading Boys of Blur who need to hear this as well. It’s good to know that the power of fiction is being wielded in capable hands, and Wilson continues to prove himself more than capable.

2015 Reading Log: Beowulf x 2

Tolkien, J.R.R. Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary (445 pages, Kindle Edition).

Wilson, Douglas. Beowulf: A New Verse Rendering (152 pages).

My only exposure to Beowulf was in high school literature, which clearly made no impression (since I remember nothing from it). Last year proved to be the perfect storm of (re)kindling interest in the ancient epic: N.D. Wilson’s Boys of Blur integrates Beowulf into the story, and Christopher Tolkien compiled and released his father’s translation and commentary on it as well.

Wilson’s “new verse rendering” is not a strict translation, he admits, but rather an attempt to convey the poetic mastery of the anonymous poet. Tolkien’s work is a true translation, one whose goal is to better convey the sense of the Anglo-Saxon original text. Reading the two together turned out to be extremely helpful; they were mutually interpreting and enlightening.

Tolkien’s commentary was more or less helpful. When he deals with sixth-century history and culture, it greatly added to my understanding of the story. The textual criticism of the Anglo-Saxon original document(s) was generally less so. Most of the comments were taken from his course in the language at Oxford, so its presence is no surprise. In my experience, it was skimmed with impunity.

Wilson’s book ends with two of his essays, the first of which argues that Beowulf is a work of apologetics at the end of paganism and the advent of Christianity in Scandinavia. It’s a powerful argument–one that definitely made me appreciate the poem even more.

Another element of Tolkien’s work that I found quite interesting is the crossover between Beowulf and The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings. I knew that Meduseld was based on Heorot, but there are several interesting parallels. The dragon that kills Beowulf (spoiler alert!) screams Smaug. The thief who stirred the dragon was the 13th member of the party led to slay him (hello, Bilbo Baggins!). Even the term “middle-earth” and several names are brought over into Tolkien’s fantasy classic.

If you’re seriously interested in Beowulf, I’d recommend reading these two together. If you need something to pique your curiosity, I’d recommend Wilson’s book first. Read the essays first, then the poem, then the essays again. It’s helpful to see what to expect, then have a refresher of what you just saw.

Beowulf

Depths of darkness lie deep in the heart,
Though hale and happy as Heorot it may seem;
A greater foe than Grendel growls dreadfully
Fain to feel the flailing throes.
Like a scop’s song is slashing to him,
Mournful music is his merriment;
Whatever wounds and wails proves wonderful
And Abaddon’s abandon avails him joy.
No steel of sword or spear-point pierces
Through his heavy, horrible hide;
He feeds and flourishes from the futile assaults,
Bloated from the blood of badly schemed sieges.

God has granted a grander warrior,
The Commander of celestial cavalry;
Braver and better is He than even Beowulf,
Heorot’s Heavenly General, leader of the Hosts.
In Grendel’s grip He gladly yielded,
Was slain by his sinister swipe.
He was regally raised to raid in power
And overthrow all the dread Enemy’s force.
The fiend fiercely rages, knowing he’s fallen;
His leaking, wounded limbs now leave proof
That his vaunted victory was vainly claimed
And with Death he is destined to die.

This Better-Beowulf who bested the foe
Is fierce and fiery in the face of any
Who bring blows against His beloved.
He deigns to defend His dearly adopted ones
And lavishes love on them, life without end.
Trains He the hands that hold the sword;
He strengthens their shield-grip to make it sure.
He sweetly shows the saving wounds
And lifts them to look at the limb that’s torn
As promise and payment of entrance to Paradise.
Trust Him, True and Faithful, treading the presses
Of wrath that a wealth of wine to us to serve.

1-23-2015

I’m currently reading Tolkien’s translation and commentary on Beowulf, as well as Douglas Wilson’s new verse rendering. What’s interesting about Wilson’s is that he keeps the alliterative feel of the original Old English. This is my attempt to copy that style.