Quiet: A Canzone
Awake once more during the wee small hours,
Incapable, it seems, of sleeping at night
For much longer than two or three brief hours,
How shall I pass these dark and sleepless hours,
Conscious of neighbours and the need to be quiet?
How shall I entertain the passing hours?
Shall I watch the clock, counting minutes and hours?
I’ll sit and drink coffee, in domestic bliss,
Perhaps begin a poem (ah! such bliss!) —
The leaden seconds become fleet-footed hours
Spent in productive joy, industrious peace.
All restless poets should come to know such peace!
No television wrecks my morning peace:
Serene and sacrosanct, these pleasant hours,
Like a child’s prayer to the holy Queen of Peace.
The news so rarely brings us tidings of peace:
It shows the human soul in a bleak cold night
Estranged from hope, inimical to peace.
When will we teach our hearts the ways of peace?
When will we flee noise to cultivate quiet?
(It’s said that the voice of God is soft and quiet,
Always urging the peccant soul to peace.)
Instruct us, Lord of Heaven, in holy bliss!
Let us forget all baser kinds of bliss.
Baudelaire wrote of steamy carnal bliss,
Of muses that disturbed his delicate peace
With promises of hot infernal bliss.
The road of excess so rarely leads to bliss:
The years we spend, the thousand reckless hours
Pursuing some mirage of ultimate bliss.
Beneath pure starlight, I have found my bliss,
Composing odes to the suburban night,
A pastime suited to a dreamless night.
In Beatrice, young Dante’s sacred bliss
Became incarnate, beautiful and quiet;
Before her form, all chattering tongues grew quiet.
O cherish this oasis of peace and quiet,
Of eremitical light, Cistercian bliss!
How rare in this hectic century to find quiet,
The genitrix of wisdom, blessed Quiet,
A prelude to more lasting forms of peace
In which all clamorous hankerings fall quiet.
Come to the restful waters, calm and quiet:
Keep vigil through the hushed and hallowed hours,
As monks with psalmody might bless the hours.
We foster knowledge best in places of quiet:
Alas, our cities’ noise disgraces the night.
An urban Christmas is no silent night!
Here in Arlington, no noise breaks the night
Of calm repose, of soft light, of sweet quiet:
Rowdies and drunks are strangers to this night.
Muses of peace, come bless my desk this night!
Let me know the maker’s enduring bliss,
A timeless joy outlasting this brief night.
We work when there is light. Soon comes that night
When work must yield to grave and solemn peace:
All souls, we pray, shall spend the night in peace.
Then, hymns of the lark will pierce the fleeting night
And usher in those shining, radiant hours,
A brilliant day not measured in minutes or hours.
I scribble verses at the strangest hours,
In the cloister of the hushed and voiceless night:
I work on poems while the world is quiet,
Announcing my faith in love’s enduring bliss,
In heaven’s lasting joy and perpetual peace.