leptoptilus (leptoptilus) wrote in coinherence,

Pentecostal question

Poems of Charles Williams are sometimes dark even for native speakers, I’m not the one. Please help me with some verses of this poem (I’d like to translate it for Pentecost, but better late than never).


Language he gave and as men from their homes,

In fen or jungle climbed bade it increase

In power till Tully's word protected Rome

And all of Athens mourned with Pericles.


Then moved the songs of poets; then began
The Iscian shout of prophecy; then, last,
The whole world's voices, gathered in a Man,

Sounded and spoke till in a cloud He passed.


But, lest His subtler language should be lost,
Thereafter to His orators there came,
Borne on a blast of breath, the Holy Ghost,

And riding within syllables of flame.


The topmost souls of the world there caught and spoke.
That old yet new, that now-perfected speech,

Then, apt to learn as he was apt to teach,

And heaven in earth heard in its sleep and woke.


Forgotten heavens, neglected sanctities,
Shut in the deepest, prisons of the soul,
Rose, freed from chains and cleansed from leprosies,

Redeemed, delivered, manifest, and whole.


Now between heaven and earth lies no long way,
Since what is here is there, and there shall be,
And all our English speech of every day

Is mystical and immortality.


N.B. This text may be corrupted, but I failed to find more trustworthy variant.


1. ‘as men from their homes, / In fen or jungle climbed’ — what does this image mean? Primitive men, brave pioneers, pirates of Caribean?

2. He of the first line, unlike ‘He’ of  the 8th, is not capitalized. Is it normal if — as far as I see — God is the subject of 1st verse?  

3. ‘Then, apt to learn as he was apt to teach, / And heaven in earth heard in its sleep and woke’ — for me both meaning and syntax are dark.

4. ‘Is mystical and immortality’ — how can it be, what can it mean? (‘…and <is> immortality’?)

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