Friday, June 22, 2012

From the Crypt: A Literary Interlude

By Sarah Morice Brubaker, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Theology
Phillips Theological Seminary

Once up...on a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over certain theologians' arguments about just war.
As I read, I thought "Eh, maybe"... when the opening notes of "Baby"
Scraped my eardrums like a scabie, playing from outside my door.
`'Tis some vapid twit,' I muttered, `singing at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

Ah, distinctly I remember: seminary, in December,
For I wished to be a member of the clergy, hence my chore.
I had an exam tomorrow. Vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for my sin of yore -
For the rare and radiant lectures through which I'd been known to snore -
Lost to me, now, evermore.

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
`Sir,' said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But my work here needs no stalling. Still you play that caterwauling -
Awful, awful caterwauling right outside my chamber door.
Cut it out, please. Right this instant! - here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
The silence, it was barely broken, while the darkness gave no token.
For the only line there spoken was "How many either ors?"
Not from Kierkegaard, no. but another pop song I deplore...
Just that line, and nothing more.

Back into my room retreating, to my "Christ and Culture" reading,
Soon again I heard a bleating somewhat louder than before.
"Ah, that must be someone's fun time: very loudly playing 'One Time,'"
... Said I to myself. "I've done time as a teenager before.
Let my heart be still a moment 'midst these sounds that I abhor.
Just one song, though. Nothing more."

Open then I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there climbed a dome of hair as in the eighties days of yore;
Underneath a man was tethered to the mound of locks so feathered,
And he sat upon the weathered stack of books upon my floor.
Sat upon the quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore -
Sat, and looked, and nothing more.

With his puffy head beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and somber styling of the countenance it wore
"Say," I said, raising a finger. "You are quite the deadest ringer
For that one pop music singer they were playing here before.
Tell me what his lordly name is while I check the iTunes store."
Quoth the young man, "Nevermore."

Much I marveled this ungainly chap to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning, little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Could confuse what I was seeing with the band called Nevermore.
They play rock and heavy metal. No, this moppet here before
Did not play with Nevermore.

But the young man, sitting lonely on my stack of books, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered. Not a feathered hair he fluttered
Till I scarcely more than muttered, "Well, singers have grown before.
Maybe now he plays thrash metal shows with blood and guts and gore."
Then the man said, "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
I said, "Well, by the same token, maybe music is a bore
To the man of whom I'm thinking. Maybe his career is sinking.
And since he's too young for drinking, that's a burden his heart bore -
All the dirges of his hope his fragile teenage ego bore."
"No," the man said. "Nevermore."

With the moppet still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of man and books and door.
Then upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this taciturn mentor -
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous young mentor
Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

This I sat engaged in guesses. Ah, no syllable expresses
How his eyes, beneath those tresses, burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamplight gloated o'er.
How I love that violet lining with the lamplight gloating o'er
(Pier One has all that, and more!)

Then methought the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by demons whose infernal footfalls sounded on the floor.
"Wretch," I cried! "Satanic mystic, with your language atavistic.
Let us both be realistic!" and I reached toward the floor,
Grabbed a book and went to throw it at the man to make him sore.
Quoth the moppet, "Nevermore."

"Ah!" said I, my conscience stricken, knowing how my rage would sicken
Jesus, who my heart did quicken twenty years ago and four.
"Please forgive me, sir!" I pleaded, while my throwing arm receded.
"Seems my conscience went unheeded. Now your mercy I implore.
I will lay this book aside now, lay it here upon the floor."
Quoth the moppet, "Nevermore."

"Um..." said I, "Do you mean never? Never my connection sever?
Must I read this book *forever* and not lay it on the floor?
Can you give so cruel sentence for my soul's prolonged repentance?
Please, sir! Please relent, in sympathy for me, a sinner poor!
Please relent, and let me put this book down here upon the floor."
Quoth the moppet, "Nevermore."

Weeping, for I knew it vital that I heed his strange recital,
I begged, "Let me check the the title of this book I can't ignore."
And before he could respond, I checked. The first word was "Beyond."
Then "Tragedy." Hope dawned upon my weary, weary heart once more.
"Ah, a Niebuhr! Tell me, do you read the Niebuhrs anymore?"
Quoth the moppet, "Nevermore."

"OH!" I said. "I've recollected who it was that I suspected
you, my hairy disaffected friend, resembled. What is more,
I know you're no twin or double. You are Bieber! What's the trouble?
Surely standing in the rubble of my office is a bore?
Surely you've got better things to do that you should not ignore?"
Quoth the Bieber, "Nevermore."

Justin Bieber, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting,
Though you might think it unfitting, on the books upon my floor;
I left him with all the Niebuhr. Left it there, with Justin Bieber.
Is he genius, nerd, or dweeb? Or does he just have great rapport
With religious thought forged in the wake of worldwide war?
Do I care? Ah, nevermore.

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