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Friday, June 20, 2008

The Thunderer

Poems can be a breath of fresh air on a hot muggy evening. Sometimes when your looking for that just-right sparkle between imagination and reality, a poem can be the right prescription.

In 1969 Phyllis McGinley published a delightful collection of poems titled "Saint-Watching" about the lives of many famous and not so famous saints. One of the important selections is "The Thunderer"- a cheerful yet poignant poem about the life of St. Jerome

I really like this poem’s bouncy lyrical style. A writing well suited to musical adaptation


God's angry man, His crotchety

Was Saint Jerome, The great name-caller Who cared not a dime For the laws of libel And in his spare time Translated the Bible. Quick to disparage All arts but learning, Jerome liked marriage Better than burning But didn't like woman's Painted cheeks; Didn't like Romans, Didn't like Greeks, Hated Pagans For their Pagan ways, Yet doted on Cicero all his days.

A born reformer, cross and gifted,

He scolded mankind

Sterner than Swift did;

Worked to save

The world from the heathen;

Fled to a cave

For peace to breathe in,

Promptly wherewith

For miles around

He filled the air with

Fury and sound.

In a mighty prose,

For almighty ends,

He thrust at his foes,

Quarreled with his friends,

And served his Master

Though with complaint.

He wasn't a plaster sort of saint.

But he swelled men's minds With a Christian leaven.
It takes all kinds To make a heaven.

-Phyllis McGinley (1949)

St. Jerome was not your average, run of the mill Christian scholar. A passionate and feisty orator, Jerome caused plenty of controversy among many of the church leaders at the time. Nevertheless, he is considered one of the early fathers of the church and an expert in translating the Divine Word. He’s also the patron saint of Librarians!
(Image by Georges Jansoone, GFDL)

Last year Bronx native Dion released his second acoustic album (Son of Skip James-Verve) showcasing his love of the early blues and rock pioneers. One of the standout tracks is his interpretation of McGinley’s "The Thunderer". Complete with his own verse added to the poem, Dion unveils a raw, edgy folk-rock masterpiece.

AMG Writer Thom Jurek explains the song further:

[a rambling bluesy folk tune with Rhodes piano and spare percussion, where Dion sings about St. Jerome (an early translator of the Bible as a deeply conflicted, sexist, prejudicial, and blessed if contradictory madman — "God's crotchety scholar"). Dion's conclusion is not unlike those of the bluesmen before him: "...It takes all kinds to make it to without truth is just sentimental/Truth without love is sterile...." This isn't Dion preaching the gospel, but affirming the loopy sense of inconsistency that humans walk the earth with, and affirming his belief in a God that not only understands this but celebrates it. ]

Ultimately, "The Thunderer" reflects Dion in some fashion I think. The waters are indeed rough at times, but love prevails when you seek it.

For more discussion about Dion and the Thunderer visit the following links:

1 comment:

Penny said...

Love your blog- Diverse, eclectic & interesting. Keep it up!