Saturday, April 25, 2009

blind leon's pilgrimage into my heart

I am sharing one of my favorite poems here, although all I can tell you about the author is that her first name is Nancy. She was in a college writing course with me in the early 1970s taught by Joanne De Longchamps (see my previous post Tea Time: Mumbai for background). Ms. De Longchamps passed out mimeograph copies of our poems without our names so that we felt free to read any poem out loud, after which open discussion would begin. As my fellow students were matched with their poems I wrote their first names following the poems, otherwise I'd have no information about this poet.

What I remember about Nancy is that she was small and in my mind's eye resembled Natalie Merchant. She was serious, studious. She was one of the few in class who, when Ms. De Longchamps welcomed anyone to read any poem, volunteered to read her own poem. Before reading this one Nancy told us a brief story introducing it........

She and her husband had visited her husband's Uncle Leon in the Basque area of France the previous summer. Leon was blind. Leon accepted his blindness. But Leon would also accept a miracle if one were given him, and so he made regular pilgrimages to Lourdes.

Then Nancy read her poem.


Blind Leon
whose eyes are pale
works the summer corn
with worn hands,
and sometimes he remembers
.....the Green hills --
.....the Sunlight
.....on the Mountain home.
Tomorrow in the morning
he will walk down to St. Jean
and take the train to Lourdes


Videographer MokongX3M describes the scene:
Recorded from atop the Rosary Basilica, possibly the best view for this,
parade of sorts, that takes place every night in Lourdes at 9pm.
Music: The Voice by Eimear Quinn

This travel website features the photos of St Jean de Luz and Lourdes above with the following description of one of the tours it offers:
The week starts with a 4-day pilgrimage in Lourdes which includes daily mass, an tour of the Sanctuary, a walking tour of Lourdes visiting the places related to St. Bernadette, and participation in the Blessed Sacrament and Torchlight Processions.

The remainder of the week will be spent in the scenic seaside resort of St. Jean de Luz, the largest of the Basque towns in France. An fishing port close to the Spanish border, Saint Jean de Luz is a lively, cosmopolitan town. Around the main square in the town centre, you can find some of the best seafood restaurants on the Basque Coast and bars and terraces from which you will enjoy the regular musical events in the square. However, one of the main attractions in St. Jean de Luz is the miles of sandy beach.

When I began this post I had no idea that this is
The Year of Bernadette-2009. If interested in learning more you can check out U.S. pilgrimage information.


the watercats said...

This is a lovely little poem. Sometimes saying as little as possible is the perfect way to describe something. Ireland being primarily a Catholic country still has a huge affinity with Lourdes and there are regular flights and bus tours. Holy water from Lourdes is still a great cure all amongst the older generation here.

Lover of Life said...

Beautiful poem. Simple.

M Riyadh Sharif said...

the poem is beautiful...

Erin Davis said...

Beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing it.

YogaforCynics said...

It's time to come clean, Lydia...I am Nancy....

Just kidding. It's a gorgeous poem and I hope the real Nancy finds her way here....

Lydia said...

@the watercats- Glad you liked it, too. It's interesting to know that Lourdes is such a draw still for people in Ireland.
I wonder how many people first think of Madonna's daughter when they hear this name.....

@Lover of Life- Yes, beautiful in its simplicity.

@M Riyadh Sharif- Glad you also thought it to be beautiful.

@Erin- It's nice to know that I'm not alone in my appreciation for this small poem with a big impact.

@YogaforCynics- You really got me good with that one! Might you be Sybil, however? .....
Yeah, wouldn't that be something if Nancy could know I've loved this poem of hers for over 30 years....

Anonymous said...

So interesting to me that you posted about Lourdes...I was just reading a magazine article about a pilgrimage there. Athough I have been very happily Catholic for 3 years now, Marian apparitions puzzle me and I don't know what to make of them. But I have to admit that as I read the magazine article about Lourdes last night, I found myself thinking, "I would probably love this, there is so much hope and faith there." Sweet simple poem that says so much, thanks for posting.

Chris Overstreet said...

I'm so glad you were able to preserve this; it says much about hope, and much about acceptance.

Lydia said...

@Mibsy- I thought about you when I looked at the video and wondered if you'd ever been or had plans to visit. It does seem special...

@Chris Overstreet- Perfect expressions perfectly expressed. Thanks.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

sometimes when you sign up to a course you get such wonderful people there - whose work is so good that they make you want to hack your own hands off in shame for disgracing a piece of paper!

Lovely poem. I haven't written a poem for years, but it's probably for the best!

Lydia said...

@Pixies- You've written in your blog about feeling that way sometimes in art class. Yes, it is a panicky feeling, but overall I feel fortunate to ever be amongst real talent or true greatness.



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