Her name is like the rain-perfumèd air
Of summer on a lost and winsome day:
I breathe it and am free of every care,
I say it and want nothing more to say.

Her name is laden like the honeycomb
Whose sweetness penetrates the yielding depth
Of all my soul, and, like the thought of home,
To think on her consoles and eases breath.

Her intercessions lift the weight of sin,
And just as wax doth melt before the flame,
Or as a frown dissolves into a grin,
All darkness flees before her holy name.

Maria! Be thy name at life’s eclipse
The final sound that leaves my dying lips.

© Joseph Charles MacKenzie

 

Joseph Charles MacKenzie is a traditional lyric poet, the only American to have won Scottish International Poetry Competition. His poetry has appeared in The New York Times, The Scotsman (Edinburgh), The Independent (London), US News and World Report, Google News, and many other outlets. He writes primarily for the Society of Classical Poets (New York) and Trinacria (New York). MacKenzie has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

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47 Responses

  1. Joe Tessitore

    WOW!!!

    Joseph Charles, this is spectacular!

    And who would ever thought of rhyming “sin” and “grin”?

    Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      I would like to thank Mr. Mantyk for publishing this poem, whose title is that of today’s Feast of the Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary, instituted by Pope Innocent XI to celebrate the victory of Christians against the Muslim Turks at the Siege of Vienna in 1683.

      For, the Muslim attacks against our nation on September 11, 2001, were poorly timed, taking place on the vigil, namely, of a feast that reminds the world that the enemies of Christ are to be crushed under the foot of the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, in the case of the Holy League at the gates of Vienna in 1683, by simply invoking her name.

      Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      Mr. Hollywood, your comment goes directly to the motives of the poem. “Hyperdulia” is an obligation of veneration which the public owes to the Blessed Virgin Mary in view of her unique status as the Mother of God, while our petitions, in view of the same status, are best delivered through her whom God Himself obeys.

      Reply
  2. Bruce Wren

    As always, an exemplar poem of classical beauty. I have been receiving many of Mr McKenzie’s other sonnets in this new series, and I consider most of them even better than the one posted here. A first class poet, rarely seen and even more rarely read, in or contemporary times.

    Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      In his wonderful collection, “Fending Off the Dragon Fire,” (quite a bargain on Amazon these days) Bruce Wren has given us some excellent verses on the Blessed Virgin Mary and on many lyrical themes besides, some of the most lyrical poetry our generation has produced.

      Indeed, “Benedictum Nomen Mariae” is merely the opening sonnet of my larger sequence in progress, “Sonnets for Heaven’s Queen.”

      Reply
  3. James Sale

    A wonderful poem, and as I have often observed, Mr Mackenzie is also a master of those build-up, brilliant last lines that compress it all. Great.

    Reply
  4. Mark Stone

    Mr. MacKenzie, Hello. I would change the comma in L3 to a period or semi-colon, delete the comma after “soul” in L7, and change “on” to “of” in L8. I like the internal rhyme (Maria! Be) and the triple end rhyme (I-ee-ips) in LL 13 & 14. I assume you’re intending to say: “May thy name, at life’s eclipse, be the final sound that leaves my dying lips.” However, as LL 13 & 14 are written, I stumbled over them. Notwithstanding these points, it is a marvelous poem. Well done!

    Reply
  5. Cecilia

    Beautiful poem in honour of Our lady’s name. Well chosen words that evoke sweet thoughts 🙂

    Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      Thank you, Cecilia, for joining me in the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. I ask that you please pray for me as I continue to produce the “Sonnets for Heaven’s Queen.”

      Reply
  6. Damian Robin

    An unmediated ‘Wow’ to this – so musical, and definite, assured and assuring, your faith and devotion shining. Wonderful, and thank you for expressing your love publically.

    Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      Against so many tiresome debates about originality, there is only one subject that is totally unique in every way, and that is the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is because of her uniqueness that she has generated the most original poetry in every nation that knows her.

      I will go ahead and say it: There is no such thing as poetry without the Blessed Virgin Mary. Not one of the great themes of poetry can be meaningful without her.

      The rest is empty prosody.

      Reply
      • Charlie Southerland

        Hmmm.

        MacKenzie,

        I’m pretty certain that Homer, Plato, Sappho, the rest of ancient Greece and the author of Gilgamesh would disagree with you, as do I.

        You are too full of yourself again. Perhaps a pin to pop your ego with?

        You promote radical Catholicism to your detriment. This is a poetry website, not a Jesuit Seminary.

        You seem to promote Mary over Jesus, which is heresy.

        Your third stanza presumes too much to be believable, even for this Calvinist. Get a grip.

  7. Bonnie S.

    Dear Mr. MacKenzie,

    Like so many others on this thread have expressed above, “Wow!” Many of the lines in your poem, in particular the last two, brought tears to my eyes when I first read them.

    As a Catholic, I grew up with a love of Jesus’ dear mother Mary. So, every word you have written in this stunning poem resonates with how we Catholics have always understood Our Lady’s role. We know the importance of her mediation, and are aware of how demons flee before her holy name. I am delighted to find our sacred Catholic doctrine expressed so perfectly in poetic form. I totally understand what you were saying when you stated that there is no poetry without Our Blessed Lady. After all, she is the mother of Jesus, and there is nothing more poetic than Him.

    You mention above that this is poem is part of a new book. Will the Society of Classical Poets be posting more of these? My friends and I would really love to read them and would gladly share them with others.

    Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      Dear Bonnie,

      To answer you very kind question, every single poem and poet’s comment appearing in the SCP is a pure expression of that poet’s religion whether it be secular atheism or any one of 30,000 (and counting) man-made sects which have popped up since the 16th century. As the SCP has never had any problem allowing such a diversity of poets, poems, and comments, I am confident that future pieces from my work-in-progress, the “Sonnets for Heaven’s Queen,” will have a decent chance of appearing in this venue.

      I am very pleased that you also recognize Our Lady as a transformative figure in the history of western European poetry. I proudly stand by my statement that there is no poetry without her. Indeed, we would not have Dante’s Vita Nuova, and by extension the Divine Comedy, was it not for the Blessed Virgin Mary. The fact that the greatest of all western poets conflates the Blessed Virgin with Beatrice (by importation of a Troubadour development) is significant. We owe Shakespeare’s Portia in Merchant of Venice to our Virgin Most Prudent, especially as she asserts the doctrine of marriage as a sacrament in the famous casket scene.

      I could go on and on discussing Our Lady’s role in the transformation of poetry from the empty paganism of the Greeks (which Dante demonstrates in the Ulysses passage of the Inferno) to her special place in the Medieval “poésie courtoise,” including the great romances of Arthur. There is really no end to her influence. In short, poetry as we know it would not exist without her, just as salvation as we know it would exist without her.

      No Mary, no Christ. No wonder St. Augustin, one of the greatest fathers of the Christian Church—which, strictly speaking, is the Catholic Church—declared:

      “He does not have God as his father who does not have Mary as his mother.”

      Reply
      • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

        I left out a word. I meant to say: “In short, poetry as we know it would not exist without her, just as salvation as we know it would not exist without her.”

        So, for you, Bonnie, and your many friends, I can say that the “Sonnets for Heaven’s Queen,” taken together, will explore many aspects of Mariology, which is the science of Mary’s role in the economy of grace, the science of the Apostles.

  8. Alistair

    Mr. MacKenzie,
    If you happen to find yourself anywhere near Glasgow, you would do yourself a bit of good to visit the Carfin Grotto just east, our national shrine with a reproduction of the grotto of Lourdes and many other features. You would enjoy the Reliquary Chapel with one of the largest collections of relics outside of Rome, hundreds and hundreds in reliquaries of every make, a major pilgrimage site for lovers of Mary.

    Reply
  9. Lew Icarus Bede

    1. Mr. MacKenzie’s poem is a fine Shakespearean sonnet; a few examples suffice:
    a. the adjective “rain-perfumèd” is a typical Shakespearean construct;
    b. the nice, simple similes, common in Shakespeare;
    c. the line is the basic metric and shows the typical Shakespearean ease;
    d. and the intensifying couplet.

    2. The message of the poem is unitary, and does (doth) not distract, despite Mr. Southerland’s protestations to the contrary. Mr. Hollywood has labeled it appropriately a “reverentially wonderful poem and supplication”.

    3. Mr. Stone’s comments about the rhymes were perceptive indeed, especially at the couplet. Even the slightest little poetic elements reveal Mr. MacKenzie’s artistry, as in his internal line-to-line echoic rhyme “soul/consoles”. I did think Mr. Stone’s grammatical comments were slightly off the Mark. For each change he should state his reason.

    4. I find Shakespeare’s character Portia, in “Merchant of Venice” is a much more nuanced figure than Mr. MacKenzie suggests on this thread; and I would argue against Mr. Mackenzie’s assertion of the “empty” paganism of the ancient Greeks, as Homer frequently points out the importance of devotion to the gods, and even the seemingly most ungodly Euripides, and Socrates in Plato’s dialogues, evince moments of genuine godly devotion.

    5. All people, hence, all poets, differ in their points of view, and even in one life-time attitudes can alter, do. It’s not that what is true has changed, but only what one sees, which never is complete, but ‘s plagued by partialities. As human vision ‘s limited, it is incumbent on each individual to tolerate what they seem [sic] wrong. It is, therefore, important to agree to disagree for knowledge to accrue, for wisdom to gain realty. But this is not an easy task, since this outlook is skewed, as must be every view we have whenever it is viewed.

    Reply
  10. Joseph Charles MacKenzie

    Dear Mr. Bede,

    Full disclosure: I think I have long ago ceased to emulate Shakespeare—and this is not to contradict what you say—in a conscious manner. It is rather more a question for me of what I think fits his form best, but this is more of a habitus than a decision each time. My main concern, because I write for the voice, is always euphony.

    I recommend to one and all Joseph Pearce’s “Through Shakespeare’s Eyes” and “The Quest for Shakespeare.” These books have initiated the Catholic critique of our very Catholic Shakespeare.

    As for the pagans, Socrates himself found their piety empty, one of the reasons he was tried. I have a poem integrating the Euthephro on this very subject. It was a dialogue we all had to read in the Greek in college.

    St, Paul does say that the gods of the pagans are demons. And really, Dante’s Ulysses passage in the Inferno sets forth precisely what should be the attitude of a Christian to Homer. The whole Divine Comedy is a complete, radical transformation of what we mean by the word “epic,” a repudiation of Homer to say the very least.

    Gilgamesh and Beowulf are not poems, they are brutalities in verse. They have no more substance than the video game movies kids watch in the theatre these days—and there are academics in American Studies departments spilling (and wasting) ink on those too.

    Reply
    • Lew Icarus Bede

      1. I agree that Mr. MacKenzie is striving for euphony and his style uses Shakespearean techniques, but he does not catch the dramatic Shakespearean line. He admits to not striving for it.

      2. Shakespeare’s dramas show he was more focused on ancient Greek and Roman pagan figures than he was on Christian figures, partly out of political necessity, for in his time, as in ours, having certain ideas can be dangerous for one’s health.

      3. The still unanswered, central question in the “Euthyphro” is What is (το όσιον) piety, what is holy?

      4. The self-absorbed Dante misses Homer’s grander vision, and ironically, Vergil’s intense condensation. Still I agree, with T. S. Eliot, that Shakespeare and Dante reign supreme in the last 1000 years, each having talents the other lacks. On the other hand, I would point out that Dante has not transformed everyone’s idea of epic—”to say the very least” mine; and I admit to admiring Milton’s epical “Paradise Lost”, despite the disparaging remarks that occasionally come to these literary strands.

      5. “Beowulf” is no “Divine Comedy” but it is an epic poem; and I am thankful for the Christian scholar who transcribed the work, and John Cotton who bequeathed the lone surviving manuscript to the English nation. It is mildly noteworthy as to how many Postmodern English writers hearken back to its lines.

      Reply
      • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

        Dante’s vision encompasses Hell, Purgatory, Heaven, God, Christ, divine and human history, sin and redemption, Sacred Doctrine, and moral theology.

        And you say, and I quote: “Dante misses Homer’s grander vision.”

        Please excuse me and don’t take this personally, but it occurs to that anti-Catholic bigotry must be truly blinding. Shakespeare is really a Greek and Dante a narcissist.

        And somehow I am the one who needs constant correction.

        I think that just about says it all, doesn’t it.

  11. Joseph S. Salemi

    Charlie, you are a good friend but you are making a lot of mistaken assumptions here about MacKenzie and Catholicism in general.

    First off, as a non-Catholic you are likely unaware of the ferocious fight that is currently going on in our Church. The current usurping occupant of the See of St. Peter, the obnoxious, pro-homosexual, and deeply ignorant Jorge Bergoglio, is NOT the Pope. Not by a long shot. He is a flagrant heretic, a promoter of left-liberal lies, a Peronista fascist with a severe power-complex, ans a protector of perverts. He is no more a Catholic than the Dalai Lama.

    Second, there is a huge problem (the direct result of stupid decisions made after the Vatican 2 Council) with a vicious, careerist, and vile homosexual network within the Church hierarchy and its priesthood. Despite the heroic efforts of many traditionalist Catholics to publicize the problem and to root it out, the task is huge — like cleaning out the Augean stables. Child-molestation is only a sideshow; the vast majority of abuse cases involve ecclesiastical superiors sexually harassing young men and even seminarians. The mainstream media won’t admit this (all they talk about is “children”), since mainstream media outlets are politically forbidden to mention adult homosexual encounters in any context that is negative. Faggots are now a protected class in the United States.

    Third, MacKenzie has the right to pen and publish whatever kind of poetry he likes, and to defend it in whatever way he sees best. Why are you always picking a fight with him? It simply makes no sense — we are allies in a fight to destroy left-liberalism, whether we are Protestant or Catholic or whatever. Let’s keep our guns aimed at the scum, not our fellow soldiers.

    Reply
    • Charlie Southerland

      Dear Joe–

      I’ve been aware and up to date about the current socialist pope and his hand-picked cabal for some time. He is a disgusting aberration to the Catholic Church and its many fine members. Although I am not a Catholic, I sympathize with well-meaning and righteous Catholics. I have many good and close-held friendships with them, including you.

      Mr. Mckenzie certainly has a right to his opinion, but we differ on doctrine, obviously. He equates all who do not profess the Catholic way to be “Pagans”. That is also an opinion that he has a right to. However, I have a right to defend the Faith however I am guided by God according to the scripture. His rhetoric is inexcusable here, as mine also might be. There are many Protestants who read and write poetry as well. Mr. McKenzie sees this as an opportunity to, shall we say, stick it in our eye. I don’t appreciate it. In fact, I deplore it. So do others. After I had my say up the line here, I had no more to say. I made my point. I could care less if anyone agrees with it.

      Chances are, If we were to stand side by side, we would fight for each other, regardless of our doctrine, against the enemies of Christ, namely the Leftists, Socialists and all their associated ilk. Never mistake my aim, Joe. It is always true.

      Any declarations regarding my faith will not be accepted by a radical Catholic. If you think I am wrong, you are free to email mail me any time. I have already counted the cost of this.

      As always, your friend and brother in Christ,

      Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      The historical foundation of liberalism and its myriad offspring—socialism, communism, fascism, and secular atheism is the so-called Reformation. This is not a matter of opinion, but historical fact.

      The common hallmark of all these movements is the perversion of meaning in language. The reason marriage is constantly being redefined in our Puritan society is because Martin Luther opened that door in the 16th century, redefining marriage as an act of clerical hypocrisy as opposed to a divine sacrament. He even famously redefined the word “good” to mean “bad.”

      Hence, Chelsea Clinton, a Protestant of the same Lutheran-Calvinist mold, has redefined the murder of children in their mothers’ wombs as an “act of Christian charity.” Barack Obama “evolved” into the Protestant position he held all along, namely that homosexuality is not a sin, but a right.

      Indeed, the very term “Reformation” is an example of perverted meaning: Completely wiping out a thing is not the same as “reforming” it. And this same perversion of meaning is again reflected in Obama’s socialist phrase “transforming society,” when he actually means annihilating it.

      It is a paradox of the most grotesque kind that Puritan liberals, such as the one who just attacked me, do not embrace the homosexual sect of Vatican II which merely institutionalizes their own false doctrines.

      The very reason why the sect of Vatican II has a homosexual “clergy”—with invalid rites and ordinations—is because it is precisely mirrors the revolution begun by the Reformation.

      Another hallmark of Puritan liberalism is the labeling of anyone who disagrees with it as “radical.” Hence, mainstream Americans who elected Donald Trump are labeled as “far right,” “atl-right,” even “racist.”

      Let’s be men and let’s be real here. I have been vivaciously attacked on this and many other threads in this venue for one reason and one reason only: because I am a Catholic who refuses to be silenced.

      Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      Dear Dr. Salemi, Please see my reply to your wonderful comment below.

      Reply
    • Charlie Southerland

      Dear Dr. Salemi–

      Since July 29th, a year ago, I’ve commented exactly once, on Tommy Robinson’s incarceration, regarding J.C. M’s work. Once. It was a positive comment, of sorts. I have refrained from commenting on his work because I didn’t think it productive for the site to always be in a roil due to my comments. I don’t care for much of his work in any case because there is an air of falsehood, a smell that is rank to my hearing when I read him.

      Hopefully, I can refrain from commenting on someone’s work whom I loathe, no matter what he has to say. That is the best that I can do. Someday, what I’m saying will be borne out. Remember.

      Reply
  12. Bonnie S.

    Hello Mr. MacKenzie,

    My apologies for the late response, as I was doing my Sunday duties today. I just wanted to ask: Do you have a time frame for publishing the Sonnets for Heaven’s Queen, and how many poems do you plan to include in the sequence? By the way, you might be amused to know that I have shared the present sonnet with my priest, and his response was also “Wow”. There seems to be a trend going on here!

    Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      Dear Bonnie,

      Just an aside for your information. If you are in the Untied States and are wary of purchasing through Amazon, you might consider supporting good old fashioned brick-and-mortar retailers through our nation’s largest consortium of independent bookstores, IndieBound. In the following link, just put in your zip code for the nearest bookstore that carries Sonnets for Christ the King:
      https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781545623398

      If you are outside of the US, as far away as Australia or New Zealand (even Japan), then you will find plenty of online choices here:
      https://mackenziepoet.com/bookstore/

      All good wishes!

      Reply
      • Bonnie S.

        Thank you for this wonderful information. I have just made my purchase of the book and audio book and have sent the information along to my parish group!

  13. Joseph Charles MacKenzie

    Dear Bonnie,

    Thank you, again, for your kind and, indeed, amusing response. I must say that “wow” is certainly in the air these days, as you suggest.

    But no, it does not surprise me about your priest, as I can assure you that many priests and even a number of bishops, already have the companion audiobook of Sonnets for Christ the King loaded in their car CD players or in their iphones (the eaudiobook is also available on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, etc.). If this is something you wish to consider, I hope you will please take a little time to visit the MacKenzie Lyric Poetry site here: http://www.mackenziepoet.com.

    As for your question about the Sonnets for Heaven’s Queen, these will be the same in number as the seventy-seven Sonnets for Christ the King which was released last May. Dr. Joseph Salemi, in his review published in the last issue of Trinacria (New York), noted that this number is exactly half of Shakespeare’s sequence, thus affirming the influence of the Bard on my work. Others, including the British poet and critic James Sale have also discussed the numerology of the Sonnets.

    As for the time of completion, I can only say that Our Blessed Lady, whose intellect and will are both perfectly united to God’s, will have the answer which I am unable to give.

    Thank you so very much for your most welcome expression of interest the Lady Sonnets!

    Reply

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