Art in the press

On reading a modern poem about Gibran and Lebanon by K.J. Mortimer

Advanced in years, I am a man

once bred on verse whose lines all scan.
I rhyme in lines of iambic feet
that fall into a rhythm neat;
and so it is my heart still beats
to Macaulay and to Keats.
Chesterton and Thomas Gray
in my classroom hours held sway;
and on the shelves that filled my home
I found the Lays of Ancient Rome.
I heard the beat of trireme oars
whose white wings dipped near Cretan shores.
Fleet dryads ran through sunlit vales
and danced entranced to panpipe scales;
and nyads rose up bronzed and gleaming
from river water down them streaming.
So to this classic shore I came
to hear the tunes of ancient fame.
But concrete blights Phoenicia’s strand,
two sooty factory chimneys stand;
Gibran would find if now he spoke
he’d soon be coughing from the smoke.

1998 The New Campus, Honouring the promoters of NDU

Look on this mountain by the shore,
shaken by the tractor’s roar.
Gone the dragon from our coast,
gone the mythic hero’s boast.
New monsters crawl with iron tread
and move the earth in giant spread.
Long arms of steel from wheeling tower
vie with Hercules in power.
That king of Tyre would stand amazed
to see the burdens that they raised.
They labour hard for NDU
and build for it a campus new.
A bishop’s vision crowns the height
with spacious halls of gleaming white.
Two presidents have shared his zeal
till now this year has set its seal.

Another building nearby tells
of monks at prayer in their cells;
with fire from heaven they ignite
the torch of learning to burn bright,
where holy truth from heaven came
to make it gleam with purer flame.
Now students strive with honest toil,
burning late the midnight oil;
But not alone for sordid gain,
for they must have a higher aim:
refinement of the heart and mine
with culture of a nobler kind,
as taught by ancient Rome and Greece
and Chinese scholars from the East.

But mandarin and Stoic stern
for themselves alone did learn;
to keep their learning pure and fine
they cast not pearls before the swine.
But for himself no man should live,
each scholar has a store to give;
He has to learn to take the cross
and not fear mere earthly loss,
that all may see in him reflected
God’s love for man and be affected.
So let example loudly speak
to those who higher wisdom seek.
Thus when we watch that hilltop scene
with all its busy workers keen,
to NDU we give ovation,
remembering its true vocation.

K.J. Mortimer
Poems published in NDU Spirit
Review of Notre Dame University, Lebanon