The Flowering Tree
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By Caryll Houselander
“To write just for the sheer joy of poetry, words, etc.”—such did Caryll Houselander once describe her motivation to set pen to paper and write something fresh, vibrant, and true. Of all these writings, perhaps none expresses that sheer joy more emphatically than The Flowering Tree and its twenty-eight “Rhythms.” These Rhythms, Houselander explains, “are not intended to be poems in a new form but simply thoughts, falling naturally into the beat of the Rhythm which is all round us and which becomes both audible and visible in the seasons of the year, the procession of day and night and the liturgical cycle.” From the pithiness of “Mediocracy” and “Joseph” to the expansiveness of “Afternoon in Westminster Cathedral” and “The Adoration of the Cross,” they take as their recurring theme the flowering of Jesus Christ in mankind.
Rhythm somehow pats to sleep all the trouble and fret of life and rocks us in the arms of God. (Caryll Houselander)
A harmony of lyric beauty, tenderness, and common sense, The Flowering Tree is a remedy to the noise and distractions of life and means to prayer and peace. Each Rhythm, in its own right, has a claim to what Dorothy L. Sayers said of “Philip Speaks”—the inspired meditation on Christ’s miracle of the loaves and fishes: “I shall treasure it all my life.”
Caryll Houselander (1901–1954) was an English Roman Catholic artist and author. A convert at age six, Houselander left the Church as a teenager, returning as a young adult and becoming a fixture in twentieth-century Catholicism. In addition to her artistic and literary endeavors, she dedicated her relatively brief life to caring for the material and spiritual needs of the poor and desolate. Her works include The Dry Wood, Guilt, and The Reed of God.
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