Μεγαλύνει ἡ ψυχή μου τὸν Κύριον

Luke 1–5: A Sestina
“Vlorbik”, 1997

Zechariah was a godly man;
Elizabeth, his wife, a worthy woman.
Gabriel, a messenger from God,
told them that she soon would bear a child,
and John, their son, would grow to baptize Jesus.
But Zechariah didn’t have much faith.

Then Gabriel told Mary full of faith
that even though she’d never known a man
she’d bear the Son of God, the baby Jesus:
“The Lord is with thee, oh most blessèd woman!”
And when, in Bethlehem, she’d borne this child
the hosts of Heaven sang in praise of God.

As Jesus grew up, wise and favored of God,
at twelve years old he went to teach the faith
to teachers in the Temple, though a child.
The Devil, when he’d grown to be a man,
tried tempting him, like any man or woman,
but found he had no power over Jesus.

In Nazareth, the people said that Jesus
could never be the chosen one of God.
But Jesus said, “Elijah met a woman,
who wasn’t Jewish, yet she had such faith
that God had chosen her to meet this man,
Elijah, who would resurrect her child.

You Nazarenes, who knew me as a child,
will not believe that I, your neighbor, Jesus,
might be more than an ordinary man.
And yet, I say to you, almighty God
would have you as his bride if you had faith,
but as it is, you’re like a fallen woman.”

In Capernaum, Jesus healed a woman
and Simon Peter, husband of her child,
decided he’d become a man of faith,
and fish for men with John and James and Jesus.
Then Jesus showed them by the grace of God
that sins can be forgiven by a man.

Envoi
“Everyone with faith,” said Our Lord Jesus,
“Is like a child of our Father, God,
and full of love for every woman and man.”

i was at an all-time peak of productivity
in verse-and-fiction at around this time
(and most of the best stuff went into the
ten page news
). somewhere in there i
figured i’d try a sestina.

here’s a great trick i stole from the masters:
steal from the masters. “my soul doth magnify
the lord” has been popular for centuries; you
can hardly go *wrong* with material like that.
another trick: pick easy end-words related to
the “theme”. two triples? (man-woman-child and
god-jesus-faith.) so much the better.

i remark now… as i could not have done then…
that the permutation-pattern found in sestinas
is vaguely reminiscent of my “Mister-Big-Pie-O”
construction permuting colors-of-the-rainbow
in such a way as to reveal an interesting
interplay of “algebra” and “geometry”
(so called… it’s only marks on paper,
folks).

anyway, once you’ve got an already-well-
-loved story to tell, mashing it up into
a simply-defined form using common-in-
-context vocabulary is simply a matter
of trying stuff out until something fits
(and doesn’t offend the ear too *damn*
badly). then keep going over and over
it until improvements stop suggesting
themselves. the whole thing took maybe
part of an afternoon; whoever keeps
spreading around this rumour that
sestinas are hard probably has
limericks or haiku in mind by way
of contrast.

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