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Thursday, September 14, 2006
What's this about

For several years I have liked appreciated the poet Mary Karr. Her latest collection, "Sinners Welcome" which is both fun and deep, has rekindled my interest in one of her poems I read a few years back in The Atlantic Monthly Magazine. It's called "Who the Meek are Not." I will print it below and request you comment about whether you think she has it right or not. At first i thought she did-- now i wonder.


Not the bristle-bearded Igors bent
under burlap sacks, not peasants knee-deep
in the rice paddy muck,
nor the serfs whose quarter-moon sickles
make the wheat fall in waves
they don’t get to eat. My friend the Franciscan
nun says we misread
that word meek in the Bible verse that blesses them.
To understand the meek
(she says) picture a great stallion at full gallop
in a meadow, who —
at his master’s voice — seizes up to a stunned
but instant halt.
So with the strain of holding that great power
in check, the muscles
along the arched neck keep eddying,
and only the velvet ears
prick forward, awaiting the next order.

What do you think?
posted by John David Walt | at 9/14/2006 09:47:00 AM



Blogger Timothy Putnam said...

This is absolutely correct. In old English they would say a horse was "meeked" (instead of broken). I have always heard the definition of meek as "Controlled Strength."

10:46 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If what has "broken" you isn't a defining factor, then the bristle-bearded igors, the peasants and the serfs are meek just as the great "broken" stallion is meek. I would be more inclined to question the "meekness" of the nun. But, then, I'm your mom!!!

11:26 AM EDT  
Anonymous JP said...

I've always seen and thought of meekness as power/authority under control. Jesus had ultimate power and authority but it was under control = meekness.

11:50 AM EDT  
Blogger JohnDeere said...

mom! on my blog! commenting! wow! jd

ok-- my thoughts-- it is quite easy for us americans to eschew what may be a biblical definition of meek-- because lets face it-- it's just not us. peasants and serfs and such. sure they are among us-- but not too many of us who blog qualify. when you read the gospels, jesus is clearly talking about a tremendous catastrophic reversal--- take a look at Mary's Magnificat-- about the poor being lifted up and the rich being brought low. Luke's Gospel is particularly keen on this idea of widows and children and lepers having their very conditions reversed by God's Kingdom. So how can we say it's not the peasants and serfs. . . . . but really us-- the strong-- who have learned to not be about our strength? it was these understandings that drew me to the poem and yet i question that understanding now. see what i am talking about. . . . . . .

i suppose meekness can be both a condition and a disposition.

5:18 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The image that this poem gives me is closed in on the horse's eyes and nostrils. In his eyes one can see the waiting. It is enough to make me wonder if the horse's power only makes his waiting stronger. He knows that the person he is waiting on is good for him, and the decision he makes will be the right for their purpose.

7:46 PM EDT  
Blogger eli said...

rather than just power harnessed (since this only allows those with inherent power to be meek), i would say it also includes power recognized and not coveted. i think the meek can see and trust in the mighty power of god despite the powerful on this earth trying to usurp it; and their response is not a desire to posess either power, but to wait on the bestowing at the father's willing.

that said, i think the writer is not after a full and ultimate definition of meekness, but a corrective to those who identify meek with weak or meek with powerless. those are my 8 cents worth.

3:43 PM EDT  

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