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John Villiers Farrow (1904-1963)


Seven Poems in Pattern is a slim volume by John Farrow published in 1955 by the Rampant Lions Press. I got a very good price on it from a book dealer in Bloomington, Illinois; who knew there were book dealers in Bloomington, Illinois.

It arrived this morning and I immediately sat down to enjoy both the book and its contents. Will Carter founded the press in 1936 and it still issues occasional titles, though managed now by the founder’s son Sebastian. This is the second Rampant Lions title that I’ve acquired.

One of the poems struck particularly close to home—”Mass at Westminster”—because I have indeed attended Mass there, on one particular occasion with Carol Hatlen (an ordained Lutheran pastor) and her husband Vince. Carol went to the rail for Communion, though I believe only received the Laying on of Hands since Martin Luther is still pretty much an outsider in the Romish church, despite the recent lifting of his excommunication. I just sent Carol a copy of the poem and thought you might also enjoy it:


Like distant bells in constant echoing,

A sweetness of young voices drifts through the altar-guarded shaddows

Into which tall windows pour their tinted beauty

To be lost again in shadow.

Deep the shadows are, and many

Yet no darkness taints That against which

The priest moves in dark splendor.

Golden radiance is his, gloriously beyond all earth-born themes,

For in these precincts moral whims are shed,

And that which differs men from things

Glows warmly.

The warning tinkles

The Moment approaches;

People are hushed,

The murmur is heard.

Upon the calm air thuribles have left their fleeting trace

And sweet mist intermingled with words floats high—

High, and to Him who is already there.

Three things about the poem and its author: 1) John Villiers Farrow had seven children, among whom there is one Mia; 2) Farrow’s son John Charles, one of Mia’s three brothers, has recently been imprisoned for child abuse for a period of ten years; and, finally 3) I am haunted by a line from the poem itself which I shall have to ponder at greater length.

“And that which differs men from things…”

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