The Attendant Circumstances by Robert Farrell


So spoke the Son. The paraclete
was author of his own conception,
and with his own hand
fashioned human attire
for the one who descended in secret
into a virgin’s womb
through closed gates; and went forth
from that virgin’s womb, again
through closed gates.
A marvelous thing every way:
the whole progress of his life.
In him the enemy found
nothing to claim as his own.
Yet he attacked
a being not his; condemning him;
by him, he condemned him
to the death
of the cross.


Now, the method of procedure
is this: first, bring together in your mind
all the grammatical forms; next,
choose the most effective one – that case through which
meaning enters the ear
most delightfully.
A discerning judge
must be at work here; he must see
with discernment.
To be discerning, you need
both theory and practice. Precept
may be clarified here
by example;
take the following brief theme:
I  a m  g r i e v i n g  over this matter.
Now apply the principle just established:
From this fountain g r i e f  flows over me. Hence
the root (or the seed, or the fount, or the source)
o f  g r i e f rises within me. This affair
is matter and cause f o r  g r i e f. It sows
(or gives birth to, or piles up) g r i e f.
With cruel wounds, tormenting
g r i e f, you rage against me. My mind,
as it were, lies prostrate, injured and ill
wi t h  g r i e f.

Source text: “Part IV: Ornaments of Style” of the Poetria Nova of Geoffrey of Vinsauf translated by Margaret F. Nims (Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies: 1967)

Robert Farrell lives and works. He was born and educated. His poems have appeared. More about him can be found.