The Attendant Circumstances by Robert Farrell

Issue 3


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.