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We’re measured by measures we take

Three poems by John Lyon

John Lyon, former chairman of the liberal studies program at Notre Dame
John Lyon, former chairman of the liberal studies program at Notre Dame

The Measure of Man

  • The word and the world and the weather
  • Are measured by meters we make.
  • What’s given is given; however
  • We receive only what we can take.
  • So we take what we can while it’s given,
  • Lest, whatever its nature may be,
  • Its appearance be changed, and we driven
  • To re-measure the things we can’t see.
  • For the Thing-in-itself is poetic,
  • It’s a function of fiction we make;
  • While all that we know that’s noetic
  • Is: we’re measured by measures we take.

Odysseus Came Home

  • Odysseus came home, the legends say,
  • In Spring, to Ithaka. Penelope
  • For twenty years a widow in that May
  • Of him who fell from favor with the sea,
  • Wove fully in the day the cloth of life
  • And nightly pulled apart her work, still
  • Dreaming what it meant to be his wife,
  • But he had farther yet to wander, till
  • Some inland peasant took his oar for flail
  • And she, more nights in fruitless sleep, unraveling
  • The fabric of their interwoven tale
  • Distended by misfortune, absence, travelling.
  • So we: The seas of life, disfavoring long conjunction,
  • Dissolve the tightest bonds with small compunction.

Ontological Argument

  • Old Anselm — at whose feet impatient Abelard
  • Refused to sit — mumbling matins
  • In monastic cells of fox-damp Norman ashlar —
  • Knew much; more perhaps
  • Than Master Peter himself among
  • The specula of Paris
  • Could refine from sunny dialectic.
  • For he knew delight is not
  • That which we look for;
  • Delight is that
  • Which we look by.

John Lyon is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame (B.A., 1954; M.A., 1955; Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 1966). He has held administrative positions at several schools, including chairman of the liberal studies program of Notre Dame; director of the humanities division in the Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics, and the Humanities at Ball State University; dean at Kentucky State University; director of education programs at Hillsdale College; and educational advisor at St. Mary’s University (Minnesota). He was also a member of the history department at Duquesne University and the department of language and literature at Lakeland College. More recently, he taught literature and history at Providence Academy Prep School in La Crosse, Wisconsin. He has also farmed (raising berries, flowers, vegetables, and apples) and operated a stall at the farmers’ market in Bayfield County, Wisconsin. 

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John Lyon, former chairman of the liberal studies program at Notre Dame
John Lyon, former chairman of the liberal studies program at Notre Dame

The Measure of Man

  • The word and the world and the weather
  • Are measured by meters we make.
  • What’s given is given; however
  • We receive only what we can take.
  • So we take what we can while it’s given,
  • Lest, whatever its nature may be,
  • Its appearance be changed, and we driven
  • To re-measure the things we can’t see.
  • For the Thing-in-itself is poetic,
  • It’s a function of fiction we make;
  • While all that we know that’s noetic
  • Is: we’re measured by measures we take.

Odysseus Came Home

  • Odysseus came home, the legends say,
  • In Spring, to Ithaka. Penelope
  • For twenty years a widow in that May
  • Of him who fell from favor with the sea,
  • Wove fully in the day the cloth of life
  • And nightly pulled apart her work, still
  • Dreaming what it meant to be his wife,
  • But he had farther yet to wander, till
  • Some inland peasant took his oar for flail
  • And she, more nights in fruitless sleep, unraveling
  • The fabric of their interwoven tale
  • Distended by misfortune, absence, travelling.
  • So we: The seas of life, disfavoring long conjunction,
  • Dissolve the tightest bonds with small compunction.

Ontological Argument

  • Old Anselm — at whose feet impatient Abelard
  • Refused to sit — mumbling matins
  • In monastic cells of fox-damp Norman ashlar —
  • Knew much; more perhaps
  • Than Master Peter himself among
  • The specula of Paris
  • Could refine from sunny dialectic.
  • For he knew delight is not
  • That which we look for;
  • Delight is that
  • Which we look by.

John Lyon is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame (B.A., 1954; M.A., 1955; Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 1966). He has held administrative positions at several schools, including chairman of the liberal studies program of Notre Dame; director of the humanities division in the Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics, and the Humanities at Ball State University; dean at Kentucky State University; director of education programs at Hillsdale College; and educational advisor at St. Mary’s University (Minnesota). He was also a member of the history department at Duquesne University and the department of language and literature at Lakeland College. More recently, he taught literature and history at Providence Academy Prep School in La Crosse, Wisconsin. He has also farmed (raising berries, flowers, vegetables, and apples) and operated a stall at the farmers’ market in Bayfield County, Wisconsin. 

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