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Thomas Merton & Andre Racz

Aubade-Harlem

by Thomas Merton

for Baroness G. de Hueck

Across the cages of the keyless aviaries,
The lines and wires, the gallows of the broken kites,  
Crucify, against the fearful light,
The ragged dresses of the little children.
Soon, in the sterile jungles of the waterpipes and ladders,  
The bleeding sun, a bird of prey, will terrify the poor,  
These will forget the unbelievable moon.

But in the cells of whiter buildings,
Where the glass dawn is brighter than the knives of surgeons,  
Paler than alcohol or ether, shinier than money,
The white men’s wives, like Pilate’s,
Cry in the peril of their frozen dreams:

“Daylight has driven iron spikes,
Into the flesh of Jesus’ hands and feet:
Four flowers of blood have nailed Him to the walls of Harlem.”

Along the white halls of the clinics and the hospitals  
Pilate evaporates with a cry:
They have cut down two hundred Judases,
Hanged by the neck in the opera houses and the museum.

Across the cages of the keyless aviaries,
The lines and wires, the gallows of the broken kites, 
Crucify, against the fearful light,
The ragged dresses of the little children.

*****

Thomas Merton: Aubade-Harlem from The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton. Copyright 1948 by New Directions Publishing Corporation, copyright © 1977 by The Trustees of the Merton Legacy Trust. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. Source: The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1977)

Andre Racz: Aubade-Harlem, 1960, etching and aquatint, Sheet: 50.5 × 42.9 cm, plate: 35.6 × 30.5 cm. included in 21 Etchings and Poems, 1960, a portfolio of 21 intaglio prints of poems by various poets, written in their own hand and illustrated by various artists. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Thomas Merton, O.C.S.O. (1915 – 1968) was an American Catholic writer and mystic. A Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky, he was a poet, social activist, and student of comparative religion. In 1949, he was ordained to the priesthood and given the name Father Louis. Merton wrote more than 70 books, mostly on spirituality, social justice and a quiet pacifism, as well as scores of essays and reviews. Merton’s poem associated Jesus' Crucifixion with the life of the children of Harlem, martyred by the exploitation of the white professional class of the other, shiny city. The word “Aubade” is French, meaning music to celebrate the dawn. Baroness C. de Hueck was a Russian emigree who had established a settlement house in Harlem for black Americans. In 1941, Thomas Merton converted to Roman Catholicism and was in Harlem staying in the Friendship House run by Baroness Catherine de Heuck. Before he left in August, he wrote this Good Friday poem. The children's prayers of a better life, like kites floating upward, have been crucified on the ghetto's "lines and wires."

Andre Racz (1916-1994) came to America in 1939 as a member of the Rumanian Art Commission in connection with the World's Fair. He was born in Cluj, Rumania in 1916 and studied at the University of Bucharest. He taught at Columbia University in New York from 1951 to 1983, when he retired as a professor of painting and sculpture. One of the best known of younger print makers, the Museum of Modern Art in New York has purchased over two dozen of his prints in recent years. His paintings, drawings and prints have been shown in fifteen one-man exhibitions in Europe, South America and in the United States since 1942. He has published a number of portfolios of prints such as "Via Crucis" in 1948 and "Mother and Child" in 1949.


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