The White Cockade
Publisher: Tumblar House
Publication Date: October 1, 2009
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There are many wonderful books in the world that address and teach how a good Catholic should think. However, it is important that a person not only think like a Catholic, but feel like a Catholic. Mr. Coulombe's poems convey the feelings that millennial Catholics regularly have: feelings of angst regarding the future, but also that of hope; feelings of righteousness and feelings of awe over the majesty and wonders of Catholic tradition. The White Cockade is filled with bite-sized poems that will inspire you and touch you on an emotional level.
Poetry is a young man’s game. That is not to say that older people (and women) can’t write fine poetry. They can and do. But there is something about a man’s youth --- his late teens and early twenties that lends itself to poetry. As my friend Richard Cowden-Guido puts it, “It is easy to be interesting when you are young; you’ll spend the rest of your life struggling against being a bore!” It is obvious that most of us are not equal to the struggle. Dr. Johnson preferred the sins of youth to those of age, because they are not coupled with sanctimony.
It is not merely that one is physically stronger or more attractive in one’s youth than he will likely become; it is that everything is new --- romance, politics, even war. The blush is not yet off the apple. Ideas are important, as are art, conversation, wine and moonlight. Who has not had an all-night bull session in college, at the end of which the world’s problems are solved? When you are young you believe that, given the right chance, you can conquer the world!
And what a world it is --- filled with joy and horror, with wrongs to be righted and avenged, with glorious causes to be fought for! “To be young was very Heaven!” Shelley said of the age of Revolution in the 18th century, and so, in some aspects, it always is for the young. Their ardor and passion can lead them on the High Crusade --- or into the Red Guards.
But the flip side is one of fear and doubt. What is my place in the world? Will I ever find it? Will I grow old without success? Will my life be a waste? Does she really love me? Is she the one? Will I ever find love? --- and on and on. Middle Age may be duller and less fiery, but generally, for good or ill, those questions have been answered.
So it is that the poems in The White Cockade were all written in my youth; some when I was a cadet at New Mexico Military Institute, others when I was struggling as a comic in Hollywood, still others when I was a novice writer looking for my voice. In earlier days, the great shadow was the Mordor-like Soviet Union; in the later poems, the joy and anticipation launched by the fall of that “Evil Empire” was uppermost, and for very different reasons I felt like Shelley.
All of that has changed, since, and both of the political sources of fear and elation have passed away, taking my youth with them. This writer has generated oceans of print since he penned the lines you are about to read, and his contents and discontents are those of Middle Age. Yet, when reading the afterword, he finds his views in art, religion, and politics have not changed. As the Russian song says, “oh my friend, we’re older, but no wiser, for in our hearts our dreams are still the same.”
Indeed they are. I’ve not written poetry in two decades, but the impulses that inspired these remain, and I still enjoy reading these. More importantly, many of those who were infants when these words written are young men now, and quite a few profess to have been inspired by them. A higher compliment cannot be paid to a poet. Every book of poetry is an adventure shared by the reader and the writer; and so we begin. But I will send you off a bit from one of my favorite anonymous ballads “Tom O’ Bedlam’s Song,” that epitomizes to me the quest that all of us who live must undertake:
With a host of furious fancies
Whereof I am commander,
With a burning spear and a horse of air,
To the wilderness I wander.
By a knight of ghostes and shadowes
I summon'd am to tourney
Ten leagues beyond the wild world's end.
Methinks it is no journey.
Charles A. Coulombe
24 September 2009
Our Lady of Ransom
Charles A. Coulombe is one of North America’s most respected and sought-after commentators on culture, religion, history, and politics. A specialist in the history and government of the Catholic Church, Coulombe’s influence and expertise extend far beyond matters religious. He has written on topics ranging from the history of rum to haunted houses to a history of the United States.
Mr. Coulombe is a social and political commentator of note. In 2005 he provided narration and commentary for ABC News during the funeral of Pope John Paul II and the subsequent election and installation of Pope Benedict XVI. A former journalist, Mr. Coulombe served as a film reviewer and Contributing Editor of the National Catholic Register, during which time he received the Christian Law Institute's Christ King Journalism Award. Coulombe's work has appeared in over than 20 journals, including regular columns in Fidelity (Australia), PRAG (London), Monarchy Canada, and Creole Magazine (Louisiana). He has also been a frequent contributor to such publications as Success, Catholic Twin Circle, Gnosis, FATE, and the New Oxford Review.
As an informed and passionate speaker on a wide variety of religious, social, political, historical, and literary topics, Mr. Coulombe has appeared on lecture circuits throughout the North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. In 1992 he lectured at Oxford University and the following year embarked on a lecture tour of Ireland and Great Britain, returning to Oxford and Cambridge in 1995. Coulombe has also delivered lectures at the University of Southern California on the history of Rock & Roll and at Cleveland's John Carroll University on the history of medieval monarchy. In February 2011, he was invited to take part in a debate on the abolition of the monarchy before the prestigious Oxford Union.
Ever since I was a little girl, I reveled in bygone days of knights and glorious deeds. This poetic volume therefore is, in many ways, a "kindred spirit". Beautifully nostalgic, it evokes the romanticism of a chivalric past, yet does not merely skirt the surface; both the imagination and the mind are stirred as the reader finds himself drawn to both the dreamy imagery and the moral fiber that they represent. As a young person in today's world, I have chosen a counter-cultural path that seeks Truth and Beauty apart from the artificial lights of modern society. The words expressed by Charles A. Coulombe are a refreshing departure from what we have been erroneously told to embrace. Much like the ideas that they espouse, the writing style is reminiscent of the "chivalric age" and, as such, allows the reader to more easily and fully immerse himself in that world which it represents. While I always love finding relatable content in a book, I also appreciated many elements of the poems that are not a part of my personal narrative, but remain, nonetheless, fully human. Mr. Coulombe, even at the age at which this book was written, led a fascinating life with background in the military, politics, and as a stand-up comedian (outlined in the biographical account at the end). As often happens when immersed in a story different from my own, I became, much to my delight, more connected to that world by way of the imagination. The story of his comrades at the academy, with whom he used to dine, for example, remained poignant despite the lack of commonality in the specifics due to its thematic scope. Likewise, although I am not a monarchist, I was fascinated by that viewpoint; after all, I love its historical significance and the previously-described chivalric value. All in all, a fascinating and enjoyable read that may inspire you to both think and dream!
...but this little book packed a whole lot of punch. Silver Rose's review below "may inspire you to both think and dream" explains much better than what I could. I do recommend this book to anyone who wants to think differently about the times we live in; as Silver Rose wrote below: "it evokes the romanticism of a chivalric past".
Do enjoy. You'll find yourself going back to read it over again.
I especially was hooked by "In the New Alexandria" and "For the White Rose".
In my few years of reading, I have not encountered a more profound collection of poems than those contained in “The White Cockade.” The poems within this book captivated my imagination and fulfilled the adventurous desires of my youth. They delved into the depths of my soul and gave me hope for a future culture greater than the one I received. I am sincerely grateful for the work that Mr. Coulombe has produced and most especially for the signature of such a magnanimous character as himself! God bless!
This collection of poems speaks especially to young "traditional Catholics" (how redundant that phrase should be!), and even more especially to men of that type. My favorites were "The March-Warden's Song", "Stabat Mater Dolorosa", and "Absalom" -- these three capture well the author's angst and lament. And his "Prayer of the Publican" gets an honorable mention, for being delightfully snarky. (The author is a master of the riposte.) The back's biographical section will also be of interest to fans. Coulombe is a man ill-matched for our age, and that this book proves. I could hear the frustrated cry of a younger Coulombe from "The Phantom Wood": "But where is my suit of imitation suede? Why am I dressed in old brocade?"
"The White Cockade" by Charles Coulombe is, in this reviewer's humble opinion, one of the finest works of modern Catholic poetry on the market. The book may be small, but like other readers have said, don't be fooled by its size! Within these pages you will find the eternal sentiments of faith and romance, hope in defeat, and a longing for the Kingdom Without End (Luke 1, 33) all couched in fine verse and metre. Our world to-day is built on the ephemeral and deceptive philosophy of Materialism; Coulombe here offers a counter-cultural and counter-revolutionary creed to those adventurous souls looking to set out upon the "straight and narrow way" (Matthew 7, 14) in search of the Good, the Beautiful, and the True. For example, take this passage from "The March-Warden's Song:" "Yet I still believe in the King and his might, / One day he shall come to save us from night. / This land yet is his till he comes back again, / For him will I hold it, and battle his bane."
A must-read (especially Stabat Mater Dolorosa)