XCVIII

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

You’ve probably figured out by now that theology and literature are pretty inseparable disciplines for me, two areas of study that I feel compelled to pursue together, however well I may be able to integrate them.  After all, for Evangelicals theology is based on the exposition of a text—the Bible.  Theology is the Queen of the Sciences and Philology is her Handmaid.

The interesting thing about this poem is that it was inspired, not by Calvin, but by Chaucer, who wrestles with the question of predestination and free will in a number of his poems, “The Knight’s Tale,” “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale,” and “Troilus and Cressida” among them.  Of course, having read Calvin and a few other people didn’t hurt.

Geoffrey Chaucer on the Road to Canterbury

On Election and Free Will

 

All night long we’d sat up and debated

If Man is free, or if his will is fated

To choose as it has been predestinated.

Or, if Man is responsible and free

By God’s immutable and fixed decree,

Yet God rules all by strict necessity,

How can necessity and freedom mix?

The whole thing left my mind in such a fix

That I went walking, trying to explain

It all, and so got caught out in the rain.

 

John Calvin, Predestined to Write the Institutes

John Calvin, Predestined to Write the Institutes

The first drops turned to steam upon the road,

But then they all came thick and fast, and flowed

Together.  It was possible to tell

The precise moment they no longer fell

Directly on the pavement with a hiss

But joined to form a watery abyss

That rushed to pile itself up in a heap

Along the curbs, and soon was ankle deep.

 

Geoffrey Chaucer, Poet of Predestination

Geoffrey Chaucer, Poet of Predestination

And all that water had to go downhill

Until it found some river it could fill

Which, in its turn, would have to find the sea.

They did not ask advice from you or me

Or stop to talk abstruse theology,

But just went on about their business, free

To be what their own natures bade them be.

 

Chaucer tries to capture both sides of the mystery, as I have essayed here.  Read those tales and see how well you think he does.  As for Calvin, he is really not so much about determinism as grace; and if he has to emphasize one side of the mystery of predestination and free will to preserve sola gratia, so be it, as far as he is concerned.  And I say amen to that.

John Calvin

John Calvin, Theologian of Grace

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to http://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

 

A book that fights back against the encroaching darkness.

A book that fights back against the encroaching darkness.

Donald T. Williams, PhD

XCVII

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

 

I wonder if I was getting any work done on my dissertation at the University of Georgia in the early 1980’s while teaching my classes and writing my poems?  Let’s see what the evidence says:

LibraryDesk

Limerick # 3

 

There was once a great student of lore

Who would sit still and study for more

Than a day at a grind.

He went out of his mind

And collapsed on the library floor.

 

Limerick # 4

 

While writing a long dissertation,

A man made a sound observation:

“Once I have the degree,

All this rubbish, with glee,

I will burn in a great conflagration.”

 

In fact, I did not follow through on this incendiary threat, as you can see by going to the UGA library and looking up the dissertation (or ordering it from Dissertation Abstracts International—now there’s an idea!).  Donald T. Williams, The Depth of Rightful Doom: The Influence of the English Reformers on Book V of Spenser’s Faerie Queene, Diss. Georgia 1985.

InklingsofReality5c

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to http://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

Donald T. Williams, PhD

 

XCVI

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

 

Whenever I’m back in Athens, Georgia, I always come up this hill (North from campus before heading right and downhill over the Oconee River to pick up North Avenue to Hwy. 106 N, heading out of town toward Toccoa) to see if the vision is there.  But you have to live there and do it every day to have much of a chance of catching it.  I’m glad that once I did.

 

No, these are Rocky Mountains, not Appalachian--but I like them anyway.

No, these are Rocky Mountains, not Appalachian–but I like them anyway.

Sonnet XXXI

On What may be Seen while Looking

North from a Ridge-Top in Athens, Georgia

 

Looking up (as I have often done),

You see three ridges marching North from here,

Unless the mist should melt them into one.

But on rare days—say, eight or ten a year—

When some storm’s maybe blown the air as clea

As it can ever get, the sun goes down

And in its rays obliquely seems to peer

Across the ridges’ backs, as if it found

Some vision there worth staring at.  The town

Grows silent as the day draws to its close,

And one lone walker looks up from the ground

And stops dead still and stares—and stares—and knows

The sun’s sight:  Empty air before his eye

Splits open, and the mountains fill the sky!

092

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to http://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

Donald T. Williams, PhD

THANKSGIVING

turkey1

With Christmas Carols and Christmas decorations taking over the stores when Halloween is barely past, and Black Friday looming right after it, Thanksgiving is a holiday that has a hard time maintaining its position in American life.  And what that position is can be hard to determine, beyond an excuse to consume obscene amounts of Turkey and doze through a football game under the influence of all the Tryptophan flooding one’s system.  I will probably consume a little more Turkey than is ideal for my diet and  watch some football myself.  But I hope I don’t forget what the Pilgrims were thankful for: not prosperity but survival, and a survival which meant a chance to have a new life in which they could worship God according to Scripture as they understood it, without interference from prying magistrate or prelate.  I hope I don’t forget that they thought such freedom something worth risking their survival over.  And I hope I will not be the only one pondering the question whether they might have been right about that after all.

Pilgrims2

Thanksgiving is a time to remember our Forefathers and what they struggled for.  It is also a time to ponder the virtues of thankfulness in itself.  I remember once at a picnic a rather gaudy, elaborately articulated, and heraldically colored bug flew by and landed on one of us.  We spent a few minutes oohing and ahing over its surreal beauty, and then my friend David Stott Gordon made a profound observation on the moment.  “It must be rather depressing to be an atheist,” he mused, “because they don’t have anyone to thank.”

turkey2

We are made to give thanks and praise for the thousand little wonders that the world constantly showers upon us.  Think about that football game: When a receiver makes a particularly acrobatic, even balletic catch as the consummation of the incredible timing between him and the quarterback, combining power and grace in the way that only American football allows for, some response is required of us.  We don’t just raise a Spockian eybrow; we pump our fist and shout if it was for our side, and exclaim that it was a great play even if it wasn’t.  The enjoyment of the moment is not complete without the expression of praise.  And if all such wonders are merely chance occurrences due only to the random motion of atoms and ultimately mean nothing–if indeed there is no One to thank–then our enjoyment of the world must of necessity be truncated and incomplete at best.  The holiday can serve as a reminder of the virtue of receptiveness to the blessings with which life showers us, as blessings–as gifts from the hand of God.  The thing we should be thankful for most of all is the fact that as Christians, as people who know the Creator as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have some One to thank.

Pilgrims1

Thanks be to God.

For more of Dr. Williams’ writing, go to the Lantern Hollow estore and order his books, Stars Through the Clouds, Reflections from Plato’s Cave, and Inklings of Reality.

http://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.

XCV

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

John Skelton was an early Sixteenth-Century English poet whose lines are, in some people’s eyes, so bad that they’re good.  He gave his name to the form: iambic dimeter rhyming AAAAA etc. as long as you can keep it up, then switching to B for as long as that will go, etc.  Skeltonics aren’t the right form for many things, but they work well for some kinds of light verse, and also seem strangely appropriate for any phenomenon that just keeps coming back like a Skeltonic rhyme, er, bad penny.

John Skelton

John Skelton

A Skeltonic Upon Sanctification

 

When in did ride

My foolish pride,

I vainly tried

To run and hide;

But God espied

It, mortified

It, so it died,

Until again

It rose.  So men

Do ever sin.

But God, to win

Them to come in

And save their skin

From burning Hell

Doth in them dwell

And sweetly tell

How from the well

Of Jesus’ blood

A crimson flood

Did drown the Tree

At Calvary

To purchase me

That I might be

Forever free

His slave to be.

Then Godly fear

And holy cheer

Did drive out sin

Until again

Straight in did ride

My foolish pride,

I vainly tried

To run and hide;

But God espied

It, mortified

It, so it died,

Until again . . .

(This poem, my friend,

Will never end

‘Til Christ comes back,

And that’s a fact!)

 

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to http://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

A book that fights back against the encroaching darkness.

A book that fights back against the encroaching darkness.

 

Donald T. Williams, PhD