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.”
We return after many digressions to our default setting, the Poetry blog, dropping back into that timeline in the year 1976-77, my first year as a doctoral student at the University of Georgia.
This is in some ways my most ambitious mini sonnet sequence yet—only three sonnets, but they are packed with theological and metaphysical content. I think I must have been studying the English metaphysical poets about this time: Done, Herbert, Vaughan. I try to capture some of their compact richness and profundity, but adjusted for a more modern sensibility, or at least set of questions, so that it does not become a mere pastiche. See how well you think I succeeded.
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the center of the silent Word.
T. S. Eliot, “Ash Wednesday”
The void gulped down, but could not hold, the Word.
The formless dark was shattered in a bright
Explosion, flinging out across the night
A dancing host. As in a flock, each bird,
In answer to the music that is heard,
Wheels in unison across the height
Of heaven, one. Though many, in their flight,
Around the central Singer stars now whirred,
Giving voice to the unspoken Name
That held them with strong bonds of pure desire,
Burning with reflected, holy flame,
They showed forth the unseen, sustaining Fire.
And still they sing. The Center which surrounds
All circles still supplies their burning sounds.
His life lit up the world while yet the sun
Was but an idea in her Maker’s mind.
Yet Lucifer the mighty looked upon
His glory greedily and was struck blind,
Inventing darkness of a different kind
From what had been before. ‘Til then, the night
Had been left to contrast with that which shined,
In pleasant patters setting off the light
Which lit each angel’s eyes and gave him sight.
But now, light twisted into what was not,
Swirled in perverse patterns, moved by spite,
Was proclaimed as new vision in a plot
To unseat God himself. The flaming Word
Could not be quenched, but seeing eyes were blurred
And self-willed pits of sightless blackness yawned
Inside the minds of some. They screamed and fell
Into themselves, pursuing a light that dawned
Outside the Son—but all they found was Hell:
The self, clenched shut against the light, a shell
Of utter loneliness where once had burned
The singing Fire, the holy Flame, the Well
Of light reflected each to each, returned
To Him who gave, received again, unearned,
The gift: light which was love, love which was life.
All this was what the falling angels spurned
Because it was not of themselves. The strife
Which they began comes back to haunt mankind,
Which, likewise, seeking Sonless light, is blind.
The Word in unchanged harmony still burns
At the world’s heart. Around it slowly turns
A universe of self-inflicted pain.
Against our orbits, futilely, we strain
In grinding discord. For the blind depraved
There’s no escape but to be damned or saved.
Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://www.createspace.com/3562314 and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newer book from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. https://www.createspace.com/3767346.
Donald T. Williams, PhD