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.”

Narrative poetry has all but disappeared from the modern world.  The closest thing we have to it is the dramatic monolog, done to perfection by Robert Browning.  It seems a sneaky place to start in reintroducing what was once an honored genre.


I was never before a man of many words.

What I had to say could be expressed

In curses mumbled at the wayward herds

Or loudly shouted at the boys from town.

The buyers of mutton might just be addressed

Not much more civilly, as up and down

We haggled over whether I wold die

Of hunger or live yet another year.

The sky at night was simply the night sky,

A thing to be ignored.  I knew to fear

Then only hunger and the hungry wolf.


The Shepherd’s Field–looking from modern Bethlehem toward Jerusalem


I’ve learned a lot since those days of both fear

And hunger, and had more of both than ever.

There was no moon that night, and yet the stars

Shone with a light the like of which I’d never

Seen before.  Not since I was a child

Had I taken notice of the way their light

On a clear, frosty night, out in the wild,

Can fill you up with hunger–no, with fright–

Well, something else that’s both, and yet is neither.

They’d seemed then like a thousand eyes, whose sight

Could see clean through a man and leave no secrets.

Their piercing gaze had never bored as deep

As it did on that night.  They seemed so near!

I told myself it was just lack of sleep,

That they could not be really getting closer.

But as I tried to explain that to the sheep,

The endless blackness which is seen to lie

Between the stars to keep them separate

Was in a moment squeezed out of the sky,

And I was knocked flat on m y face by light

That thundered like the sea–or by a choir

Of voices that shone brighter than the sun,

And burnt me to the bone with searing fire.


I’d always joked that when Messiah came

I’d ask him what he meant to do about

The price of sheep.  If that was not his game,

I’d know he was a Christ of no concern

To me.  But I was in no way prepared

For angels, with their messages that burn

Behind them after they are gone, and drive

You down the dark, deserted roads at night

To see a baby lying in the hay.

Still less was I prepared for such a sight

As that was.  Yes, he had to do with sheep

Alright (the Lamb of God the prophets called him!),

And with their price.  The one he paid was steep:

It was himself, and I purchased the sheep.


A cave in Bethlehem like the one the actual shepherd visited


Of course, I didn’t find that out ‘til later.

That night I only knew I was afraid,

And hungry for I knew not what.  But listen!

I’ve seen forty summers bloom and fade

Since then, and I would rather know that fear

Than all the ease that Caesar now enjoys

In his bright palace.  Soon–perhaps this year–

I go to join my fathers, hungry still

With an eternal hunger.  But the bread

I found that night in Bethlehem will fill

Me then as earthly meat has not.  I am

Invited to the Supper of the Lamb!


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 and Inklings of Reality, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/. .


About gandalf30598

Theologian, philosopher, poet, and critic; minister of the Gospel who makes his living by teaching medieval and renaissance literature; dual citizen of Narnia and Middle Earth.

Posted on April 22, 2013, in Christianity, Donald Williams, Poetry and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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