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.
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.
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/. .