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.”
Complicated stanza forms using rhymed counterpoint (rhymes coming at the ends of lines of different lengths—the very opposite of the royal couplet) are a challenge. The challenge is to make the thought flow through them without seeming unnatural or forced. The trick is to make the movement of the stanza just unexpected enough to make the smooth flow of the thought an accomplishment, but not enough to disrupt it. George Herbert was the great master of this technique. Let’s see what I can do with it:
In all mankind no greater love can be
Than to lay down
One’s life for a good friend. But look around,
And you will see
A man, to save his spiteful enemy,
Lie down to die–
No other reason why.
And does God then commend His love in this?
While we were yet
Sinners, in our sins still firmly set,
With Judas’ kiss
Still warm on our lips and His cheek, the hiss
Still ringing, “Crucify!”
He willingly did die.
And so we hear the glorious decree,
And I, who would have stood there and reviled,
Now on my knee
Search in vain for something that could be
A fit return
For grace I did not earn.
And I, who solely by His sacrifice
Will never find a single thing to give
That would suffice
To pay back one ten-millionth of the price
He freely gave
To save me from the grave.
Ah, well, I must give all; my grateful heart
Could do no less.
Yet, in so doing, freely I confess
There is no part
To give He has not purchased from the start.
Before His throne,
I give Him but His own,
And worship Him for grace beyond my art
To think or tell:
By death and love a double debtor made,
I find all debts in Him forever paid.
He doeth all things well!
Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://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. And look for Williams’ very latest book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, from Square Halo Books!
Donald T. Williams, PhD