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CLXII

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.”

 The next poem is pretty ambitious, so I’m going to give it to you over two weeks.  It’s based on the legal provision of Deut. 19:15:  “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.”  Requiring corroboration is the path of intellectual virtue in apologetics as well as in law.  We have multiple pairs of witnesses to the truth of the Gospel:  Nature and Scripture, the Prophets and the Apostles, etc.  But I chose to go with another pair:  humankind and angels.  What if mankind remembered its collective experience of God’s progressive revelation of himself throughout its history?  That is the first witness, which we put on the stand this week:

MARTYRES

On the evidence of two or three witnesses every matter shall be confirmed (Deut. 19:15b). 

I

Anthropos 

And yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness (Acts 14:17).

Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead  (Acts 17:30-31).

ResurrectionJesus-998x665

We sensed that there was something.  In the sky

It somehow seemed to be, or in the wind—

A Voice, a subtle message in the dew,

Something in our hearts that would not lie

Quiet when we knew that we had sinned.

(How did we know that it was sin?  We knew.)

 

Something.  Power hidden in the earth

To push the blades and buds up in the spring.

At first we gave each face of it a name;

So sky and field and river each gave birth

To its own god, and men began to bring

The blood they shed to cover up their shame.

Portrait-Abraham5

And they did right, though they did not know why

Until the Voice called out to Abraham

To leave his father for an unknown land.

A cave for burial he had to buy,

A mountain-thicket where he found a ram,

Sore feet, the burning sun, and blowing sand,

 

More mysteries than answers he could learn,

A son to whom he could bequeath the trial,

An oath, but not one acre he could claim

Were all that wanderer got in return—

Plus one thing more that made it all worthwhile:

He saw through all that flickers to the Flame.

Portrait-Abraham1

And so his seed would bear the message, “Hear

Oh Israel, the Lord your God is One!”

And camp at Sinai when the Flame came down.

Though all too easily the holy fear

Engendered by the way they had begun

Was lost, at least they got their piece of ground.

 

And there they stayed, and there they read the Law,

And studied, and debated every word,

And kept alive at least some memory

Of who they were and what their fathers saw.

But what the Flame had shown, the smoke had blurred,

And most of them would finally fail to see

 

The Thing they’d waited for through all those years,

The Something we had groped for in our fears.

The hopes, the blood, the altars—who’d have guessed

That this would be the answer to our quest?

The smoke of Sinai slowly cleared away

To show a Baby lying in the hay.

BethlehemStar2

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, due out Sept. 30, 2016, from Square Halo Books! 

Donald T. Williams, PhD

Book-CSLTheology-Cover

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CLX

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.”

What might the Centurion in charge of the Crucifixion of Jesus have been thinking?  What got him to say, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

"Gordon's Calvary"

“Gordon’s Calvary”

THE CENTURION SPEAKS

Sonnet XLIX

 

No question but it was a dirty job.

The scourging by itself was bad enough;

To drive the spikes, though, really takes a tough

And calloused character.  The women sob,

The victim screams, and even as the mob

Cries out for more, men wince.  The really rough

Part comes when all four soldiers huff and puff

To raise upright the heavy wooden stob,

 

For then the man’s own weight begins to work:

The tendons crack, the flesh begins to tear—

And when he thinks it’s more than he can bear,

They drop him in the socket with a jerk.

And after we did that, he said (It’s true!),

“Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Crucifixion-Glass

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, due out Sept. 30, 2016, from Square Halo Books!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

Book-CSLTheology-Cover

Negative Capability

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.”

“Negative Capability” is a phrase Keats used for the ability of a poet to get himself out of the way and be absorbed completely in the  natural scene he is experiencing, and which he will eventually try to describe in his poem.  If you let yourself be absorbed in Scripture in the same way at the same time, the results could be life-changing.

 

NEGATIVE CAPABILITY

 

Go to the ancient forest,

And there you will find your heart

Enthroned in a shrine of darkness

From which it can’t depart.

 

Go to the barren desert

Beneath the blazing sky;

You’ll find your heart is burning

With a flame that will not die.

Desert

Go to the trackless ocean,

And there beneath the waves

You’ll find your heart is drowning

In hollow emerald caves.

 

But go to Mount Golgotha,

Beneath the looming Cross,

And there your heart will fail you,

Born down by grief and loss.

Crucifixion-Glass

And if Another’s pain there

Seems strangely like your own

And your heart cries, “Here I should

Have died, and I alone!”

 

Then go to the lonely Garden

Beside the graven Tomb,

And wait there in the silence

To abide your doom.

ResurrectionJesus-998x665

It will come as sharp and sudden

As the whistling of a knife:

To know the Tomb is empty

And your heart is full of life.

 

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, due out Sept. 1, 2016, from Square Halo Books!

 

Donald T. Williams, PhD

CXXXVI

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.”

A seldom seen form utilized by Gerard Manley Hopkins in “Pied Beauty” is the “curtal sonnet.” It’s a shorter, more compact version of the Italian sonnet, with groups of six and five lines instead of the traditional octave and sextet.  So you have eleven lines of iambic pentameter rhyming ABCABC, then DBCDC, with the last line cut off to only one or two feet.

Hopkins

Hopkins

One of the effects to which the curtal sonnet lends itself is the powerful concentration of meaning you can get in that last, short line, if you set it up properly.  Let’s see if I did it here.

 

“SURELY, THIS MAN WAS . . .”

THE CENTURION SPEAKS

Curtal Sonnet # 4

 

Things are not always what they seem:  We drove

The spikes through wrist and ankle bones to bind

The criminals upon the cross.  We spliced

Their flesh to wood with iron; thus we strove

To make secure what fates the gods had twined—

And generally that view of things sufficed.

 

But that last Jew clean put me at a loss

To tell what held up what.  Have I gone blind?

No!  I would swear that, when he paid the price,

I saw the world suspended by the cross

From Christ.

Crucifixion-Glass

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.

CXXVII

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.”

One of my poetic aspirations is to bring about a revival of old forms like the villanelle and the sonnet.  And one way of doing that is to explore the potential of these old forms to learn new tricks.  It seems to me that we have not sufficiently mined the dramatic potential of the sonnet.  That’s one thing I’m trying to do here.

Cross-Fulcrum

Commentary, Luke 4:1-13

“And if the Voice at Jordan really said

That you were His beloved Son, when on

Your shoulder came the Sprit—you need bread?—

Just ask!  He’d make a loaf for you from stone.

Now, you were sent to take—I’ll not say ‘steal’—

The kingdoms over which I rightly reign.

I’m not unreasonable.  Let’s make a deal.

No need for either of us to suffer pain.

Savation’s (as you know) by faith.  Let’s make

It easy for the people to believe.

It says right in the Bible you’ll not break

A bone, so jump!  The angels will receive . . .”

Thrice, “No,” the only answer Satan heard:

Three times, the simple power of the Word.

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, Dr. Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

Stars Through the Clouds