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CLXXXXV

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:

George Herbert

THE COMMENDATION

(Rom. 5:8)

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,

“Reconciled!”

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

Now live,

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

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CXLIII

 

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.”

Like George Herbert and Edward Taylor, I found the pastorate highly conducive to following the secondary calling of Poetry.  Pastoral ministry rightly pursued keeps you focused on big ideas (Theology) mediated through concrete story (Scripture) and applied to the real lives of real human beings (your congregation).  A number of these poems come out of that matrix.  Preaching surely should be an attempt to elucidate and focus the impact of Scripture; and the distillation of that attempt can’t help but generate poetry too, in those so called.

Christ's Entry into Jerusalem by Hippolyte Flandrin c. 1842

LUKE 19:41

 

The crowds cried out, “Hosannah!”

As his humble mount drew near.

The waving of the branches,

The excitement of the cheers,

The strewing of their garments

Kept their thoughts from being clear;

But the Savior saw the City

And saluted it with tears.

 

Still they echo through the years!

 

TriumphalEntry3

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.

Donald T. Williams, PhD

XCIV

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.”

Anyone seeing the influence of George Herbert here gets an official brownie point.

George Herbert

George Herbert

The Will

When our Lord chose the Church to be his bride,
He did not chide,
But took her sins as dowry, though it bled
His heart’s blood out to bear them, and he died,
Bequeathing his estate. The will was read
And published throughout all his kingdoms wide.
“I here leave all to her whom I have wed:
Forgiveness, life, myself no longer dead,”
Was what it said.

Stars Through the Clouds

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.

LXII

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.

Stars Through the Clouds

The greatest poetry collection of the 21st century

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.

THE WORD

Sonnets XXIII-XXV

Epigraph

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”

I

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.

It's not a star, but it's a pretty cool photo!

It’s not a star, but it’s a pretty cool photo!

II

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

III

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.

Dante-Satan

Dante’s Satan, by Blake

Epilog

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

XLIX

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 poem in entry XLVII stood alone at first; but as often happens with me, it soon begat companions that coalesced to form a larger group.    Terza Rima is the form Dante used in The Divine Comedy.  The lines come in triplets rhyming ABA BCB CDC, etc., until all ends in a couplet.

THREE ESSAYS IN TERZA RIMA

 

I:  In Anticipation of Autumn

Luxuriant, green-growth leaves that tower tall

Above our heads to form a mighty ceiling

Are surely destined down to die and fall,

The bare, left-lifeless, lifted limbs revealing

That bore them up until the fatal voice

Of Frost should come and whisper softly, sealing

Their fate.  They choose (and yet they have no choice)

To go a wandering, homeless vagabonds,

Seeking for a reason to rejoice

More than they had when, high, in soft green fronds,

The formed a restful, rustling canopy

To filter sunlight into summer ponds.

And I wonder why men (and I am one) must be

So like the leaves they see on every tree.

II:  Natural Revelation

The swooping, darting, soar-song flock of birds

That swift across the sunset takes its flight

Says something that cannot be said by words.

The piercing of the Stars through deepening night

Takes up the same theme, each in perfect time’

And in a burning pitch to match its height.

The Moon on wings of the same song doth climb

And wax and wane and never miss a turn

To treat the clouds like words that poets rhyme.

And just before the Dawn begins to burn

A hole in the dark tapestry of Night

And light dew-jewels on cobweb, leaf, and fern,

A distant, glowing, cabin-window light

Speaks of shelter, breakfast, warmth, and peace,

A circle of love formed firm against the Night

To join the birds, Stars, Moon, Dawn in the East,

And sing the self-same song.  Oh, seek to grasp,

For seek to grasp we must, and never cease,

These will-o-the-wisp, elusive notes that pass

Through restless minds like soft winds through the grass

III:  The Pulley

George Herbert tells us that You withheld Rest,

Of all the blessings that You gave to Man,

So that we might be tossed unto your breast

And not be satisfied with aught less than

That supreme Good for which we all were made.

And I confess, that seems to have been Your plan

In dealing with men like me, so apt to trade

The greater for the lesser good and lose

Both in the process as we watch them fade.

For whether paths of planets I peruse,

Or watch the wandering of the Autumn leaves,

Or see the sunset or sunrise’s hues,

That age-old wandering impulse I receive

To leave behind old Earth’s confining ring

And find the lasting Good we can’t conceive.

It is not of themselves that the spheres sing,

But of the One who wrote their melody.

It is the Truth, the Life; it is the thing

Some hide from, some pursue, and some few see:

Our hearts are restless ‘til they rest in Thee.

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://www.createspace.com/3562314 and order Stars Through the Clouds!

Donald T. Williams, PhD