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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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