Monday, July 21, 2014

F.W. Pitt

F.W. Pitt (1859-1943) was a pastor in London, who wrote poetry, and books relating to the Christian faith. He was born in Bristol, as one of nine children. His poetry book The Human Touch (Pickering and Inglis) was published in London in 1933. Other books include: Coming Events Cast Their Shadows In The Air (1936), Wonder-Working Prayer (1938), Morning Meditations (1940) which included 31 of his poems, and The Romance of Women Hymn Writers (1949).

The following poem, is by far the best-known thing Pitt ever wrote. Guitarist Phil Keaggy, put the poem to music, and in 1986 released it on his album Way Back Home.

The Maker of the Universe

The Maker of the Universe
As Man, for man was made a curse.
The claims of Law which He had made
Unto the uttermost He paid.

His holy fingers made the bough
Which grew the thorns that crowned His brow.
The nails that pierced His hands were mined
In secret places He designed.

He made the forest whence there sprung
The tree on which His body hung.
He died upon a cross of wood,
Yet made the hill on which it stood.

The sky that darkened o’er His head
By Him above the earth was spread.
The sun that hid from Him its face
By His decree was hung in space.

The spear which spilled His precious blood
Was tempered in the fires of God.
The grave in which His form was laid
Was hewn in rocks His hands had made.

The throne on which He now appears
Was His from everlasting years.
But a new glory crowns His brow
And every knee to Him shall bow.

Follow this link to watch a Phil Keaggy video of : Maker of the Universe.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dorothy L. Sayers

Dorothy L. Sayers (1893—1957) always saw herself as a poet who wrote fiction. She was born in Oxford, the daughter of an Anglican chaplain. She is best known for her aristocratic detective Lord Peter Wimsey, who appeared in eleven novels and many short stories. The first of these novels, Whose Body appeared in 1923. Others from the series include: The Five Red Herrings, Murder Must Advertise and Gaudy Night.

Her first two published books were poetry collections. She also wrote non-fiction books, such as The Mind of the Maker, many plays, including, The Man Born to be King—twelve radio dramas about the life of Christ, which were first broadcast on the BBC Home Service during WWII—and what she considered to be her crowning achievement, her translation of Dante's Divine Comedy, which was not quite completed at the time of her death.

Sayers was friends with Charles Williams, C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot. She expressed her personal philosophy as: "The only Christian work is good work, well done."

Hymn in Contemplation of Sudden Death

LORD, if this night my journey end,
I thank Thee first for many a friend,
The sturdy and unquestioned piers
That run beneath my bridge of years.

And next, for all the love I gave
To things and men this side the grave,
Wisely or not, since I can prove
There always is much good in love.

Next, for the power thou gavest me
To view the whole world mirthfully,
For laughter, paraclete of pain,
Like April suns across the rain.

Also that, being not too wise
To do things foolish in men's eyes,
I gained experience by this,
And saw life somewhat as it is.

Next, for the joy of labour done
And burdens shouldered in the sun;
Nor less, for shame of labour lost,
And meekness born of a barren boast.

For every fair and useless thing
That bids men pause from labouring
To look and find the larkspur blue
And marigolds of a different hue;

For eyes to see and ears to hear,
For tongue to speak and thews to bear,
For hands to handle, feet to go,
For life, I give Thee thanks also.

For all things merry, quaint and strange,
For sound and silence, strength, and change,
And last, for death, which only gives
Value to every thing that lives;

For these, good Lord that madest me,
I praise Thy name; since, verily,
I of my joy have had no dearth
Though this night were my last on earth.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Susan McCaslin

Susan McCaslin is a British Columbia poet, who taught at Douglas College from 1984 to 2007. She is the author of eleven poetry collections, most recently, Demeter Goes Skydiving (University of Alberta Press), and this year's The Disarmed Heart (St. Thomas Poetry Series) which features poems about peace and war.

The following poem first appeared in Christianity & Literature. Susan also included it in Poetry And Spiritual Practice, an anthology she edited, which includes poems by such fine Canadian poets as Richard Greene, John Terpstra, Margo Swiss, Hannah Main-van der Kamp and George Whipple.

A Midrash on the Kingdom Prayer

better known as the Lord's Prayer
or the Our Father. It obviously addresses

someone more affectionate than a storm god,
someone more like the parent who listened.

The Kingdom Prayer is not about a kingdom.
It is about a presence on a lawn.

It is a prayer about the balancing of rhythms,
what we hear and what we don't hear.

Heaven is within, invisible while
the Name is expressed, pressed out.

These are both true, as if to say,
Holy what we see, holy what we don't see.

Then we get to forgiveness or reciprocity.
Everything forgiving everything is the kingdom.

It has no head of state.
Lead us not into temptation and deliver us are one.

There are always the holes to step into.
the scrabble and the helpers.

The delivering is active, like birth.
The kingdom is a child's kite winding in.

All you have to do is imagine it
and here it is. The presence now.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, June 30, 2014

George Herbert*

George Herbert (1593—1633) had not published a book of poetry in his own lifetime, but his book The Temple did appear shortly after his death in 1633. He and John Donne are the most influential of what we today call the Metaphysical Poets —a group that also includes, Henry Vaughan, Andrew Marvel and Thomas Traherne.

It seems that Herbert's ambition had nothing to do with fame, but with looking deeply into his own soul and seeking to be honest before God. Even so, his fame outstrips that of many who were seekers of a reputation. His influence is felt, not only in the poetry of the seventeenth century, but also in such writers as Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, T.S. Eliot and W.H. Auden.

Herbert's poetry is suitable for spiritual meditation—helpful as we seek to reflect on God's faithfulness, and on our own fickleness.

Love III

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
-----------Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
-----------From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
-----------If I lacked anything.

“A guest," I answered, “worthy to be here”:
-----------Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
-----------I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
-----------“Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord; but I have marred them; let my shame
-----------Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not," says Love, “who bore the blame?”
-----------“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down," says Love, “and taste my meat.”
-----------So I did sit and eat.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about George Herbert: first post. You can also find a George Herbert poem that grew out of Isaiah 55 at: The 55 Project.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Michael Symmons Roberts

Michael Symmons Roberts is a British poet who has six full-length poetry books, all published by Jonathan Cape. His fourth, Corpus (2004) was awarded the Whitbread Prize, and was also short-listed for both the Griffin and the T.S. Eliot Prize. His latest collection, Drysalter (2013) recently received the Forward Prize and the Costa Prize. In 2006, in connection with a BBC television series, he published The Miracles of Jesus (Lion-Hudson). He has also published two novels.

When Symmons Roberts arrived as a student at Oxford, as a confident atheist, he intentionally changed his course to Theology and Philosophy, and selected a Christian college so he could talk believers out of their faith. "As university went on I got deeply into philosophy — and the philosophy completely undermined my atheism, by making me realize that there was no overarching objectivity, no Dawkinsian bedrock of common sense if you strip everything away. I realized that atheism was just as culturally conditioned as being a Catholic."

Novelist Jeanette Winterson has described him as “a religious poet in a secular age. His work is about the connection between the things of the spirit and the things of the world. And his work is about transcendence.”

Jairus

So, God takes your child by the hand
and pulls her from her deathbed.
He says: ‘Feed her, she is ravenous.’

You give her fruits with thick hides
– pomegranate, cantaloupe –
food with weight, to keep her here.

You hope that if she eats enough
the light and dust and love
which weave the matrix of her body

will not fray, nor wear so thin
that morning sun breaks through her,
shadowless, complete.

Somehow this reanimation
has cut sharp the fear of death,
the shock of presence. Feed her

roast lamb, egg, unleavened bread:
forget the herbs, she has an aching
fast to break. Sit by her side,

split skins for her so she can gorge,
and notice how the dawn
draws colour to her just-kissed face.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Gregory of Nazianus

Gregory of Nazianus (circa 325—389) was Archbishop of Constantinople. He is known today as a significant theologian for his emphasis on the Trinity. He was a prolific writer—composing, some have said, as many as 30,000 verses; if this is true most of them have been lost.

Earlier this year, when I asked Scott Cairns, who were the significant poets among the early church fathers— which he had alluded to during a question period at the Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids, Michigan— he wrote on a slip of paper the names of Ephrem of Edessa (who I blogged about last December), Gregory of Nazianus, and Simeon the New Theologian.

It's been said, "St Gregory is one of the most open and self-revealing of the Fathers of the Church, and his poetry is remarkable for its personal character..."

Christ The Creator

Friends and fellow-workers they!
Day with night, and night with day!
Night descendeth, and the while
Thou dost call a halt to toil;
Bidding labour pause and rest,
Lulling care in weary breast.
When from rest again set free,
Sweet our work if done for Thee;
And we haste from night away,
All to hail the endless day,—
Day, most happy and most bright,
Ne'er to end in darksome night.

So bid sleep with gentle wing
O'er mine eyes her shadow fling;
Nor let dumb repose too long
Seal my tongue, nor hush my song;
Which, responsive I would raise,
To the angels' song of praise.

Thus, with holy thoughts of Thee,
Let my bed familiar be,
Lest ignoble dreams betray
The misdoings of the day ;
Lest my brain with phantoms teem,
Breeding trouble in my dream.
Rather let my soul take wing,
Free from thrall of sense, and sing:
To the Father and the Son,
And the Holy Spirit, One ;
Glory, honour, power to Thee!
Be to all eternity. Amen.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, June 9, 2014

King David

King David (c. 1040—970 BC) was described by God himself as a man after his own heart, and so he was selected to replace Saul as king over Israel. As a young man he had taken on the great Philistine warrior Goliath. He was also renown as a harp player, and had been called upon to play music to soothe the madness that tormented King Saul.

His passion for praising Yahweh is demonstrated by the story of David dancing before the Ark of the Covenant as it was brought into Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6). He is credited with having written the majority of poems in the biblical book of Psalms. Most significantly, it was prophesized that the Messiah—through whom the whole world would be blessed—would be a descendant of David. That prophesy was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ.

In his book Reflections on the Psalms, C.S. Lewis said of the following poem (Psalm 19), "I take this to be the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world." Here it is presented in the New International Version.

Psalm 19

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
---the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
---night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
---no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
---their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
---It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
---like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
---and makes its circuit to the other;
---nothing is deprived of its warmth.

The law of the LORD is perfect,
---refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
---making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
---giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
---giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
---enduring forever.
The decrees of the LORD are firm,
---and all of them are righteous.

They are more precious than gold,
---than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
---than honey from the honeycomb.
By them your servant is warned;
---in keeping them there is great reward.
But who can discern their own errors?
---Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins;
---may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
---innocent of great transgression.
May these words of my mouth
---and this meditation of my heart
---be pleasing in your sight,
---LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.