Category Archives: Poetry

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Walter de la Mare



All Is Not Dead

Screen Shot 2017-12-28 at 7.18.07 AM.pngOne of the blogs I regularly read is Patrick Kurps’s “Anecdotal Evidence.”  Today he shared a sonnet by Philip Larkin, a poet I first read on his site.
Few think of Philip Larkin as a nature poet, largely because he writes about human beings and because he was no nature mystic. You’ll find no soft-headed, Emersonian, Mary Oliver-style swooning in Larkin, but you will find frequent observations of the natural world. Fifty-six years ago, in January 1962, he worked on an untitled sonnet never published during his lifetime and posthumously titled “January” by editors:
“A slight relax of air where cold was
And water trickles; dark ruinous light,
Scratched like old film, above wet slates withdraws.
At garden-ends, on railway banks, sad white
Shrinkage of snow shows cleaner than the net
Stiffened like ectoplasm in front windows.
“Shielded, what sorts of life are stirring yet:
Legs lagged like drains, slippers soft as fungus,
The gas and grate, the old cold sour grey bed.
Some ajar face, corpse-stubbled, bends round
To see the sky over the aerials—
Sky, absent paleness across which the gulls
Wing to the Corporation rubbish ground.
A slight relax of air. All is not dead.”
Larkin refers to the nameless season called by Eliot “midwinter spring.” In Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love (2014), James Booth describes the poem’s setting as “an urban wasteland [in which] a decrepit figure reminiscent of a Samuel Beckett character turns towards the faintest hint of spring.” One looks for hope in Larkin (it’s there, though unadvertised) as one awaits the return of warmth and blues skies in the winter.

The painting was taken from another blog that features good poetry, First Known When Lost.

Hope and Renewal


All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king

The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien

Shine Upon Thy Work of Grace

Today our church began a series that is focused on the great themes of the Reformation: Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Scripture Alone and Christ Alone.  Today, in worship we reminded ourselves of God’s amazing grace.  Our Prayer of Confession:

God of grace, we are reminded this morning that we are dust.  You know our “dustiness”-our character that is so fragile and easily disintegrates.  We bring our hearts and our souls to You this morning, trusting You to bring forgiveness and healing.  We confess that sometimes we simply don’t trust You with our lives and the lives of those we love.  We confess our unbelief of the promises in Your Word that Your grace really is sufficient for us.  We confess our sins, the times we have willingly gone against Your good will for our lives, choosing that which is wrong.  We confess that there are times we ignore the promptings of Your Spirit, and fail to do the good deeds You have prepared for us to do.  Forgive us, Lord, and continue to shape us by Your grace.  We pray in Jesus’s name. Amen.

We confessed our faith answering the Heidelberg Catechism’s question, “What is your only comfort in life and in death?”   The answer is probably my favorite in that catechism:

That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.  He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.  He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.  Because I belong to Him, Christ, by His Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for Him.

This poem of John Newton,  shared by Tim Challies, expresses, as only poetry can, what that grace really means:

’Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought;
Do I love the Lord, or no?
Am I His, or am I not?

If I love, why am I thus?
Why this dull and lifeless frame?
Hardly, sure, can they be worse,
Who have never heard His name!

Could my heart so hard remain,
Prayer a task and burden prove;
Every trifle give me pain,
If I knew a Savior’s love?

When I turn my eyes within,
All is dark, and vain, and wild;
Filled with unbelief and sin,
Can I deem myself a child?

If I pray, or hear, or read,
Sin is mixed with all I do;
You that love the Lord indeed,
Tell me: Is it thus with you?

Yet I mourn my stubborn will,
Find my sin a grief, and thrall;
Should I grieve for what I feel,
If I did not love at all?

Could I joy His saints to meet,
Choose the ways I once abhorred,
Find, at times, the promise sweet,
If I did not love the Lord?

Lord, decide the doubtful case!
Thou who art Thy people’s sun;
Shine upon Thy work of grace,
If it be indeed begun.

Let me love Thee more and more,
If I love at all, I pray;
If I have not loved before,
Help me to begin today.

When You Have Nothing More to Say

More poetry from a blog I frequent:

The Peninsula

When you have nothing more to say, just drive
For a day all round the peninsula.
The sky is tall as over a runway,
The land without marks so you will not arrive
But pass through, though always skirting landfall.
At dusk, horizons drink down sea and hill,
The ploughed field swallows the whitewashed gable
And you’re in the dark again.  Now recall
The glazed foreshore and silhouetted log,
That rock where breakers shredded into rags,
The leggy birds stilted on their own legs,
Islands riding themselves out into the fog
And drive back home, still with nothing to say
Except that now you will uncode all landscapes
By this:  things founded clean on their own shapes,
Water and ground in their extremity.
Seamus Heaney, Door into the Dark (Faber and Faber 1969).

Communication and Communion

“Even to imagine such words brings us into a new relation of wonder with the realities, wonder that has very little to do with communication, to use Allen Tate’s distinction, and everything to do with communion.”

This delightful sentence, found in an essay, sent me looking for Allen Tate, and I was not disappointed.  A southern American poet and writer of the 20th century, he was Poet Laureate from 1943-1944.  One of his more famous poems is “Ode to the Confederate Dead,”  here read by the author:

I found more about him in an archived “First Things” essay.

Early on [Tate] certainly showed signs of having been habituated to a racist culture, but the mature Tate repented, and confessed that as original sin was to humanity so was slavery for the South.

And especially this which endeared him to me:

In one of his most important essays, Tate argued that it was the task of “the man of letters in the modern world” to hold up to his own age “an image of man” that can be judged by a standard, that can “distinguish the false from the true.” Here his literary concern is with the power of words and “the vitality of language” to communicate, but the questions of true religion continue to percolate beneath the surface, for by mid-century his literary criticism had become Catholic.

The man of letters in the modern world “must discriminate and defend the difference between mass communication, for the control of men, and the knowledge of man which literature offers us for human participation.” Yet such discrimination requires a standard which in a secularized, egalitarian culture is constantly being refused. This he said stems from an “internal crisis” in the West, a crisis in “a society that multiples means without end.” Tate argues that secularized societies proliferate communication, but every act of communication, indeed every action, is orchestrated along the lines of a “plotless drama of withdrawal.”

…..What he fears is dehumanization through mechanized power, through a social machinery that substitutes means for ends, and thus multiplies communication (he could have predicted the Internet) in such a way as to deprive people of communion. As Tate put it, “Communication that is not also communion is incomplete.” In his view, communication is a means, not an end. And the problem with a secularized society is that it refuses “the end of social man” which is, as he puts it “communion in time through love, which is beyond time.” (emphasis added).
I plan to read his book on Stonewall Jackson soon.
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Far From the World

A hymn of comfort and hope in difficult times, written by William Cowper:

1 Far from the world, O Lord, I flee,
From strife and tumult far;
From scenes where Satan wages still
His most successful war.

2 The calm retreat, the silent shade,
With prayer and praise agree;
And seem by Thy sweet bounty made
For those who follow Thee.

3 There, if Thy Spirit touch the soul,
And grace her mean abode,
O with what peace, and joy, and love,
She communes with her God!

4 There, like the nightingale, she pours
Her solitary lays;
Nor asks a witness of her song,
Nor thirsts for human praise.

5 Author and Guardian of my life,
Sweet Source of light divine,
And, all harmonious names in one,
My Saviour,–Thou art mine!

6 What thanks I owe Thee, and what love,
A boundless, endless store,
Shall echo through the realms above
When time shall be no more!