Poetry Saturday—Affliction IV

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Broken in pieces all asunder,
                      Lord, hunt me not,
                     A thing forgot,
Once a poore creature, now a wonder,
               A wonder tortur’d in the space
               Betwixt this world and that of grace.

My thoughts are all a case of knives,
                     Wounding my heart
                     With scatter’d smart,
As watring pots give flowers their lives.
               Nothing their furie can controll,
               While they do wound and prick my soul.

All my attendants are at strife,
                     Quitting their place
                     Unto my face:
Nothing performs the task of life:
               The elements are let loose to fight,
               And while I live, trie out their right.

Oh help, my God! let not their plot
                     Kill them and me,
                     And also Thee,
Who art my life: dissolve the knot,
               As the sunne scatters by his light
               All the rebellions of the night.

Then shall those powers, which work for grief,
                     Enter Thy pay,
                     And day by day
Labour Thy praise, and my relief;
               With care and courage building me,
                Till I reach heav’n, and much more, Thee. —George Herbert (**spelling is 1663 English**)

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Seeing Beauty And Saying Beautifully (book review)

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Seeing Beauty And Saying Beautifully is, in my mind, a grand slam! It features one of my favorite poets (George Herbert), possibly the most prolific evangelist of history (George Whitefield), my all-time favorite author (C.S. Lewis), all tied together by my go-to theologian (John Piper). Seeing Beauty And Saying Beautifully is part 6 in Piper’s series called “The Swans Are Not Silent.” 

George Herbert was a pastor of a small country church and a prolific poet who wrote almost all of his poems uniquely. “Of the 167 poems in The Temple, 116 are written with meters that are not repeated,” which even modern poets find astounding. George Whitefield spent more hours of his life preaching than he did sleeping, and he spoke with such a captivating style that he was quite possibly the first celebrity of the American colonies. C.S. Lewis wrote everything from history to fantasy, autobiography to poetry, theology to children’s novels. Peter Kreeft says of him, he “was not a man: he was a world.” 

John Piper finds in all three of these men a common thread: They all were able to not only see the beauty of God in everything, but they were able to express it in a beautiful way that drew in others to see the beauty of God for themselves. Pastor John calls this “poetic effort.” 

Pastor John also wrestles with how the profound creativity and eloquence of his three subjects meshes with the apostle Paul’s admonition that human eloquence could drain the Cross of Jesus of its power (see 1 Corinthians 1:17-2:5). He concludes that poetic effort for the sake of exalting the speaker or poet does turn people’s eyes to man and away from God. But that poet, evangelist, or author that uses the beauty in God’s creation to point people to the Creator is doing so in a way in which God is supremely exalted. This, Pastor John says, is exactly what Herbert, Whitefield, and Lewis have done, and done so well that their poetic efforts are still fruitful and God-glorifying long after their deaths. 

Seeing Beauty And Saying Beautifully is a wonderful book for those who enjoy biographies, theology, or the craft of skilled artisans. If you don’t know about the poems of George Herbert, the preaching of George Whitefield, or the vast library of literature of C.S. Lewis, let this book be your doorway to a rich new world of discovery, enjoyment, and God-glorification. 

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Poetry Saturday—Peace

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Sweet Peace, where dost thou dwell? I humbly crave,
                                           Let me once know.
             I sought thee in a secret cave,
             And ask’d, if Peace were there.
A hollow winde did seem to answer, No:
                                           Go seek elsewhere.

I did; and going did a rainbow note:
                                           Surely, thought I,
             This is the lace of Peaces coat:
             I will search out the matter.
But while I lookt, the clouds immediately
                                           Did break and scatter.

Then went I to a garden, and did spy
                                           A gallant flower,
             The Crown Imperiall: sure, said I,
             Peace at the root must dwell.
But when I digg’d, I saw a worm devoure
                                           What show’d so well.

At length I met a rev’rend good old man,
                                           Whom when of Peace
             I did demand, he thus began:
             There was a Prince of old
At Salem dwelt, who liv’d with good increase
                                           Of flock and fold.

He sweetly liv’d; yet sweetnesse did not save
                                           His life from foes.
       But after death out of his grave
              There sprang twelve stalks of wheat:
Which many wondring at, got some of those
                                           To plant and set.

It prosper’d strangely, and did soon disperse
                                           Through all the earth:
        For they that taste it do rehearse,
             That vertue lies therein,
A secret vertue bringing peace and mirth
                                           By flight of sinne.

Take of this grain, which in my garden grows,
                                           And grows for you;
        Make bread of it: and that repose
             And peace, which ev’ry where
With so much earnestnesse you do pursue,
                                           Is onely there. —George Herbert **spelling is 1663 English**

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Poetry Saturday—The Scriptures

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Note: the spelling in this poem is preserved from the 1663 edition of Herbert’s book of poems

Oh that I knew how all Thy lights combine,
And the configurations of their glorie!
Seeing not onely how each verse doth shine,
But all the constellations of the storie.

This verse marks that, and both do make a motion
Unto a third, that ten leaves off doth lie:
Then as dispersed herbs do watch a potion,
These three make up some Christian’s destinie:

Such are Thy secrets, which my life makes good,
And comments on Thee: for in ev’ry thing
Thy words do finde me out, & parallels bring,
And in another make me understood.

Starres are poore books, & oftentimes do misse:
This book of starres’ lights to eternall blisse. —George Herbert (see Psalm 19:1, 7, 10-11)

Poetry Saturday—Trinitie Sunday

Lord, who hast form’d me out of mud,
    And hast redeem’d me through Thy bloud,
    And sanctifi’d me to do good;

Purge all my sinnes done heretofore:
    For I confesse my heavie score,
    And I will strive to sinne no more.

Enrich my heart, mouth, hands in me,
    With faith, with hope, with charitie;
    That I may runne, rise, rest with Thee. —George Herbert

Poetry Saturday—The 23 Psalme

The God of love my shepherd is,

             And He that doth me feed:
While He is mine, and I am His,
             What can I want or need?

He leads me to the tender grasse,
             Where I both feed and rest;
Then to the streams that gently passe:
             In both I have the best.

Or if I stray, He doth convert
             And bring my minde in frame:
And all this not for my desert,
             But for His holy name.

Yea, in death’s shadie black abode
             Well may I walk, not fear:
For Thou art with me; and Thy rod
             To guide, Thy staff to bear.

Nay, Thou dost make me sit and dine,
             Ev’n in my enemies sight:
My head with oyl, my cup with wine
             Runnes over day and night.

Surely Thy sweet and wondrous love
             Shall measure all my dayes;
And as it never shall remove,
             So neither shall my praise. —George Herbert

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