6.01.2013

The Essence of All We Create

With sunshine soaking into my winter-weary bones and robins bustling about nearby, I lounged on my patio a few weeks ago and committed a bit of poetry to memory.

Yes, I realize this sort of thing is normally done by people three times my age.  In my defense, I was not sipping Ensure, nor was a crocheted lap rug anywhere in sight.

And after all, what better time than spring for Greenleaf?  John Greenleaf Whittier, that is.  An excerpt of his "The Eternal Goodness":
I know not what the future hath
Of marvel or surprise,
Assured alone that life and death
God’s mercy underlies. 
And if my heart and flesh are weak
To bear an untried pain,
The bruis├ęd reed He will not break,
But strengthen and sustain. 
No offering of my own I have,
Nor works my faith to prove;
I can but give the gifts He gave,
And plead His love for love. 
And so beside the silent sea
I wait the muffled oar;
No harm from Him can come to me
On ocean or on shore. 
I know not where His islands lift
Their fronded palms in air;
I only know I cannot drift
Beyond His love and care.
Mmmm.  Beautiful.  And this is where I slip into poetry geek mode.

That crisp iambic tetrameter (if I'm not mistaken) is a welcome sound in an age of free verse.  And I am crazy about that alliterated line, "And so beside the silent sea".  The maritime references are delightfully reminiscent of Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar."

But more striking to me are the allusions to Scripture.  Whittier was a Quaker and it's obvious he knew his Bible.  Psalm 73:26 must be the source for the phrase, "if my heart and flesh are weak".  The "bruised reed" alludes to Isaiah 42:3, while stanza three refers, I think, to Titus 3:5 and related passages.  II Timothy 1:12 also comes to mind with the whole tone of the poem.  Do you see any others I'm missing?

A lesson from Whittier, if I may.  Poets, storytellers, songwriters, wordsmiths, artists all—let us submerse ourselves in Holy Scripture.  Then may it ooze from our pens.  May it anchor every expression of thought.  May it be the very essence of all we create.

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