Christian poet

I Bind Unto Myself Today (Saint Patrick’s Breastplate)

For the St. Patrick’s Day, “I Bind Unto Myself Today  (Saint Patrick’s Breastplate)”. This hymn or poem is adapted from a work attributed to Saint Patrick.

Saint Patrick was a missionary to Ireland in the fifth century. He is known as the Apostle of Ireland. You can listen to a free recording of the “Confession of Saint Patrick” On LibriVox. In it he tells of being captured by pirates, being a slave in Ireland, becoming a Christian, and becoming a missionary to Ireland.

The lyrics below were adapted by Cecil Francis Alexander (1818-1895). She was born in Ireland. Not only was she a poet and hymnwriter, she also cared for the poor and opened a school for the deaf.

You can find lyrics along with sheet music Online Here.

As with many hymns, there are different versions with different verses. Below is one. You can listen to a slightly different one than the one below here on YouTube.

I Bind Unto Myself Today  (Saint Patrick’s Breastplate)

Words St. Patrick adapted by Cecil Frances Alexander & music by Charles V. Stanford

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb,
His riding up the heav’nly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heav’nly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord

This poem or lyric is in iambic pentameter with four feet per line (de-um, de-um, de-um, de-dum). Often at the end of the last line there is an extra unstressed beat (de-dum-de).

Stanza one about the trinity has four lines and a rhyme scheme of second and fourth line rhyming.  

Stanza two through six are eight lines each with an aba’b’cdc’d’ rhyme scheme. That is, the first and third line rhyme, the second and fourth line rhyme, the fifth and seventh line rhyme, and the sixth and eighth line rhyme.

Stanza seven is different from the other stanzas with its poetic power from the repeated words “Christ” and “me”.

Stanza seven concludes with a repetition of stanza one with four more aba’b’ rhyming  lines added.

I do not think a summary of I Bind Unto Myself Today  (Saint Patrick’s Breastplate) would do it justice. But note the scope of subjects brought up and how they all fit together with each other, Christ’s work, and the Trinity in our Christian life. It can also be helpful to see what the focus of the poem is about and what each stanza is about. The focus of the poem is taking on God and his good for Christian life and work, even battle. There are eight stanzas. The first and the last focus on the Trinity. In between these bookends, the stanzas cover the work of Christ, God’s creation, the power of God, two stanzas increasing an emphasis as to the threats to be resisted, and an interlude of sorts about Christ. Again, it concludes with the Trinity; this time in more detail. The best way to understand a poem is to read it and reread it with enjoyment.

Christian Poetry
Hymns and Songs

Christmas poetry – “Christmastide” by Christina Rossetti

Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) was a Christian poet during the Victorian age. She was the sister of the pre-Raphaelite painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Here is a poem she wrote about Christmas.

By Christina Rossetti

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love Incarnate, Love Divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

This poem an interesting structure. The pattern of 4/3 feet is very common like, “Amazing grace how sweet the sound/that saved a wretch like me.” This poem does the opposite with a 3/4 foot verse structure.

Each stanza has two of these verses sets. The first line of each of these sets is not necessarily rhymed with the first of the next one, but the second of each set is rhymed with the second of the next one. For example, in the last stanza “token” does not rhyme with “men,” but “mine” rhymes with “sign.” Note, in the first stanza the first line is repeated again as the third line. One way the first and third lines are matched each other is in each stanza the first word is the same for each of these; for example, in stanza two both lines one and three start with “Worship.”

This poem also has a different rhythm scheme than previous ones we have put up here. The previous ones have tended to be iambic (De-dum); this one is trochaic (Dum-de); the stress is on the first syllable here. Also, the first and third lines end with a feminine foot (without a stress) while the second and fourth lines of each stanza end with a stress or masculine foot. (This also shortens the second and fourth lines by one stress making the difference them longer by only one stress. This may be a way the poet was able to make this flipped line length work.)

In stanza one, God is called “Love“ and is connected with the double sign of angels and the star at his birth. This fits with the biblical teaching that “God is love“ (I John 4:8) and the signs given in the Gospel of Matthew and Gospel of Luke.

In stanza two, we worship God, but what is our sign?

Stanza three answers this question, the double sign of our love of God and all men. The Apostle John wrote that our love for each other shows that the Father has sent Jesus (John 17:21) and that we are his disciples (John 13:35). This is what Francis Schaeffer later wrote about in his little book, “The Mark of a Christian.“ Truth can be proclaimed through both poetry and apologetics.

Again, analysis of a poem is done to better understand it and enjoy it. The poem is the thing.

“Holy Sonnet XV” By John Donne – Christian poetry and analysis

Read Holy sonnet XV and brief analysis. John Donne (1572-1631) was a Christian, a metaphysical poet, a soldier, and a scholar. He lived at about the same time as George Herbert another metaphysical poet. Below is one of his “Holy Sonnets.”

I used the older punctuation but the more modern spelling. I think this is a balance that’ll give us the older feeling while still being able to read it clearly.

Holy Sonnet XV
By John Donne

Wilt thou love God, as he thee? then digest,
My Soul, this wholesome meditation,
How God the Spirit, by Angels waited on
In heaven, doth make his Temple in thy breast.
The Father having begot a Son most blest,
And still begetting, (for he ne’er begun)
Hath deigned to choose thee by adoption,
Co-heir to’his glory, and Sabbath’s endless rest;
And as a robb’d man, which by search doth find
His stolen stuff sold, must lose or buy’it again:
The Son of glory came down, and was slain,
Us whom he’had made, and Satan stole, to unbind.
’Twas much, that man was made like God before,
But, that God should be made like man, much more.

Before going into a brief analysis of the poem, note that Donne uses a similar argument to the one that Tom Cantor used in “ How a Jew Learned the True Meaning of Christmas”. (Or maybe that’s vice versa, as Donne lived 400 years ago!)

Tom used and extended parable about a boy and the toy ship he made, lost, found, and bought. Donne wrote ,

“And as a robb’d man, which by search doth find
His stolen stuff sold, must lose or buy’it again:”

This poem is an Italian/Petrarchan sonnet. Briefly, the English sonnet has 12 lines and then a 2 line couplet that sums them up or gives them a twist. The Italian sonnet has 8 lines and then a 6 line conclusion. The English sonnet is structured for cleverness; the Italian or Petrarchan sonnet for a more extended conclusion. The structure of the Italian sonnet does allow for a couple of at the end, too, and Donne takes advantage of this. In the first 8 lines he expresses his wonder at the Spirit of God dwelling in the believer (lines 1-4) and being chosen with the Father and Son for adoption (lines 5-8). At line 9 he turns to the wonder of redemption summing it up with the couplet,

“’Twas much, that man was made like God before,
But, that God should be made like man, much more.”

But the poem itself is the thing. I think it’s best to read it, then analyze it, and then read it again more deeply. And this poem could also be analyzed for its meter, line length, rhyme scheme, use of imagery, etc.  Each analysis can lead to a more enjoyable and deeper reading of the poem.

More Christian Poetry

Love by George Herbert – Christian poetry and analysis

Love by George Herbert is another poem by this Christian metaphysical poet. “Love” (III) seems to be inspired by the Bible verse “God is love” (I John 4:8, 16). This previous post gave and linked to details of his life. Here is one of his more popular poems from his collection.”

Love (III)
By George Herbert

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 any thing.

“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.

Note how Herbert is able to make very good poetry while still being positive and gentle. So often the great plays and poems are tragedies and about tragic subjects. I think there is something Christian about redeeming tragedy.

Love by George Herbert, like all of the poems in “The Temple,” has a unique structure to the collection. It has three stanzas, though the content does not seem structured strictly on the stanzas. This is a flowing conversation back-and-forth between the author and Love (I John 4:16). The line lengths are 5 feet, 3 feet, repeated three times per stanza. Again, the feet are iambic (de-dum, de-dum), this is very popular in poetry especially from the Elizabethan time. The  rhyme scheme is a b a’ b’ c c’. If we want to improve our poetry, looking at how the experts did it as one way.

Christian Poetry