metaphysical poetry

Discipline by George Herbert (Christian poetry)

Here’s another poem Discipline by George Herbert, a metaphysical poet.

Discipline
By George Herbert

Throw away thy rod,
Throw away thy wrath;
O my God,
Take the gentle path.

For my heart’s desire
Unto thine is bent;
I aspire
To a full consent.

Not a word or look
I affect to own,
But by book,
And thy book alone.

Though I fail, I weep;
Though I halt in pace,
Yet I creep
To the throne of grace.

Then let wrath remove;
Love will do the deed:
For with love
Stony hearts will bleed.

Love is swift of foot;
Love’s a man of war,
And can shoot,
And can hit from far.

Who can ‘scape his bow?
That which wrought on thee,
Brought thee low,
Needs must work on me.

Throw away thy rod;
Though man frailties hath,
Thou art God:
Throw away thy wrath.

Previously, I’ve analyzed the structure of Herbert’s poems. Here’s a brief analysis of Discipline by George Herbert and a poem I wrote inspired by this poem’s structure.

The poem has eight verses. Each verse has four lines. The rhyme structure is aba’b’. Each line ends with a masculine foot (stressed). The feet are trochaic. The line lengths are four, four, two, and 4 feet long. What is the poem about? The poem is the thing, so read it several times!

Though I am no Herbert, still, going to the experts is a good way of improving one’s poetry. One difference is while all the lines of Hebert’s has the same number of beats and offbeats for the three and two foot lines, mine is more flexible on the offbeats.

Sword Dance
By Paul J. Chamberlain

​​​​​Scripture and creation,
​​​​​The double symphony,
​​​​​ God’s revelation
​​​​​Sings in harmony.

​​​​​“Scriptures” and “seen by”,
​​​​​Joint sinewed to joint,
​​​​​ God can’t lie,
​​​​​Whirls in counterpoint.

​​​​​Wield the two-edged sword —
​​​​​In stereo be heard;
​​​​​ As our Lord,
​​​​​Deed must match the word.​

​​​​​As Christ is myth made fact,
​​​​​David’s Lord and Son,
​​​​​ Speech and act —
​​​​​The two shall become one.

​​​​​If you see the need,
​​​​​If you’ll take the chance,
​​​​​ Word and deed
​​​​​Shall praise Him in the dance.

 

POETRY

“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

The Elixir by George Herbert

 

The Elixir by George Herbert

George Herbert is best known as one of the metaphysical poets from the 1600s. He was a Christian and chose the life of a country pastor.

Here is one of the poems about the daily Christian life from his collection, “The Temple”, in which each poem had its own unique form. This collection was published after his death.

The Elixir
By George Herbert

Teach me, my God and King,
In all things Thee to see,
And what I do in anything
To do it as for Thee.

Not rudely, as a beast,
To run into an action;
But still to make Thee prepossest,
And give it his perfection.

A man that looks on glass,
On it may stay his eye;
Or if he pleaseth, through it pass,
And then the heav’n espy.

All may of Thee partake:
Nothing can be so mean,
Which with his tincture—”for Thy sake”—
Will not grow bright and clean.

A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine:
Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws,
Makes that and th’ action fine.

This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold;
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told.

While John Donne is more famous, perhaps due to his reacknowledgment by T. S. Eliot, Herbert poems are very good, too. He has also achieved the difficult task of making very good poems with positive emotions rather than melancholic or negative ones.

The poem structure: this is the only poem written this way in the collection. It has six stanzas, and each stanza has four lines. Each stanza has a 3 foot line, a 3 foot line, a 4 foot line, and a 3 foot line (for foot think stress). The feet are iambic (de-dum). The rhythm scheme is a b a’ b’, like stone/gold/own/told.

Each stanza is broken into two parts: (stanza one) seeing and doing; (stanza two) negative and positive action; (stanza three) looking through or at a glass; (stanza four) good action and how; (stanza five) role and action; and (stanza six) image and explanation.

“in 1610 he [George Herbert] declared that “my poor abilities in poetry shall be all, and ever consecrated to God’s glory”…”  
Read more at George Herbert’s Life Before Bemerton

“While he and his wife Jane had no children of their own, they adopted his three orphaned nieces who lived with them in the rectory. They were generous in their hospitality to both parishioners and strangers, and sought to fashion their family life according to the way of Christ…”
Read more at George Herbert – The Bemerton Years

CHRISTIAN POETRY