Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I love how a poem written four hundred years ago can reflect nearly everything on my heart today...

John Donne. A Litany.

I'll warn you. It's a dense read. 17th century poetry is not known for its simplicity. But then again, neither is life.

Maybe that's why John Donne's my favorite. He doesn't sketch the life of faith in simple shades of black in white, as too many Christian artists are apt to do. No, he paints the vivid colors of joy and hope right alongside the bold, dark hues of heartache and frailty.

Because that's where the beauty is. It's in the contrast. That deep, fragile place where the mortal meets the divine. That's where we see the brilliance of grace.

I think I found something moving in every one of the 28 verses. But, just in case you don't have an hour to spend on a line by line metaphysical poetry analysis, here are a few of my favorite bits... hopefully some of you literature/theology geeks will enjoy the read!


From being anxious, or secure,
Dead clods of sadness, or light squibs of mirth,
From thinking that great courts immure
All, or no happiness, or that this earth
Is only for our prison framed,
Or that Thou'rt covetous
To them whom Thou lovest, or that they are maim'd
From reaching this world's sweet who seek Thee
With all their might, good Lord, deliver us.


From needing danger, to be good,
From owing Thee yesterday's tears to-day,
From trusting so much to Thy blood
That in that hope we wound our soul away,
From bribing Thee with alms, to excuse
Some sin more burdenous,
From light affecting, in religion, news,
From thinking us all soul, neglecting thus
Our mutual duties, Lord, deliver us.


Hear us, O hear us, Lord; to Thee
A sinner is more music, when he prays,
Than spheres' or angels' praises be,
In panegyric alleluias ;
Hear us, for till Thou hear us, Lord,
We know not what to say ;
Thine ear to our sighs, tears, thoughts, gives voice and word ;
O Thou, who Satan heard'st in Job's sick day,
Hear Thyself now, for Thou in us dost pray.


That we may change to evenness
This intermitting aguish piety ;
That snatching cramps of wickedness
And apoplexies of fast sin may die ;
That music of Thy promises,
Not threats in thunder may
Awaken us to our just offices ;
What in Thy book Thou dost, or creatures say,
That we may hear, Lord, hear us when we pray.

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