Category: Inspiring Poems

Inspiring Poem – "Heaven" by George Herbert

I first read this poem when I was a teenager, and I was completely amazed at how George Herbert both makes the poem rhyme with echoes of the word on each previous line, but also how it suggests such profound meaning.

See whether you agree…!

O who will show me those delights on high?
Echo. I.
Thou Echo, thou art mortall, all men know.
Echo. No.
Wert thou not born among the trees and leaves?
Echo. Leaves.
And are there any leaves, that still abide?
Echo. Bide.
What leaves are they? impart the matter wholly.
Echo. Holy.
Are holy leaves the Echo then of blisse?
Echo. Yes.
Then tell me what is that supreme delight?
Echo. Light.
Light to the minde: what shall the will enjoy?
Echo. Joy.
But are there cares and businesse with the pleasure?
Echo. Leisure.
Light, joy, and leisure; but shall they persever?
Echo. Ever.

‘Heaven’ by George Herbert

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Inspiring Poems: The Wreath

A WREATHED garland of deservèd praise,
Of praise deservèd, unto Thee I give,
I give to Thee, who knowest all my ways,
My crooked winding ways, wherein I live,—
Wherein I die, not live ; for life is straight,
Straight as a line, and ever tends to Thee,
To Thee, who art more far above deceit,
Than deceit seems above simplicity.
Give me simplicity, that I may live,
So live and like, that I may know Thy ways,
Know them and practise them : then shall I give
For this poor wreath, give Thee a crown of praise.

This poem is particularly amazing in the way that the words are threaded from one line to the next, like a kind of wreath. See how “praise” is repeated, then “give”, then “ways”, and so on… I’ve marked the first few in bold below.

A WREATHED garland of deservèd praise,
Of praise deservèd, unto Thee I give,
I give to Thee, who knowest all my ways,
My crooked winding ways, wherein I live,—
Wherein I die, not live ; for life is straight,
Straight as a line, and ever tends to Thee,
To Thee, who art more far above deceit,
Than deceit seems above simplicity.
Give me simplicity, that I may live,
So live and like, that I may know Thy ways,
Know them and practise them : then shall I give
For this poor wreath, give Thee a crown of praise.

George Herbert, who wrote this poem, was probably also thinking of the “crown of thorns”; but he has a “crown of praise” instead to give to God.

Image by Nadine Zarya from Pixabay

Inspiring Poem – "Annunciation" by Scott Cairns — from Featured Blog by Malcolm Guite

Image by Linda Richardson Yesterday we considered a poem by John Donne, today we pair and compare it with a poem of the same title by Scott Cairns. I draw out some of the parallels and differences in the brief essay on this poem in my Advent Anthology from Canterbury Press Waiting on the Word. The image above was […]

Annunciation by Scott Cairns — Malcolm Guite

Inspiring Poem from a Featured Blog – "Annunciation" by John Donne — Malcolm Guite's blog

The poem I have chosen for December 3rd in my Advent Anthology from Canterbury Press Waiting on the Word, is The Annunciation by John Donne, and once again it is accompanied by a beautiful illustration from the book of responses to these poems by Linda Richardson. She writes: The imagery of The Annunciation is richly grounded in our […]

Annunciation by John Donne — Malcolm Guite

Featured blog: Daryl Madden

Daryl Madden is another poet/blogger whose work I enjoy, and whose writing has sometimes inspired my own work.

I am sharing this poem for you to enjoy.

I was especially taken by the final verse:

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Let roots of faith

Grow deep this day

In deserts rain

Through shades of gray.

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Here is the whole poem, called “Dawnings’ Gray

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Slow the dawning

From the night

Horizons glow

Of black and white

.

Soul is seeking

Colors, employ

The empty scene

Devoid of joy

.

Still a prayer

Spirit appeal

Inspiration

To reveal

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Let roots of faith

Grow deep this day

In deserts rain

Through shades of gray.

Dawnings’ Gray — DarylMadden

Inspiring Poems: "Up-Hill"

Image by ashish verma from Pixabay

Does the road wind up-hill all the way? 
   Yes, to the very end. 
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day? 
   From morn to night, my friend. 

But is there for the night a resting-place? 
   A roof for when the slow dark hours begin. 
May not the darkness hide it from my face? 
   You cannot miss that inn. 

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night? 
   Those who have gone before. 
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight? 
   They will not keep you standing at that door. 

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak? 
   Of labour you shall find the sum. 
Will there be beds for me and all who seek? 
   Yea, beds for all who come.

Christina Rossetti’s beautiful poem I found rather pessimistic when I first read it : an up-hill road all the way?

But when you read it carefully, you see that she not only accepts that life can be demanding and sometimes a real struggle for some people, but that also there are times of consolation:

But is there for the night a resting-place? 
   A roof for when the slow dark hours begin. 
May not the darkness hide it from my face? 
   You cannot miss that inn. 

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night? 
   Those who have gone before. 
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight? 
   They will not keep you standing at that door. 


And at the end of the journey is a resting place:

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak? 
   Of labour you shall find the sum. 
Will there be beds for me and all who seek? 
   Yea, beds for all who come.

Inspirers – of love, of spirituality, of time – T.S.Eliot

For me, T.S.Eliot is the writer of time, of love, of spirituality, and of “the desert”.

This is a spiritual desert -“The Waste Land” – as he calls it in his most influential work…

desert TSEliot

That concept – of a spiritual desert – has spoken to me many times:

 

Movements of Time

 

I.

In a world of time

we must find a way

to bear reality

 

At a still point

descending deeper

than the twittering world

the silence rinses the soul

 

And the word is here

in the quietness of the desert

though assailed by shrieking voices

of temptation

 

Love remains the mover

primal

beyond time.

 

loveprimal OOM

 

Eliot also writes about what he calls “moments of illumination”, as in this wonderful phrase (from “The Waste Land”):

Gazingintoheartlight ELIOT

“The heart of light” – the idea of a “timeless moment” inspired this:

 

II.

Sometimes

there is a timelessness

in a moment

 

That cuts deeper

into the mind

than the soul understands

 

And the spirit arises anew

forever now facing

a different direction

however unnoticeable.

 

Eliot sees both how life feels meaningless and empty for some, but he went on more and more to see how transcendence is possible:

 

pentecostalfire ELIOT

 

My final poem for this post was inspired, like the other two, by “Burnt Norton” in Eliot’s wonderful work “Four Quartets”.  There is a beautiful passage there about how the human body’s “dance” is like the movement of the stars, and I wanted to express this wonder about the order of the universe, notwithstanding how confusing life often is…

 

There is a pattern in the universe

the flow of the blood

the drift of stars

the seasons of the moon

 

We take our place in the dance

moving hesitantly

stumbling

 

But the dance goes on

lifts with its music

 

Moves our feet

with the rhythm of the heart.

 

dancegoesone OOM

Inspiring Poems: “Tintern Abbey”

Inspiring Poems: “Tintern Abbey”

I can still vividly remember reading these lines for the first time as a teenager in my bedroom in Wandsworth, London.  They took me out and away from suburban life into my imagination and a feeling of “transcendence” :

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“These beauteous forms,

Through a long absence, have not been to me

As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:

But oft, in lonely rooms, and ‘mid the din

Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,

In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,

Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;

And passing even into my purer mind

With tranquil restoration:—feelings too

Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,

As have no slight or trivial influence

On that best portion of a good man’s life,

His little, nameless, unremembered, acts

Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,

To them I may have owed another gift,

Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,

In which the burthen of the mystery,

In which the heavy and the weary weight

Of all this unintelligible world,

Is lightened:—that serene and blessed mood,

In which the affections gently lead us on,—

Until, the breath of this corporeal frame

And even the motion of our human blood

Almost suspended, we are laid asleep

In body, and become a living soul:

While with an eye made quiet by the power

Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,

We see into the life of things.”

seeintothelifeofthings WORDSWORTH

Later I would write my own tribute to Wordworth’s lines:

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Often when the dreadful weight of this

Unintelligible and weary world

Oppressed me like a care, I turned thankful

To your poetry – I felt it move

Along my veins, inside my heart, when I

Was young and saw into the life of things.

That was a blessed time, though transitory,

And soon I had to leave to find my own

Philosophy, though nature always kept

A place of refuge and a solace for

My soul.  And now in lonely cities, in

My room and ‘mid the roar of nearby roads,

I think of you, and I recall my early

Wanderings in the world of poetry.

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placerefuge JOC

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Wordsworth writes about connection in his poem

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connectlandscapesky WORDSWORTH

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…another theme I have taken up in my own work:

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The wild birds inhabit these hills

and I, a walker,

.

Glancing down the valley

dazzled by gleaming lights

.

Flung across the fields

Like necklaces

.

I feel connected

With the wind

.

The grass under my feet

God’s sky above my head.

.

connectedFWTS

You can read Wordsworth’s poem “Lines Written A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey”  here.

Inspiring Poems: “living souls…bright-faced as dawn” – R.S.Thomas

“My understanding is darkened,

It is no gain to enquire;

Better to wait the long night’s ending,

Till the light comes, far truth’s transcending…”

It’s a poem about peering beyond the darkness, about seeking beyond the long night.

Yet there is certainty that beyond the darkness is light:

“Yet living souls, a prodigious number,

Bright-faced as dawn, invest God’s chamber”.

This poem is called ‘The Cry of Elisha after Elijah’. It’s a translation by one of my inspirers, R.S.Thomas, of a poem originally in Welsh.

“… Blest are they, without pain or fretting

In the sun’s light that knows no setting.”

Inspiring Poems: “Wisdom and Spirit of the universe”

” WISDOM and Spirit of the universe!
Thou Soul, that art the Eternity of thought!
And giv’st to forms and images a breath
And everlasting motion! not in vain,
By day or star-light, thus from my first dawn
Of childhood didst thou intertwine for me
The passions that build up our human soul;
Not with the mean and vulgar works of Man;
But with high objects, with enduring things,
With life and nature; purifying thus
The elements of feeling and of thought,
And sanctifying by such discipline
Both pain and fear,–until we recognise
A grandeur in the beatings of the heart. “

by William Wordsworth (from “The Prelude”)