In sin’s dark dungeon lying

In sin’s dark dungeon lying
A helpless captive I,
My conscience crucifying,
Heave sigh on weary sigh.
My mortal wound no balm can find,
No help I see around me,
Or solace for my mind.

The Law with heavy lashes
Chastised me for my sin,
Brought me to dust and ashes
With cruel discipline.
No hope I saw; my case was lost,
My heart was bowed with sorrow;
My spirit tempest-tossed.

But Thou dist hear my groaning
And hasting to my aid,
For Thy poor child atoning
Thy sacrifice was made.
The spotless soul was chastened sore
That I should be delivered –
Reclaimed forevermore.

My pains by Thee were taken,
That healing might be mine.
In darkness Thou, forsaken,
Gav’st light on me to shine.
The chastisement on Thee was laid,
Wounded for my transgressions,
And thus my debt was paid.

My heart with grief is stricken
When I survey Thy woes.
Oh! That my love may quicken
To guage how much it owes!
The grief I caused Thee I lament,
My sin has brought Thee sorrow.
Oh! How I now repent.

Hallgrímur Pétursson (1614–1674), Hymns of the Passion: Meditations on the Passion of Christ (translated by Arthur C. Gook, 1978).

Crouching Poet, Hidden Haiku

Speaking of poetry… Stephen Fry in The Ode Less Traveled: Unlocking the Poet Within [(Gotham, 2005) p. xxiv], writes:

“It is easy to be shy when confronting a poem. Poems can be the frightening older children at a party who make us want to cling to our mothers. But remember that poets are people and they have taken the courageous step of sharing their fears, loves, hopes and narratives with us in a rare and crafted form. They have chosen a mode of expression that is concentrated and often intense, they are offering us a music that has taken them a long time to create—many hours in the making, a lifetime in the preparation. They don’t mean to frighten or put us off, they long for us to read their works and to enjoy them.”

HT: Slew

Poetry Schmoetry

Between 2002 and 2008 the number of American adults who read poetry declined 31% (from 12.1% to 8.3% of the population). This according to the National Endowment for the Arts.

Said C.S. Lewis nearly 50 years ago: “Poetry confines itself more and more to what only poetry can do; but this turns out to be something which not many people want done.” [An Experiment in Criticism (Canto, 1961) p. 98]

Of Mice and Men (and Sin)

I detest mice, but especially any mouse who attempts residence in my basement. Thankfully it’s not a common experience, but whenever I see a mouse scurry across the floor my heart stops. It takes a moment to regain my composure. Once I do, I set aside whatever I was working on and become Beowulf. I gather my battle-ready troops (the kids), travel to distant lands (Home Depot) in search of lethal weaponry (spring traps) and return to the field of combat (basement) fully armed.

One reason I hate mice is because it’s my basement; I didn’t invite Mickey to the party. That mouse has intruded occupied territory and resisting this insurgency is priority one.

These experiences remind me of poet George Herbert’s mole, a metaphor for God ability to find out sin in the darkest closet of our hearts. The Lord can expose those bosom sins through the use of metaphorical vermin.

So how do you keep the moles out?

Herbert says, keep the door wide open.

Here is George Herbert’s poem, Confession (1633).