poem index

Pilgrimage to God through God

A collection of poems that reflect the Christian life.
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As I Walked Out One Evening
W. H. Auden, 1907 - 1973
As I walked out one evening,
   Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
   Were fields of harvest wheat.

And down by the brimming river
   I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
   'Love has no ending.

'I'll love you, dear, I'll love you
   Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
   And the salmon sing in the street,

'I'll love you till the ocean
   Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
   Like geese about the sky.

'The years shall run like rabbits,
   For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages,
   And the first love of the world.'

But all the clocks in the city
   Began to whirr and chime:
'O let not Time deceive you,
   You cannot conquer Time.

'In the burrows of the Nightmare
   Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
   And coughs when you would kiss.

'In headaches and in worry
   Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
   To-morrow or to-day.

'Into many a green valley
   Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
   And the diver's brilliant bow.

'O plunge your hands in water,
   Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
   And wonder what you've missed.

'The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
   The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
   A lane to the land of the dead.

'Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
   And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,
   And Jill goes down on her back.

'O look, look in the mirror,
   O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
   Although you cannot bless.

'O stand, stand at the window
   As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
   With your crooked heart.'

It was late, late in the evening,
   The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
   And the deep river ran on. 
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Love (III)
George Herbert, 1593 - 1633
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 anything.

"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.
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The Pulley
George Herbert, 1593 - 1633
   When God at first made man, 
Having a glass of blessings standing by, 
   "Let us," said he, "pour on him all we can. 
Let the world's riches, which disperséd lie, 
   Contract into a span."

   So strength first made a way; 
Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honor, pleasure. 
   When almost all was out, God made a stay, 
Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure, 
   Rest in the bottom lay. 

   "For if I should," said he, 
"Bestow this jewel also on my creature, 
   He would adore my gifts instead of me, 
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature; 
   So both should losers be. 

   "Yet let him keep the rest, 
But keep them with repining restlessness. 
   Let him be rich and weary, that at least, 
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness 
   May toss him to my breast." 
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Batter my heart, three person'd God (Holy Sonnet 14)
John Donne, 1572 - 1631
Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
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Verses upon the Burning of our House
Anne Bradstreet, 1612 - 1672
In silent night when rest I took,
For sorrow near I did not look,
I waken'd was with thund'ring noise
And piteous shrieks of dreadful voice.
That fearful sound of "fire" and "fire,"
Let no man know is my Desire.
I starting up, the light did spy,
And to my God my heart did cry
To straighten me in my Distress
And not to leave me succourless.
Then coming out, behold a space
The flame consume my dwelling place.
And when I could no longer look,
I blest his grace that gave and took,
That laid my goods now in the dust.
Yea, so it was, and so 'twas just.
It was his own; it was not mine.
Far be it that I should repine,
He might of all justly bereft
But yet sufficient for us left.
When by the Ruins oft I past
My sorrowing eyes aside did cast
And here and there the places spy
Where oft I sate and long did lie.
Here stood that Trunk, and there that chest,
There lay that store I counted best,
My pleasant things in ashes lie
And them behold no more shall I.
Under the roof no guest shall sit,
Nor at thy Table eat a bit.
No pleasant talk shall 'ere be told
Nor things recounted done of old.
No Candle 'ere shall shine in Thee,
Nor bridegroom's voice ere heard shall bee.
In silence ever shalt thou lie.
Adieu, Adieu, All's Vanity.
Then straight I 'gin my heart to chide:
And did thy wealth on earth abide,
Didst fix thy hope on mouldring dust,
The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?
Raise up thy thoughts above the sky
That dunghill mists away may fly.
Thou hast a house on high erect
Fram'd by that mighty Architect,
With glory richly furnished
Stands permanent, though this be fled.
It's purchased and paid for too
By him who hath enough to do.
A price so vast as is unknown,
Yet by his gift is made thine own.
There's wealth enough; I need no more.
Farewell, my pelf; farewell, my store.
The world no longer let me love;
My hope and Treasure lies above.
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God's Grandeur
Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1844 - 1889

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
   It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
   It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
   And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
   And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
   There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
   Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs--
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
   World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

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The Savior must have been a docile Gentleman (1487)
Emily Dickinson, 1830 - 1886
The Savior must have been
A docile Gentleman—
To come so far so cold a Day
For little Fellowmen—

The Road to Bethlehem
Since He and I were Boys
Was leveled, but for that 'twould be
A rugged Billion Miles—
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Come Slowly—Eden (211)
Emily Dickinson, 1830 - 1886
Come slowly—Eden
Lips unused to Thee—
Bashful—sip thy Jessamines
As the fainting Bee—

Reaching late his flower,
Round her chamber hums—
Counts his nectars—
Enters—and is lost in Balms.
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Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness
John Donne, 1572 - 1631
Since I am coming to that Holy room, 
    Where, with Thy choir of saints for evermore, 
I shall be made Thy music; as I come 
    I tune the instrument here at the door, 
    And what I must do then, think here before; 

Whilst my physicians by their love are grown 
    Cosmographers, and I their map, who lie 
Flat on this bed, that by them may be shown 
    That this is my south-west discovery, 
    Per fretum febris, by these straits to die; 

I joy, that in these straits I see my west; 
    For, though those currents yield return to none, 
What shall my west hurt me?  As west and east 
    In all flat maps—and I am one—are one, 
    So death doth touch the resurrection. 

Is the Pacific sea my home?  Or are 
    The eastern riches?  Is Jerusalem? 
Anyan, and Magellan, and Gibraltar? 
    All straits, and none but straits, are ways to them 
    Whether where Japhet dwelt, or Cham, or Shem. 

We think that Paradise and Calvary, 
    Christ's cross and Adam's tree, stood in one place; 
Look, Lord, and find both Adams met in me; 
    As the first Adam's sweat surrounds my face, 
    May the last Adam's blood my soul embrace. 

So, in His purple wrapp'd, receive me, Lord; 
    By these His thorns, give me His other crown; 
And as to others' souls I preach'd Thy word, 
    Be this my text, my sermon to mine own, 
    "Therefore that He may raise, the Lord throws down."
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When Autumn Came
Faiz Ahmed Faiz, 1911 - 1984
This is the way that autumn came to the trees:
it stripped them down to the skin,
left their ebony bodies naked.
It shook out their hearts, the yellow leaves,
scattered them over the ground.
Anyone could trample them out of shape
undisturbed by a single moan of protest.

The birds that herald dreams
were exiled from their song,
each voice torn out of its throat.
They dropped into the dust
even before the hunter strung his bow.

Oh, God of May have mercy.
Bless these withered bodies
with the passion of your resurrection;
make their dead veins flow with blood again.

Give some tree the gift of green again.
Let one bird sing.
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The Face of All the World (Sonnet 7)
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1806 - 1861
The face of all the world is changed, I think, 
Since first I heard the footsteps of thy soul 
Move still, oh, still, beside me, as they stole 
Betwixt me and the dreadful outer brink 
Of obvious death, where I, who thought to sink, 
Was caught up into love, and taught the whole 
Of life in a new rhythm. The cup of dole 
God gave for baptism, I am fain to drink, 
And praise its sweetness, Sweet, with thee anear. 
The names of country, heaven, are changed away 
For where thou art or shalt be, there or here; 
And this... this lute and song... loved yesterday, 
(The singing angels know) are only dear, 
Because thy name moves right in what they say. 
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The Sleep
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1806 - 1861
Of all the thoughts of God that are  
Borne inward unto souls afar,  
Along the Psalmist's music deep,  
Now tell me if that any is,  
For gift or grace, surpassing this— 
'He giveth His belovèd sleep'?  
  
What would we give to our beloved?  
The hero's heart to be unmoved,  
The poet's star-tuned harp, to sweep,  
The patriot's voice, to teach and rouse,
The monarch's crown, to light the brows?  
He giveth His belovèd, sleep.  
  
What do we give to our beloved?  
A little faith all undisproved,  
A little dust to overweep,  
And bitter memories to make  
The whole earth blasted for our sake.  
He giveth His belovèd, sleep.  
  
'Sleep soft, beloved!' we sometimes say,  
But have no tune to charm away
Sad dreams that through the eye-lids creep.  
But never doleful dream again  
Shall break the happy slumber when  
He giveth His belovèd, sleep.  
  
O earth, so full of dreary noises!
O men, with wailing in your voices!  
O delvèd gold, the wailers heap!  
O strife, O curse, that o'er it fall!  
God strikes a silence through you all,  
He giveth His belovèd, sleep.
  
His dews drop mutely on the hill;  
His cloud above it saileth still,  
Though on its slope men sow and reap.  
More softly than the dew is shed,  
Or cloud is floated overhead,
He giveth His belovèd, sleep.  
  
Aye, men may wonder while they scan  
A living, thinking, feeling man  
Confirmed in such a rest to keep;  
But angels say, and through the word 
I think their happy smile is heard—  
'He giveth His belovèd, sleep.'  
  
For me, my heart that erst did go  
Most like a tired child at a show,  
That sees through tears the mummers leap, 
Would now its wearied vision close,  
Would child-like on His love repose,  
Who giveth His belovèd, sleep.  
  
And, friends, dear friends,—when it shall be  
That this low breath is gone from me,
And round my bier ye come to weep,  
Let One, most loving of you all,  
Say, 'Not a tear must o'er her fall;  
He giveth His belovèd, sleep.' 
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A Christmas Carol
Christina Rossetti, 1830 - 1894
In the bleak mid-winter
   Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
   Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
   Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter 
   Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
   Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
   When He comes to reign:
In the bleak midwinter
   A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty
   Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
   Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
   And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
   Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
   Which adore.

Angels and archangels
   May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
   Thronged the air;
But only His mother
   In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
   With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
   Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
   I would bring a lamb,
If I were a Wise Man
   I would do my part,—
Yet what I can I give Him,
   Give my heart.
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The Thread of Life
Christina Rossetti, 1830 - 1894
1

The irresponsive silence of the land,
The irresponsive sounding of the sea,
Speak both one message of one sense to me: —
Aloof, aloof, we stand aloof, so stand
Thou too aloof bound with the flawless band
Of inner solitude; we bind not thee;
But who from thy self—chain shall set thee free?
What heart shall touch thy heart? what hand thy hand?—
And I am sometimes proud and sometimes meek,
And sometimes I remember days of old
When fellowship seemed not so far to seek
And all the world and I seemed much less cold,
And at the rainbow's foot lay surely gold,
And hope felt strong and life itself not weak.

2

Thus am I mine own prison. Everything
Around me free and sunny and at ease:
Or if in shadow, in a shade of trees
Which the sun kisses, where the gay birds sing
And where all winds make various murmuring;
Where bees are found, with honey for the bees;
Where sounds are music, and where silences
Are music of an unlike fashioning.
Then gaze I at the merrymaking crew,
And smile a moment and a moment sigh
Thinking: Why can I not rejoice with you ?
But soon I put the foolish fancy by:
I am not what I have nor what I do;
But what I was I am, I am even I.

3

Therefore myself is that one only thing
I hold to use or waste, to keep or give;
My sole possession every day I live,
And still mine own despite Time's winnowing.
Ever mine own, while moons and seasons bring
From crudeness ripeness mellow and sanative;
Ever mine own, till Death shall ply his sieve;
And still mine own, when saints break grave and sing.
And this myself as king unto my King
I give, to Him Who gave Himself for me;
Who gives Himself to me, and bids me sing
A sweet new song of His redeemed set free;
He bids me sing: O death, where is thy sting?
And sing: O grave, where is thy victory?
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Olney Hymns, I, [Walking with God]
William Cowper, 1731 - 1800
Oh! for a closer walk with God,
     A calm and heavenly frame; 
A light to shine upon the road
     That leads me to the Lamb!

Where is the blessedness I knew
     When first I saw the Lord? 
Where is the soul-refreshing view
     Of Jesus and his word?

What peaceful hours I once enjoyed!
     How sweet their memory still! 
But they have left an aching void,
     The world can never fill.

Return, O holy Dove, return!
     Sweet the messenger of rest! 
I hate the sins that made thee mourn
     And drove thee from my breast.

The dearest idol I have known,
     Whate'er that idol be, 
Help me to tear it from thy throne,
     And worship only thee.

So shall my walk be close with God,
     Calm and serene my frame; 
So purer light shall mark the road
     That leads me to the Lamb.
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The Castaway
William Cowper, 1731 - 1800
Obscurest night involved the sky,
     The Atlantic billows roared,
When such a destined wretch as I,
     Washed headlong from on board,
Of friends, of hope, of all bereft,
His floating home forever left.

No braver chief could Albion boast
     Than he with whom he went,
Nor ever ship left Albion's coast,
     With warmer wishes sent.
He loved them both, but both in vain,
Nor him beheld, nor her again.

Not long beneath the whelming brine,
     Expert to swim, he lay;
Nor soon he felt his strength decline,
     Or courage die away;
But waged with death a lasting strife,
Supported by despair of life.

He shouted: nor his friends had failed
     To check the vessel's course,
But so the furious blast prevailed,
     That, pitiless perforce,
They left their outcast mate behind,
And scudded still before the wind.

Some succour yet they could afford;
     And, such as storms allow,
The cask, the coop, the floated cord,
     Delayed not to bestow.
But he (they knew) nor ship, nor shore,
Whatever they gave, should visit more.

Nor, cruel as it seemed, could he
     Their haste himself condemn,
Aware that flight, in such a sea,
     Alone could rescue them;
Yet bitter felt it still to die
Deserted, and his friends so nigh.

He long survives, who lives an hour
     In ocean, self-upheld;
And so long he, with unspent power,
     His destiny repelled;
And ever, as the minutes flew,
Entreated help, or cried, "Adieu!"

At length, his transient respite past,
     His comrades, who before
Had heard his voice in every blast,
     Could catch the sound no more.
For then, by toil subdued, he drank
The stifling wave, and then he sank.

No poet wept him: but the page
     Of narrative sincere,
That tells his name, his worth, his age,
     Is wet with Anson's tear.
And tears by bards or heroes shed
Alike immortalize the dead.

I therefore purpose not, or dream,
     Descanting on his fate,
To give the melancholy theme
     A more enduring date:
But misery still delights to trace
Its semblance in another's case.

No voice divine the storm allayed,
     No light propitious shone;
When, snatched from all effectual aid,
     We perished, each alone:
But I beneath a rougher sea,
And whelmed in deeper gulfs than he.
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As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame
Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1844 - 1889
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;	
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells	
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's	
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;	
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:	        
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;	
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,	
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.	
 
Í say móre: the just man justices;	
Kéeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces;	        
Acts in God's eye what in God’s eye he is—	
Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,	
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his	
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.