Poetry Friday

Seeing Poetry Friday around the Internet has revived my love of poetry. I never really stopped loving it, but I stopped exploring it, content when a gem was found in my path. But now I am going back to old favorites and finding new ones.

One of the poets I most enjoyed learning about while I was in college was John Donne, an Anglican priest converted from Roman Catholicism, who is known as a metaphysical poet. According to this article that simply means he compared “two vastly unlike ideas into a single idea, often using imagery,” as opposed to “the conceits found in other Elizabethan poetry, most notably Petrarchan conceits, which formed clichéd comparisons between more closely related objects (such as a rose and love).” Most of his poems focus on love, death, or religion, the last “a matter of great importance to Donne. Donne argued that it was better carefully to examine one’s religious convictions than blindly to follow any established tradition, for none would be saved at the Final Judgment by claiming ‘a Philip, or a Gregory, A Harry, or a Martin taught [them] this‘” (Greenblatt, Stephen. The Norton anthology of English literature Eighth edition. W. W. Norton and Company, 2006. pp. 600–602.)

I enjoyed reading several of Donne’s poems, but the one I wanted to share today is “A Hymn to God the Father”:

Wilt thou forgive that sin, where I begun,
which is my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt thou forgive those sins through which I run,
and do run still, though still I do deplore?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
for I have more.

Wilt thou forgive that sin, by which I won
others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt thou forgive that sin which I did not shun
a year or two, but wallowed in a score?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
for I have more.

I have a sin of fear that when I’ve spun
my last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
swear by thyself, that at my death thy Son
shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore.
And having done that, thou hast done,
I fear no more.

According to this source, the multiple use of the word “done” was a play on his own name, which was pronounced the same way. I think many Christians have gone through this process of confessing sin only to realize “I have more,” but thank God “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5: 20b-21.)

Poetry Friday is hosted at Charlotte’s Library today.

By the way, Poetry Friday participants are very careful about copyright restrictions: if I refer to a modern poem and would deprive the author of potential income by copying his poem, I would only quote a few lines and link back to his site. But with older poems like this, they are quoted in multiple places on the Internet and in textbooks, and the copyrights involved, as far as I can tell, apply to the text about the poem rather than the original poem (and if I quote any of their comments I link back to them as well). Someone please correct me if I am wrong on that understanding.

4 thoughts on “Poetry Friday

  1. A very careful self-scrutiny in that poem, isn’t there? I especially like the honesty of “Wilt thou forgive that sin, by which I won others to sin, and made my sin their door?” I was just listening to ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ the other day and heard Peter claim part of the responsibility for Edmund’s betrayal. Good stuff.

    I like the discipline of poetry every Friday too.

  2. This was a great post Barb… I really enjoyed it. I’ve not read John Donne before – I admit that I would have a hard time reading him on a regular basis … but your narrative was helpful. My brain is very picky! I get Shakespeare with NO problem – but I don’t get Chaucer at all! (just an example…)

    I was just talking today with God about those sins I do not shun! Ya think he’s talkin’ to me? LOL!

  3. Pingback: Bookmarks about Poetry

I love hearing from you. I've had to turn on comment moderation. Comments will appear here after I see and approve them.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.