4 Oct

Holy Writ Exalted in Verse

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 10/04/06

Earlier this year, "New on our desks . . ." featured two short annotations of books about how to read the Bible. Peter Enns wrote about taking the Bible on its own terms in Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament, and John J. O'Keefe and R. R. Reno studied how the Early Church Fathers understood Scripture in Sanctified Vision: An Introduction to Early Christian Interpretation of the Bible. Some of the realities presented in both works are ancient and have been attended to by souls throughout the ages, as is evident in two poems by Anglican priest and poet George Herbert (1593-1633). His two poems that wonder at the glory, intricacy, and power of scripture, titled The Holy Scriptures I and II, are provided below. Many thanks to Lois Westerlund for drawing our attention to the works. Lois recently presented a four-part lecture series called "'True Beauty Dwells on High': The Poetry of George Herbert" at the Center for Christian Study in Charlottesville, Virginia. [Posted October 2006, ALG]

The Holy Scriptures I

Oh Book! infinite sweetness! let my heart

Suck ev'ry letter, and a honey gain,

Precious for any grief in any part;

To clear the breast, to mollify all pain.

Thou art all health, health thriving, till it make

A full eternity: thou art a mass

Of strange delights, where we may wish and take.

Ladies, look here; this is the thankfull glass,

That mends the looker's eyes: this is the well

That washes what it shows. Who can endear

Thy praise too much? thou art heav'n's Lidger here,

Working against the states of death and hell.

Thou art joy's handsel: heav'n lies flat in thee,

Subject to ev'ry mounter's bended knee.

The Holy Scriptures II

Oh that I knew how all thy lights combine,

And the configuration of their glory!

Seeing not only how each verse doth shine,

But all the constellations of the story.

This verse marks that, and both do make a motion

Unto a third, that ten leaves off doth lie:

Then as dispersed herbs do watch a potion,

These three make up some Christian's destiny:

Such are thy secrets, which my life makes good,

And comments on thee: for in ev'ry thing

Thy words do find me out, and parallels bring,

And in another make me understood.

Stars are poor books, and oftentimes do miss:

This book of stars lights to eternal bliss.