God Speaks Through The Mouths of Poets
Essay for English Poetry Class Every poem has an element of God in it's words. Just as God spoke through the writings of Peter or Matthew, elements of His word are in the beautiful themes in poetry. In this essay, I will compare the poems of William Blake and William Wordsworth with the written Word of God, in five poems: The Lamb, The Chimney Sweeper, The Tyger, My Heart Leaps Up, and London 1802. My aim is to show that the writings of great poets are truly the words of God. Little Lamb, who made thee? Dost thou know who made thee? These begin the words of William Blake's The Lamb. Just as God asks us, Blake questions our understanding of our creator. If we are seen as the lambs of God, meek and tender, can we really understand the generosity and glory of a God who gave us life? He did give us life, and Blake tells us that we take this great gift for granted. So, he asks "Dost thou know who made thee?" So God created man in His own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female, He created them. Genesis 1:27 Anyone who has seen a lamb knows that it is a weak creature; unable to protect it's self from the strength of an evil predator. If we are the Lamb, then we must rely on the protection of our Shepherd, God. Why would Blake call us a Lamb then? Aren't we stronger than any other animal upon this earth? I think that God would tell us "No," for it is He who gives us life strength, as Blake says in the next few lines. Gave thee life & bid thee feed, By the stream & o're the mead; Gave thee clothing of delight, Softest clothing wooly bright, What strength could man have without the gifts of God: life, food, clothing. We would have none! And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst." John 6:33 William Blake saw that the individual man was so removed from Nature and his Creator. As science progressed, and society seemed so wrapped up in it's money making, it's industry and it's politics, haven't we lost touch with what is truly important? While we see ourselves as giants, Blake reminds us that we are just lambs. A lamb is just a baby, and needs the love of it's mother to survive. Who are we to ignore the one who gives us life and gives us food? Because we think we have grown, we believe we do not need to ask ourselves, "Who made thee?" In Blake's next poem, The Chimney Sweeper, he shows us just how much we still need God. Throughout history, man has been so inhumane to his fellow man. Every culture has experienced some sort of slavery or oppression. When one thinks of how man has even enslaved his own young, I wonder how much lower we can degrade ourselves. The Chimney Sweeper is a poem speaking of such inhumanity. As I read the words, ". I was very young, And my Father sold me while yet my tongue could scarcely cry weep! weep! weep! weep." I wonder if there is any God left in the hearts of men. Blake points out our faults, our inhumanity. He is telling us to look at ourselves, and stop this pain we cause. Just as God told us to love one another, Blake tells us the same. "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. John 15:12 This is Blake's message to the oppressors of this world! Yet, in the same short poem, Blake has a message for the oppressed: the young chimney sweeper child will still have hope in the words of Jesus. That is the hope that God will send an angel to free them, with only one small condition: that the child loves his God and follows his commandments. Then naked & white, all their bags left behind, They rise upon clouds, and
in the wind. And the Angel told Tom, if he'd be a good boy, He'd have God for his father & never want joy. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:10-11 The two above quotes give us the same message! No matter how painful your life may be, God will give us joy if we follow his commandments. It is as if God has spoken his word through the writings of John and of Blake, that God has given both men the gift of beautiful writing, so that they may sing the words of God! As often as our Lord has given us scripture in the Bible of his love and tenderness, there is also a reminder of His ultimate power! Just as Blake's poetry is a combination of asking us to embrace God's love, it is also a reminder that His strength must be feared! The Tyger warns us that the hands of God not only give love, but also possess a strength far beyond any other. Tyger! Tyer! burning bright In the Forests of The night, What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry? The "immortal hand" that created the tiger is the same hand that offers us eternal joy, if we follow Him. What fool would tell Him "No?" Just as a child sometimes tests the limits of his or her parent's patience, we test the limits of God's patience with us. Children often run wild if they know that their parent will never punish them for their misbehavior. If God only gave us the message of love & joy, we may never fear his rule over us. Thus says the Lord God of the Hebrews. I will send all my plagues to your very heart, and on your servants and on your people, that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth. Now if I had stretched out My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, then you would have been cut off from the earth. But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth. Exodus 9:14-16 What strength in these words! Surely it makes the sinner fear God. Blake creates the same message, in a slightly different way. He tells us of the tiger, his symmetry and strength in his shoulder, his strong heart, his fiery eyes, the grasp of his hands and feet, his quick brain. Surely, the tiger is one to be feared, for he may take your life in an instant! But, what of his creator? Isn't it true that the creator of the tiger is surpassing in strength? So, Blake asks us one last question, is the one who made the tender lamb, the same that made the fearful tiger? Such words and questions bring the same message, that is that God is one to be feared, for like the tiger, He may take your life away from you in an instant! The poetry of William Wordsworth is very different in style, but still contains elements of God's influence. Rejoicing in God's symbol, the poem My Heart Leaps Up. At first, the poem is a celebration of the beauty in nature, and the wonders of the elegant rainbow. Then, he reminds us of the rainbow as God's symbol of protection. I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. Genesis 9:13 Wordsworth makes an interesting segue when he says "the Child is father of the man," he is speaking of Jesus Christ as the Child, and also the idea that the child will become the man. In all of Wordsworth's poems of nature, he views his surroundings in a child-like wonder. Many of the natural beauties around us are ignored by adults, who have lost touch with their roots in nature; however, the child is very different. The child sees everything through the eyes of innocence and wonder: the rainbow is truly a miracle of God, to the child. This is why he says "And I wish my days to be bound by each by natural piety." What a subtle and beautiful statement of faith and appreciation of God's nature and beauty! London 1802, although a poem titled by it's date of birth, is so timeless. Easily, it could be re-titled, "The World Today," for it addresses the problems of men that still exist after almost two-hundred years. It represents a world in decline; a world that has become so ungodly. In the brevity of the poem, we are shown our faults: stagnation, loss of inner happiness, selfish greed, lost manners and virtue. All of these aspects are of a society that has forgotten God. London 1802 holds a mirror to our faces, and asks us, "Do you walk this ungodly path?" And, this path is described by egocentricism, greed and selfishness. For what is a man profited if he gains For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone the whole world, and loses his own who is among you, not to think of himself more soul? Or, what will a man give in highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as exchange for his soul? Matt 16:26 God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. Rom 12:3 He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require you But to do justly, to love mercy And to walk humbly with your God? Mic 6:8 In five poems, I have shown only a small sample of the similarities in poetry and the words of God. Five seemingly very different poems all have this one aspect alike. Is it just a coincidence? God often talks to men on earth in many subtle ways. Every Sunday school student learns that God has granted each and every one of us a special gift or talent, that God may work his miracles through. The sight of a beautiful painting or the sound of a beautiful song is godly, as if He, Himself, is painting through the hands of the artist, or speaking through the mouth of the singer. The effect is breathtaking! The poet is the most gifted, for the poet can deliver us the message of God in a beautiful way, that we may want to read it again and again. Followers of the Christian Faith agree that the men who wrote the scripture in the Bible were writing the words of God, because God was speaking to us through them. I believe that the great poets of our recent history were also writing the words of God, for He was speaking to us through them. How else could the scripture of the Bible, written 1800 years earlier, contain such similar meaning? Blake said, "The Jewish & Christian Testaments are An original derivation from the Poetic Genius," in his essay All Religions Are One. Even a great poet, such as Blake, admits that his words are not his own, they are the words of God, who gifted him the talent. All poetry should be read, not just for it's beauty and entertainment, but for it's special meaning delivered from God.