Updated: Apr 13
You can't teach an old dog new tricks. Still, there are times when they discover new pleasures. This was the case for me last summer while on vacation. While traveling down the Great River Road, I did something that I had never done before in my life. I purchased a book of poetry. I hadn't planned on doing this. It just so happened that the volume below jumped out at me in a second-hand bookstore.
Pearl Street Books - LaCrosse, Wisconsin
My interest in poetry has been increasing over time. I think that this is largely the result of my job as a pastor. I love the poets because they speak volumes with just a few words. There is much that a preacher can learn from them. So can all Christians. Poets remind me of the value of the short phrase or even a single word. They remind me to slow down and to savor God's Word.
As we approach Good Friday – and Easter, three poems come to mind.
BECAUSE I COULD NOT STOP FOR DEATH
BY EMILY DICKINSON
Because I could not stop for Death – He kindly stopped for me – The Carriage held but just Ourselves – And Immortality. We slowly drove – He knew no haste And I had put away My labor and my leisure too, For His Civility – We passed the School, where Children strove At Recess – in the Ring – We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain – We passed the Setting Sun – Or rather – He passed Us – The Dews drew quivering and Chill – For only Gossamer, my Gown – My Tippet – only Tulle – We paused before a House that seemed A Swelling of the Ground – The Roof was scarcely visible – The Cornice – in the Ground – Since then – 'tis Centuries – and yet Feels shorter than the Day I first surmised the Horses' Heads Were toward Eternity –
I hope that we can visit the recluse from Amherst's grave while on vacation this summer.
DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT
BY DYLAN THOMAS
Here is a link to the poet reading his work:
Thomas died tragically young, at least partially the result of alcoholism.
DEATH BE NOT PROUD
BY JOHN DONNE
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so; For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me. From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be, Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow, And soonest our best men with thee do go, Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery. Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men, And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell, And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then? One short sleep past, we wake eternally And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
To appreciate Donne's poem, you must know what he endured. Here is a link to a very brief overview of his life:
Stations of the Cross at Cloisters on the Platte (Gretna, Nebraska)
Dickinson, Thomas, and Donne help me to think about death. In their own way, each prepares me for Good Friday and Easter. But even more so is a young boy who grew up in New Orleans. Click on the photo box below to hear his story: