Lord’s Prayer in Blank Verse

Great Spirit, Who created time and space,
we praise You for Your Love and handiwork.
May we support Your labor every day
to manifest Your plan for Love on earth.

We see ourselves each day strive to obtain
our nourishment for body and for soul;
may we grow to be constantly aware
of Your provision for our daily need.

Great Spirit, when our peers fail to assist
us in our efforts to get by and thrive,
please make us grateful that they are alive,
forgiving them as You’ve forgiven us.

And, when the tempter comes to snare
us with the doubts that we are worthy of Your Love,
Great Spirit make a Light shine from above
to show the Path that will deliver us.

Creator Who reigns over us in Love:
You serve us, showing us the way that we
may serve each other, making real Your reign
of never-ending Mercy, Joy, and Peace.

Reciting the Lord’s Prayer is so habitual that my attention can wander. As I have encountered others’ paraphrases, I have found that my attention is drawn more immediately to the meaning. I decided to put what this prayer means to me into my own words. At first, I imagined making it rhyme, but I found that blank verse was sufficient.

— Art Eschenlauer, Pentecost 2020

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“Life” (George Herbert)

This is George Herbert’s poem “Life”, published in 1633, with a few modern spellings substituted and some notes below. You can hear my musical setting of the poem for baritone and harp at https://soundcloud.com/eschen42/a-posie

“Life” (by George Herbert)

I made a posie, while the day ran by:
here will I smell my remnant out, and tie
    my life within this band.
But Time did beckon to the flowers, and they
by noon most cunningly did steal away,
    and wither’d in my hand.

My hand was next to them, and then my heart:
I took, without more thinking, in good part
    Time’s gentle admonition:
who did so sweetly death’s sad taste convey,
making my mind to smell my fatal day;
    yet sug’ring the suspicion.

Farewell dear flowers, sweetly your time ye spent,
fit, while ye liv’d, for smell or ornament,
    and, after death, for cures.
I follow straight without complaints or grief,
since if my scent be good, I care not if
    it be as short as yours.

Notes and my evolving interpretation:

  • Some serenity comes to the poet as he humbly accepts how little he can control his experience. He finds hope and peace in accepting the impermanence of what he might do or create and even of life itself. I find the naming of the senses of smell and taste suggestive of thoughts that are deeply sensed and experienced rather than intellectual abstractions; the poet does not merely think these thoughts, he is fully invested in them.
  • “posie” (line 1) – A posy is a bouquet of flowers (sense 1) or an inscription in a ring (sense 2) [https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/posy]. Flowers may have a scent, and an inscription may inspire (hopefully wise and generous) deeds. I think that he is at first entirely pleased with the results of his efforts.
  • “smell my remnant out” (line 2) – (Looking ahead to line 17) I think that he anticipates that his enjoyment of what he has created and done will continue, uninterrupted, for the rest of his days [http://www.georgeherbert.org.uk/archives/selected_work_43.html]
  • “tie my life within this band” (line 2) – He reflects on the circle of his life and all of its “flowers” (his deeds) that his life binds together (“band” is a synonym for “ring”) – he is ready for a life of contentment.
  • “by noon most cunningly did steal away” (line 5) – (Looking ahead to line 11) his life is already half gone, and his sense of contentment yields to an awareness of loss and impermanence [ibid.].
  • “my hand was next to them, and then my heart” (line 7) – As the inscription in a ring is next to the skin, he senses the impermanent effect of his deeds through analogy with the fading flowers.
  • “I took without more thinking” (line 8) – It did not take much thought to sense the lesson.
  • “Time’s gentle admonition” (line 9) – He accepts the limitation of his time here on what he can do and its lasting impact.
  • “smell my fatal day” (line 11) – He senses the imminence of death [ibid.].
  • “sug’ring the suspicion” (line 12) – It makes the thought of death less unpalatable [ibid.].
  • “after death, for cures” (line 15) – Some dried flowers are used as herbal medications; perhaps he imagines that his works (or even this poem) can bring healing after he is gone.
    Indeed, the poet died within the few years between when he wrote this poem and when it was published [ibid.], but his poems have made life more sweet for the generations that came after him.
  • “straight without complaints or grief” (line 16) – He acknowledges without regret that he is so ephemeral that he may pass as quickly as the flowers.
  • “if my scent be good” (line 17) – There is the possibility of slightly sweetening his world ephemerally, as flowers do.

“Redemption” (George Herbert)

“Redemption” by George Herbert, paraphrased by Art Eschenlauer

As long-time tenant to a wealthy Lord,
not thriving, I resolvèd to be bold
and make suit to the Owner to afford
a new, reduced-rent lease, and cancel th’old.

At Heaven’s manor, thus, my Lord I sought:
They told me that my Lord was lately gone
about some land on Earth, so dearly bought
quite long ago, to take possession.

Returning, knowing of my Lord’s great birth,
I searched accordingly in great resorts;
in cities, theaters, gardens, parks, and courts:

At length, I heard a ragged noise and mirth
of thieves and murd’rers: there my Lord I spied,
who said, “Your suit is granted,” and then died.

I paraphrased George Herbert’s poem “Redemption” (published in 1633 in The Temple; see e.g. https://tinyurl.com/GeorgeHerbertRedemption) because I wanted more modern language (more gender-neutral and less confusing), but I wanted to try to preserve the “feel” and meaning as best I could.

License: CC BY-SA 4.0

Cross Purpose

Cross Purpose:

A response to George Herbert’s “Redemption”

At Heaven’s manor’s door I stood and knocked
to ask my Lord about this mystery.
I hoped my loving Lord would help me see
how, from my sin, my spirit is unlocked.

“My cross is where your condemnation ends,
so you can view your past without despair,
and, freed from Satan’s sway, you can repair
relationships and start to make amends.”

It seems I want to have a better past
with facts that are much less unsettling.
I want my Savior’s precious blood to bring
me far from those regrets which hold me fast.

“My child,” my Lord said,  “that can never be.
Accept your past, and know you live with Me.”

“The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall
keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
– Philippians 4:7 KJV

The Greek and Hebrew words term translated as “sin” both literally are the archery term meaning “missing the mark”[1].   It is not the error that hurts me the most, but rather the impact on the person whom I have hurt, along with its effect on our relationship (which is changed even though my victim may have forgiven me).  This makes it difficult to be fully present when reconciling with my victims while I am at the same time feeling wracked with guilt.  How does redemption change my relationship with the fact of what I have done?  I wrote this sonnet as I reflected on this question.

I like the sonnet as a way to structure thought: the form classically begins with contemplation of an issue (“the argument”) and then moves on to proposing how the issue might be addressed (“the resolution”) [2].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamartia#In_Christian_theology
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonnet#Petrarchan_sonnet


License: CC BY-SA 4.0

Two Days After

Two Days After

Beside a boulder, Mary Magdalene
stands looking through the tomb’s door and dark space
at empty grave cloths lying in the place
where Jesus’ lifeless body last was seen.

And Crucifixion I see all the time
as Christ-within-all suffers at the hand
of scared folks like me who don’t understand
that they themselves are victims of their crime.

An empty tomb! So rare, bewildering.
Her hopes and dreams are shattered; with her there
comes grief and will to show the corpse the care
that, to the living, people would not bring.

So, blind with grief, by Mary now I stand,
Not recognizing Jesus-now-at-hand!

“… she turned around and saw Jesus standing there,
but she did not know that it was Jesus.”
– John 20:14 NRSV

License: CC BY-SA 4.0

John 20:16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” NRSV (Noli me tangere by Martin Schongauer, circa 1473)