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A spiritual comment and prayer to begin the day with the Rt Rev'd Libby Lane, Bishop of Stockport.

2 minutes

Last on

Thu 24 Nov 2016 05:43

What has poetry ever done for us?

Good morning“Love bade me welcome but my soul drew back / Guilty of dust and sin...” The 17th century writer George Herbert wrote three poems called ‘Love’, of which the third is the most widely known. Love III imagines a dialogue between an eager host and a reluctant guest at a feast in the sort of grand house in which Herbert, an ambitious young man before becoming an Anglican priest, would have spent much of his time.
The poem subtly rehearses the ‘grand narratives’ of Christianity and entwines the liturgy of Holy Communion with the spirit and intimacy of dance - Herbert was a keen musician, often playing the viol in Salisbury Cathedral. “The most beautiful poem in the world,” wrote the French philosopher and mystic, Simone Weil. Apart from touching us with its beauty, I wonder if poetry does anything else for us?
Weil thought that ‘truth’ is something wholly unavailable to representation in language, but that while our intellect can never penetrate mystery, it is able to determine the suitability of the words that try to express it. Writing, for her, was a kind of translation which deflects and pushes out of the way the words that hide “the silent thing that must be expressed.” With its ability to edit down the words towards the music of silence, poetry is perhaps the form of writing that best opens us up to mystery. 
Weil wrote how Love III opened her own self: “I was repeating it to myself at the moment when Christ came to take possession of me for the first time. I thought I was only reciting a beautiful poem, but unknown to me, it was a prayer.” 
Loving Lord, help us to find the stillness today to hear you underneath the words, to encounter you in unexpected places.”Amen