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The Poets

November 08, 2009

When Last My Heart Gives Way

When last my heart gives way
To a melancholy,
When dim dark steals the day
And grief weeps of folly,
I seek Him and he loves me free
Despite my lack or sin’s degree.

When last my shame has fled
From all this soul contrite,
And sin in me seems dead-
Or dead at least the sight-
I leave Him who had loved me free,
And wish my Lord leave me to be …

… ‘til next my heart gives way.

-jwm

4 comments:

Nancy said...

No words.... just sincere prayers sent on tongues of the spirit to Angels most high... shalom v'la'bri-ut yadid sheli

John W. May said...

Thanks, Nancy.


Saturday night, right before going to bed, I was reading the tenth chapter of William James' The Varieties of Religious Experience. The very last thing I read was a quote James used from Luther's commentary on Galatatins 3:19 and 2:20 ... here's Luther's comments:

"God," says Luther, "is the God of the humble, the miserable, the oppressed, and the desperate, and of those that are brought even to nothing; and his nature is to give sight to the blind, to comfort the broken-hearted, to justify sinners, to save the very desperate and damned. Now that pernicious and pestilent opinion of man's own righteousness, which will not be a sinner, unclean, miserable, and damnable, but righteous and holy, suffereth not God to come to his own natural and proper work. Therefore God must take this maul in hand (the law, I mean) to beat in pieces and bring to nothing this beast with her vain confidence, that she may so learn at length by her own misery that she is utterly forlorn and damned. But here lieth the difficulty, that when a man is terrified and cast down, he is so little able to raise himself up again and say, 'Now I am bruised and afflicted enough; now is the time of grace; now is the time to hear Christ.' The foolishness of man's heart is so great that then he rather seeketh to himself more laws to satisfy his conscience. 'If I live,' saith he, 'I will amend my life: I will do this, I will do that.' But here, except thou do the quite contrary, except thou send Moses away with his law, and in these terrors and this anguish lay hold upon Christ who died for thy sins, look for no salvation. Thy cowl, thy shaven crown, thy chastity, thy obedience, thy poverty, thy works, thy merits? what shall all these do? what shall the law of Moses avail? If I, wretched and damnable sinner, through works or merits could have loved the Son of God, and so come to him, what needed be to deliver himself for me? If I, being a wretch and damned sinner, could be redeemed by any other price, what needed the Son of God to be given? But because there was no other price, therefore he delivered neither sheep, ox, gold, nor silver, but even God himself, entirely and wholly 'for me,' even 'for me,' I say, a miserable, wretched sinner. Now, therefore, I take comfort and apply this to myself. And this manner of applying is the very true force and power of faith. For he died not to justify the righteous, but the un-righteous, and to make them the children of God."

To which James responds: "That is, the more literally lost you are, the more literally you are the very being whom Christ's sacrifice has already saved."

I slept with these as my last words that night and underwent some obscure dreams. The next morning I pulled my laptop from off the desk and, literally still in bed, typed out this poem in minutes (almost without edit it felt complete).

The poem represents the half-heartedness too many of us exhibit when it comes to our relationship to God (particularly my own), at the same time it shows His unconditional faithfulness (always there, ready to forgive, etc). Honesty was the point of the poem, so don't worry you, it is not a declaration that I intend to abandon faith in Jesus, but rather an acknowledgement that a lack of faithfulness- on our part- is there.

John W. May said...

Poetic Parameters:

Stanza: Sextain (i.e. six lines per stanza); there is a concluding line that stands alone that is very much so an inherent part of the poem, but I'm not certain at this point how I'll classify it (could it be an envoi? we'll see) ...

Meter: Lines one through four are trimeters (6 syllables per line); lines five and six are tetrameters (eight syllables per line)

Rhyme Scheme: a.b.a.b.c.c per stanza

Note: This was my first time really experimenting with this type of meter and rhyme scheme together. I have to admit, it was very enjoyable (I need to do this more- that is, experiment more with different poetic forms).

Nancy said...

Wow John! Thanks so much for taking the time to share this. I don't think I feared an abandonment of faith... it was my admiration of your commitment that drew me back to God, when my foolishness found me dancing too close to the edge of salvation. And this piece also penned too soon after the worshipful "That Amber Sun" - which continues to thrill my soul. But there are moments when we all find it difficult to accept His grace. And you're my friend and I care about you. No need ever to explain despite my curiosity, but I am honored that you did.

I was appreciative of the poetic style even as I was concerned at the subject. I feel I can sense the spontaneity and freshness, that it walked straight out from your soul hand in hand with your Muse. I love it when you share the poetic parameters. I am learning so much! Despite the possible lack of a formal name, the last line trailing off in solitude is absolutely PERFECT for this poem. The form (poetry in general) that I disdained and struggled against in school is becoming a delight. You have a convertee. :)

Sigh - I wish John, that sometime we could just sit down over a nice cup of tea and let a conversation flow.......

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