Strong Son of God, Immortal Love by Alfred Tennyson

discord-expels-art-and-science
Discord Expels Art and Science by Theodoor van Thulden

 

Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove;

Our little systems have their day;
They have their day and cease to be:
They are but broken lights of thee,
And thou, O Lord, art more than they.

We have but faith: we cannot know;
For knowledge is of things we see;
And yet we trust it comes from thee,
A beam in darkness: let it grow.

Let knowledge grow from more to more,
But more of reverence in us dwell;
That mind and soul, according well,
May make one music as before …

Hear Malcolm Guite read today’s poem


As people of modernity we prize reason above all.  Our rule of acceptance is that which is reasonable and our imagination is thereby impoverished.  This malaise is largely a product of adulthood, for children accept wonder with gladness, but wonder surrenders to cynicism when education is bereft of wisdom.

Today’s selection from Tennyson’s In Memoriam is found at the poem’s opening, but it surely marks the poet’s conclusion to his crisis of faith.  In The Word in the Wilderness, Malcolm Guite writes:

In an age when increasingly strident forms of scientific and religious fundamentalism are making absolute truth-claims over against one another we need to make this prayer our own.
A key verse in this extract is the insight that:

Our little systems have their day;
They have their day and cease to be:
They are but broken lights of thee,
And thou, O Lord, art more than they.

To pray this prayer is to acknowledge the limits of knowledge, to know just how little our ‘little systems’ are. It is to ask for the grace and humility to trust, to trust God and one another. And yet from out of that humility this prayer asks for the wisdom to cherish real advances in knowledge, to see the discoveries of science as a partner to the discoveries of faith, to see ‘mind and soul according well’, making ‘one music’.

How are reason and faith complementary?

Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Dig Deeper: Literature & Liturgy

Alfred Tennyson

Alfred Tennyson

(1809–1892) The most popular English poet of the latter half of the nineteenth century, Tennyson was born in Somersby, Lincolnshire, the son of a country rector. He and his brother began to write verse and published a volume titled Poems by Two Brothers in 1827, the year Alfred left for Cambridge. He remained there until 1831, when financial need obligated him to return home, where he devoted himself to the craft of poetry. At Cambridge he developed a close friendship with Arthur Henry Hallam, who later became engaged to Tennyson’s sister. Hallam’s sudden death in Vienna at age twenty-two led to the publication of a long sequence of elegies by the poet in tribute to his friend. Finally completed and published in 1850, In Memoriam, is generally considered to be Tennyson’s finest work. Some parts of the poem have been made into hymns. Also in 1850 Tennyson was appointed Poet Laureate as successor to William Wordsworth.

His earlier poems—“Mariana,” “The Palace of Art,” “The Lotus Eaters,” “The Lady of Shalott,” “Ulysses,” and “Locksley Hall”—won for Tennyson wide acclaim. His poetry is always touched with the spirit of romanticism that early reminded critics of Keats. With the publication of In Memoriam Tennyson was secure, his income substantial, enabling him to buy a house in the country and to marry Emily Sellwood. Idylls of the King, a twelve-part narrative poem based on the Arthurian legends, occupied much of the latter part of Tennyson’s life. A good portion of Tennyson’s work is idealistic and morally high-minded. His religious convictions were expressed in terms of hope for an afterlife, but these hopes were rarely supported by strong doctrinal commitment. “Crossing the Bar,” his best known single poem, was written when the poet was eighty years old. Tennyson’s “Strong Son of God, Immortal Love” (1850) found its way into Christian hymnody when it was set to music by Leo Sowerby in 1941. He was buried in Westminster Abbey next to Robert Browning.

P.M. Bechtel, “Tennyson, Lord Alfred,” ed. J.D. Douglas and Philip W. Comfort, Who’s Who in Christian History (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1992), 664.

Malcolm Guite

Malcolm Guite
Malcolm Guite

Malcolm Guite is poet-priest and Chaplain of Girton College Cambridge, but he often travels round Great Britain, and to North America, to give lectures, concerts and poetry readings.  For more details of these and other engagements go to his Events Page

Photo courtesy Lancia E. Smith

 

51vg-xoskvl-_sy346_For every day from Shrove Tuesday to Easter Day, the bestselling poet Malcolm Guite chooses a favourite poem from across the Christian spiritual and English literary traditions and offers incisive seasonal reflections on it.

Lent is a time to reorient ourselves, clarify our minds, slow down, recover from distraction and focus on the values of God’s kingdom. Poetry, with its power to awaken the mind, is an ideal companion for such a time. This collection enables us to turn aside from everyday routine and experience moments of transfigured vision as we journey through the desert landscape of Lent and find refreshment along the way.

Following each poem with a helpful prose reflection, Malcolm Guite has selected from classical and contemporary poets, from Dante, John Donne and George Herbert to Seamus Heaney, Rowan Williams and Gillian Clarke, and his own acclaimed poetry.

 

ART: Discord Expels Art and Science

Style: Baroque

Faith In Honest Doubt by Alfred Tennyson

The_Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas-Caravaggio_(1601-2)
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio,

 

You tell me, doubt is Devil-born.

I know not: one indeed I knew
In many a subtle question versed,
Who touch’d a jarring lyre at first,
But ever strove to make it true:

Perplext in faith, but pure in deeds,
At last he beat his music out.
There lives more faith in honest doubt,
Believe me, than in half the creeds.

He fought his doubts and gather’d strength,
He would not make his judgment blind,
He faced the spectres of the mind
And laid them: thus he came at length

To find a stronger faith his own;
And Power was with him in the night,
Which makes the darkness and the light,
And dwells not in the light alone,

But in the darkness and the cloud,
As over Siniai’s peaks of old,
While Israel made their gods of gold,
Altho’ the trumpet blew so loud.

Hear Malcolm Guite read today’s poem


RickDoubt is not unbelief.  It is a friend of Truth because honest Doubt is a seeker and Truth welcomes investigation. Tennyson wrote his famous In Memoriam as a response to and journal of grief following the death of his close friend Arthur Henry Hallam.  In it he lays bear the devastation which led to a crisis of faith, but to our benefit he carries us through to a better conclusion.

In The Word in the Wilderness, Malcolm Guite writes:

Towards the end of In Memoriam Tennyson addresses those who condemn doubters as weak, and suppress or demonize their own doubts. He shows instead that a mature and balanced faith is not one which has refused the agony and the wrestling but one that has been through them and grown from them. Paradoxically this famous passage about ‘faith in honest doubt, is also a place in which he makes one of his most explicit appeals to scripture, to the darkness and cloud of Sinai, contrasted with the sparkling certainties of the Golden Calf.

Has doubt ever brought you closer to God?

Mark 9:23–25

Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”

24Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

25When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!”

 

Dig Deeper: Literature & Liturgy

Alfred Tennyson

Alfred Tennyson

(1809–1892) The most popular English poet of the latter half of the nineteenth century, Tennyson was born in Somersby, Lincolnshire, the son of a country rector. He and his brother began to write verse and published a volume titled Poems by Two Brothers in 1827, the year Alfred left for Cambridge. He remained there until 1831, when financial need obligated him to return home, where he devoted himself to the craft of poetry. At Cambridge he developed a close friendship with Arthur Henry Hallam, who later became engaged to Tennyson’s sister. Hallam’s sudden death in Vienna at age twenty-two led to the publication of a long sequence of elegies by the poet in tribute to his friend. Finally completed and published in 1850, In Memoriam, is generally considered to be Tennyson’s finest work. Some parts of the poem have been made into hymns. Also in 1850 Tennyson was appointed Poet Laureate as successor to William Wordsworth.

His earlier poems—“Mariana,” “The Palace of Art,” “The Lotus Eaters,” “The Lady of Shalott,” “Ulysses,” and “Locksley Hall”—won for Tennyson wide acclaim. His poetry is always touched with the spirit of romanticism that early reminded critics of Keats. With the publication of In Memoriam Tennyson was secure, his income substantial, enabling him to buy a house in the country and to marry Emily Sellwood. Idylls of the King, a twelve-part narrative poem based on the Arthurian legends, occupied much of the latter part of Tennyson’s life. A good portion of Tennyson’s work is idealistic and morally high-minded. His religious convictions were expressed in terms of hope for an afterlife, but these hopes were rarely supported by strong doctrinal commitment. “Crossing the Bar,” his best known single poem, was written when the poet was eighty years old. Tennyson’s “Strong Son of God, Immortal Love” (1850) found its way into Christian hymnody when it was set to music by Leo Sowerby in 1941. He was buried in Westminster Abbey next to Robert Browning.

P.M. Bechtel, “Tennyson, Lord Alfred,” ed. J.D. Douglas and Philip W. Comfort, Who’s Who in Christian History (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1992), 664.

 

Malcolm Guite

Malcolm Guite
Malcolm Guite

Malcolm Guite is poet-priest and Chaplain of Girton College Cambridge, but he often travels round Great Britain, and to North America, to give lectures, concerts and poetry readings.  For more details of these and other engagements go to his Events Page

Photo courtesy Lancia E. Smith

 

51vg-xoskvl-_sy346_For every day from Shrove Tuesday to Easter Day, the bestselling poet Malcolm Guite chooses a favourite poem from across the Christian spiritual and English literary traditions and offers incisive seasonal reflections on it.

Lent is a time to reorient ourselves, clarify our minds, slow down, recover from distraction and focus on the values of God’s kingdom. Poetry, with its power to awaken the mind, is an ideal companion for such a time. This collection enables us to turn aside from everyday routine and experience moments of transfigured vision as we journey through the desert landscape of Lent and find refreshment along the way.

Following each poem with a helpful prose reflection, Malcolm Guite has selected from classical and contemporary poets, from Dante, John Donne and George Herbert to Seamus Heaney, Rowan Williams and Gillian Clarke, and his own acclaimed poetry.

ART: https://literarylife.org/2017/07/21/the-incredulity-of-saint-thomas-by-michelangelo-merisi-de-caravaggio-1601-2/

 

 

Between Hopes and Heaven

 

michelangelo_caravaggio

from WILLIAM WILSON
EDGAR ALLAN POE

Let me call myself, for the present, William Wilson. The fair page now lying before me need not be sullied with my real appellation. This has been already too much an object for the scorn—for the horror—for the detestation of my race. To the uttermost regions of the globe have not the indignant winds bruited its unparalleled infamy? Oh, outcast of all outcasts most abandoned!—to the earth art thou not for ever dead? to its honors, to its flowers, to its golden aspirations?—and a cloud, dense, dismal, and limitless, does it not hang eternally between thy hopes and heaven?


Edgar Allan Poe was born on this day, January 19th in 1809.  He is a master of macabre, but no tale is more unsettling than William Wilson. It is the story of a man haunted from youth by a double who shares his name, his size, his features, and even his birthday. Intimate rivals as schoolboys, the two Wilsons part ways, but the narrator finds, as he leads a life of cruelty and extravagant debauchery across Europe, that his double appears again and again at his side to remind him of his nature in low, insinuating whispers. When, finally, the narrator is driven to murder his twin, he finds that he has murdered himself. In a further blurring of identity, the Wilsons share their birthday with their creator, Edgar Allan Poe.

We all get it.  Man was created in God’s image and our hearts aspire to the eternal.  We were created for glory but each of us (as the Bible says) has chosen to worship ourselves rather than our Creator.  That is the essence of sin and its wages are always death.  Like William Wilson, it is likewise by our own hand.  Only Jesus can change that sad outcome, and only we can make the consequence bearing decision of choice.

IMG_0181

Romans 7:14–25

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

 

Dig Deeper

Art: Narcissus by Caravaggio – 1597

It is housed in the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica in Rome. The painting was originally attributed to Caravaggio by Roberto Longhi in 1916.[1] This is one of only two known Caravaggios on a theme from Classical mythology, although this reflects the accidents of survival rather than the historical reality. The story of Narcissus, told by the poet Ovid in his Metamorphoses, is of a handsome youth who falls in love with his own reflection. Unable to tear himself away, he dies of his passion, and even when crossing the Styx, keeps looking at his own reflection (Metamorphoses 3:339-510).[2]

Ovid’s Narcissus was a frequent topic in literature; by example taken up by Dante (Paradiso 3.18-19) and Petrarch (Canzoniere 45-46).

Literature – Edgar Allan Poe

The saddest and the strangest figure in American literary history is that of Edgar Allan Poe. Few writers have lived a life so full of struggle and disappointment, and none have lived and died more completely out of sympathy with their times. His life has been made the subject of minute and prolonged investigation, yet there are still periods in his history that have not been satisfactorily cleared up. And the widest differences of opinion have existed as to his place and his achievements. But there are few today who will not readily concede to him a place among the foremost writers of America, whether in prose or in verse, and there are not wanting those who account him one of the two or three writers of indisputable genius that America has produced.

He lived a tortured life and on  October 3, 1849 was found delirious in a gutter in Baltimore, Maryland under mysterious circumstances.  It was the last time he was seen in public before his death.

Tennyson’s “Palace of Art” pictures the unbelieving soul who in that habitation enthrones herself.  It seems a description of Poe’s ambition and of Poe’s end:

‘I take possession of man’s mind and deed.
I care not what the sects may brawl.
I sit as God holding no form of creed,
But contemplating all.’

“Full oft the riddle of the painful earth
Flash’d thro’ her as she sat alone,
Yet not the less held she her solemn mirth,
And intellectual throne.

“And so she throve and prosper’d; so three years
She prosper’d; on the fourth she fell,
Like Herod, when the shout was in his ears,
Struck thro’ with pangs of hell.

“Lest she should fail and perish utterly,
God, before whom ever lie bare
The abysmal deeps of personality,
Plagued her with sore despair.

“Deep dread and loathing of her solitude
Fell on her, from which mood was born
Scorn of herself; again, from out that mood
Laughter at her self-scorn.

“ ‘What! is not this my place of strength,’ she said,
‘My spacious mansion built for me,
Whereof the strong foundation-stones were laid
Since my first memory?’

“But in dark corners of her palace stood
Uncertain shapes; and unawares
On white-eyed phantasms weeping tears of blood,
And horrible nightmares,

“And hollow shades enclosing hearts of flame,
And, with dim fretted foreheads all,
On corpses three-months-old at noon she came,
That stood against the wall.

“She, mouldering with the dull earth’s mouldering sod,
Inwrapt tenfold in slothful shame,
Lay there exiled from eternal God,
Lost to her place and name;

“And death and life she hated equally,
And nothing saw, for her despair,
But dreadful time, dreadful eternity,
No comfort anywhere;

“She howl’d aloud, ‘I am on fire within.
There comes no murmur of reply.
What is it that will take away my sin,
And save me lest I die?’ 

Bibliography

Tom Nissley. A Reader’s Book of Days: True Tales from the Lives and Works of Writers for Every Day of the Year (Kindle Locations 593-595). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

Edgar Allan Poe, The Works of Edgar Allan Poe, The Cameo Edition., vol. 5 (New York; London: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1904), 143.

Augustus Hopkins Strong, American Poets and Their Theology (Philadelphia; Boston; Chicago; St. Louis; Los Angeles; Toronto: The Griffith and Rowland Press, 1916), 177.

William Peterfield Trent, ed., Cambridge History of American Literature, vol. 2, Cambridge History of American Literature (Medford, MA: Perseus Digital Library, n.d.), 55.

The Year Is Going, Let It Go

stephen

IN MEMORIAM, CVI
ALFRED LORD TENNYSON

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand.
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.


This is the poem that gave us the classic line for New Year’s Eve: “Ring out the old, ring in the new.” By itself, it is in danger of seeming trite because it is too familiar. In the larger context of “In Memoriam,” with its unflinching exploration of grief, it has quite a different quality. It captures the soul of the bereaved person, rising at last from prolonged mourning to recognize that the very love that made the lost beloved so important to us calls us to pay attention again to the world around us and to hope and work for a better future.

The image of “the Christ that is to be” echoes the Advent theme of the Second Coming, but also suggests that we may have a part to play in helping all people find a way to live as citizens of the age to come, by creating here and now a world of peace and justice.

Benedict_Front

1 Thessalonians 3:11–13

Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.

 

Dig Deeper

Art: Christ The Judge by Fra Angelico

Literature: In Memoriam by Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809–92)

Esteemed by critics and the public alike, Alfred Tennyson was widely considered the greatest English poet of his own day and was long the British Poet Laureate. The son of a priest in the Church of England, he was able to give voice to the doubts of the nineteenth century and yet remain connected with the church, being a friend and supporter of the theologian F. D. Maurice. “In Memoriam,” with its frank account of his grief over the death of his friend Arthur Henry Hallam, is a key work of Victorian spirituality. Like the other Victorian poets, his reputation faded after his death, but he is again recognized as one of the great poets of the English language.

L. William Countryman, Run, Shepherds, Run: Poems for Advent and Christmas (New York; Harrisburg, PA; Denver: Morehouse Publishing, 2005), 93–94.

For more excellent material on Tennyson see Malcolm Guite here