Thursday, September 22, 2005

Songs of Zion in a Foreign Tongue

For a long time, Anglicanism and Lutheranism were sisters, yet rivals, in the idea of "Conservative Reformation." This similarity yet difference can be seen in the following poem by Henry Vaughan (1621-1695), the cavalier "metaphysical" poet who published his collection Silax Scintillans: Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations, in 1650 while England was under Puritan rule. The theme is Lutheran, the treatment much the same, but some subtle differences are also apparent. Many, however, will just wish to enjoy the poem:

The Law, and the Gospel

Lord, when thou didst on Sinai pitch
And shine from Paran, when a fiery Law
Pronounced with thunder, and thy threats did thaw
Thy people's hearts, when all thy weeds* were rich
And inaccessible for light,
Terror, and might,
How did poor flesh (which after thou didst wear,)
Then faint, and fear!
Thy chosen flock, like leaves in a high wind,
Whispered obedience, and their heads inclined.

But now since we to Sion came,
And through thy blood thy glory see,
With filial confidence we touch even thee;
And where the other mount all clad in flame,
And threatening clouds would not so much
As 'bide the touch,
We climb up this, and have too all the way
Thy hand our stay,
Nay, thou tak'st ours, and (which full comfort brings)
Thy Dove too bears us on her sacred wings.

Yet since man is very brute
And after all thy acts of grace doth kick,
Slighting that health thou gav'st, when he was sick,
Be not displeased, if I, who have a suit
To thee each hour, beg at thy door
For this one more;
O plant in me thy Gospel and thy Law,
Both faith, and awe;
So twist them in my heart, that ever there
I may as well as love, find too thy fear!

Let me not spill, but drink they blood,
Not break thy fence, and by a black excess
Force down a just curse, when thy hands would bless;
Let me not scatter, and despise my food,
Or nail those blessed limbs again
Which bore my pain;
So shall thy mercies flow: for while I fear,
I know, thou'lt bear,
But should thy mild injuction nothing move me,
I would both think, and judge I did not love thee.

John xiv 15
If ye love me, keep my commandments