Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Delight Turned into Sacrifice

Why poetry for the Christian? Why even bother? Apart from its aesthetic value, it doesn't seem to have the powers of other modes of communication to transform and renew the mind. And that's the goal, isn't it—conformity to the mind of Christ? So why bother? Let's press on with producing more crystal-clear prose in doing the Lord's work.

Or so it might be thought.

Some might think: Why not just sermons, systematic theologies, lectures, and discursive? Surely poetry can't communicate as much and as clearly as more didactic modes of communication. Or can it? Or can it perhaps communicate even more, passing on to the soul what other modes could never dream of communicating? Perhaps it has unique powers able to penetrate deeper, at least in certain respects.

Think about it. And you decide. Read some powerful poetry that communicates familiar and precious truths. And consider this first stanza of George Herbert's poem The Church-Porch:

Thou, whose sweet youth and early hopes enhance
Thy rate and price, and mark thee for a treasure;
Harken unto a Verser, who may chance
Rhyme thee to good, and make a bait of pleasure.
     A verse may find him, who a sermon flies,
     And turn delight into a sacrifice.

—George Herbert, The Complete English Poems (New York: Penguin, 1991), 6.

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