Happy New Year, everyone! I hope your 2017 is starting well — and maybe warmly? Last week here, the parking lots were paved in patches of ice. This weekend, it’s been in the 50’s. A welcome change, but I don’t know what to make of the weather. I don’t know the weather knows what to make of itself. 😛
During the summer, I mentioned that I had been inspired by my adventures in England to try writing a poem with more of a traditional structure.
I was especially inspired by visiting the hometown of William Cowper….
William Cowper was a friend of John Newton (pastor and writer of ‘Amazing Grace’), and he also poetry and hymns, including ‘God Moves In a Mysterious Way’. Cowper struggled with depression all his life, and the last poem he wrote before he died was called ‘The Castaway‘.
‘The Castaway’ was inspired by the true story of a ship caught in a storm. One man fell overboard in the tempest, and barely caught hold of one of the ropes. For a whole hour, he managed to hang on, but finally, the crew realized there was no way they could save him. The ship would sink unless they sailed on without him, and they had to make the choice to cut the rope he was clinging to and let him drown. Understandably, Cowper was shaken.
The final stanza of Cowper’s poem is probably the most famous. [You may recognize the quote from the 1995 Sense and Sensibility. (; ]
“No voice divine the storm allay’d,
No light propitious shone;
When, snatch’d from all effectual aid,
We perish’d, each alone:
But I beneath a rougher sea,
And whelm’d in deeper gulfs than he.”
When I heard the story — and Cowper’s reaction — it shook me a little, too.
In response, I wrote this is a hymn-ish poem. It’s been through a few drafts due to some helpful critiques, and I’m not sure it’s settled all the way, but here goes….
So many troubles, Lord, beset,
And darkness clouds the sky!
Sometimes my heart can feel the gale
That makes the sunlight fly.
What then am I? A ragged sail
Held on by weathered ropes,
Helpless to stop the tow’ring waves
That threaten all my hopes.
Each way I look, there’s terror still.
How can I hope to win?
For at the heart of each black cloud
Is blacker death and sin.
And worse yet still, in all these clouds,
I see my own heart shown.
Can any man expect else but
To perish, each alone?
Yet only when my own rope snaps
And nothing else can save,
Then do I marvel at the One
Who rules both wind and wave.
What other ruler with such pow’r
Gave of himself to die
And let his blood appease the waves
Of fury from on high?
And in Your death you conquered all –
These angry worlds You stilled –
The storm without, the storm within.
The triumph You fulfilled!