Tuesday, November 16, 2010

An Impious Poem

My search continues for a few nice Adventish poems to jump start your sermon preparations for a new Church year. One of the major themes of Advent is, of course, the Return of our Lord for Judgment and the Day of Resurrection. While searching for a poem on this topic I came across this impious poem of Jonathan Swift.

As you will see, the poem rests on several commonplaces of the Enlightenment attack on Christianity. One of my favorite short stories from one of my favorite authors touches on similar points: The Lightening-Rod Man by Herman Melville. These are not only insightful attacks on the pride of clergymen (especially Melville) and the very foundations of Christianity (especially Swift) - but they are so very well done. It behooves those called to defend the faith to be familiar with the most effective attacks thereon.

But that is only the mundane reason to read this poem. The real reason to read it - or anything by Swift - is that it will make you a better writer and story teller. Swift is king of the surprise - that sort of surprise that leaves you mouth agape and at a loss for words. Would that more of our sermons could pull that off!



With a Whirl of Thought opress'd,
I sink from Reverie to Rest.
An horrid Vision seiz'd my Head.
I saw the Graves give up their Dead.
Jove, arm'd with Terrors, burst the Skies,
And Thunder roars, and Light'ning flies!
Amaz'd, confus'd, its Fate unknown,
The World stands trembling at his Throne.
While each pale Sinner hangs his Head,
Jove, nodding, shook the Heav'ns, and said,
"Offending Race of Human Kind,
By Nature, Reason, Learning, blind:
You who thro' Frailty step'd aside,
And you who never fell—thro' Pride:
You who in different Sects have shamm'd,
And come to see each other damn'd:
(So some Folks told you, but they knew
No more of Jove's Designs than you)
The World's mad Business now is o'er,
And I resent these Pranks no more.
I to such Blockheads set my Wit!
I damn such Fools!—Go, go, you're bit."


  1. lectionarycentral.com always has linked poems of John Keeble for all the Sundays in the Church Year. Keeble was Chair of Poetry at Oxford.

    Here is s few snippets of his Advent I poem

    AWAKE—again the Gospel-trump is blown—
    From year to year it swells with louder tone,
    From year to year the signs of wrath
    Are gathering round the Judge's path,
    Strange words fulfill'd, and mighty works achiev'd,
    And truth in all the world both hated and believ'd.

    Awake! why linger in the gorgeous town,
    Sworn liegemen of the Cross and thorny crown?
    Up from your beds of sloth for shame,
    Speed to the eastern mount like flame,
    Nor wonder, should ye find your King in tears
    Even with the loud Hosanna ringing in his ears.


    Even so, the world is thronging round to gaze
    On the dread vision of the latter days,
    Constrain'd to own Thee, but in heart
    Prepared to take Barabbas' part:
    "Hosanna" now, to-morrow "Crucify,"
    The changeful burden still of their rude lawless cry.

    Yet in that throng of selfish hearts untrue
    Thy sad eye rests upon thy faithful few,
    Children and childlike souls are there,
    Blind Bartimeus' humble prayer,
    And Lazarus waken'd from his four days' sleep,
    Enduring life again, that Passover to keep.

  2. Oops that should be John KEBLE.


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