I am posting one of my favorite poems, written by Matthew Arnold, entitled Desire.  I know it’s a bit long, but it is necessary to keep the proper format.  I was hesitant at first to put this poem out there because I feared some readers may not grasp it’s power and scope. This fear was not from any literary arrogance but welled up from that protective instinct we often develop toward favorite things. It differs very little from a mother’s protectiveness of her child.

My reluctance also stemmed from the awareness that people aren’t much interested in poetry these days. I don’t want to over-generalize here, but I doubt the previous sentence is much of a reach. Poetry can be the most demanding kind of reading. We’d rather tag it with our overused ‘Not Worth the Effort’ label and spend our ever-dwindling stash of Time on worthier things like television and video games. Again, don’t think I write out of arrogance, as if I am not a great ‘labeler’ myself. Strong and sincere criticism is best when the critic knows his place at the forefront of the criticized.

As you read this poem think of the story God is weaving throughout all time, the ‘already, not yet’ aspect of the Christian life, our minute-by-minute need of grace, David’s cries for deliverance in the Psalms, and the great hope of the prophets amid their God-given decrees of judgment.

THOU, who dost dwell alone—
        Thou, who dost know thine own—
        Thou, to whom all are known
        From the cradle to the grave—
                Save, oh, save.
        From the world’s temptations,
            From tribulations;
        From that fierce anguish
        Wherein we languish;
        From that torpor deep
        Wherein we lie asleep,
Heavy as death, cold as the grave;
                Save, oh, save.

        When the Soul, growing clearer,
            Sees God no nearer:
        When the Soul, mounting higher,
            To God comes no nigher:
        But the arch-fiend Pride
        Mounts at her side,
        Foiling her high emprize,
        Sealing her eagle eyes,
        And, when she fain would soar,
        Makes idols to adore;
        Changing the pure emotion
        Of her high devotion,
        To a skin-deep sense
        Of her own eloquence:
Strong to deceive, strong to enslave—
                Save, oh, save.

        From the ingrain’d fashion
        Of this earthly nature
        That mars thy creature.
        From grief, that is but passion
        From mirth, that is but feigning;
        From tears, that bring no healing;
        From wild and weak complaining;
            Thine old strength revealing,
                Save, oh, save.
        From doubt, where all is double:
        Where wise men are not strong:
        Where comfort turns to trouble:
        Where just men suffer wrong:
        Where sorrow treads on joy:
        Where sweet things soonest cloy:
        Where faiths are built on dust:
        Where Love is half mistrust.
Hungry, and barren, and sharp as the sea;
                Oh, set us free.
        O let the false dream fly
        Where our sick souls do lie
            Tossing continually.
        O where thy voice doth come
            Let all doubts be dumb:
            Let all words be mild:
                    All strifes be reconcil’d:
            All pains beguil’d.
        Light bring no blindness;
        Love no unkindness;
        Knowledge no ruin;
        Fear no undoing.
        From the cradle to the grave,
                Save, oh, save.

An Answer to a Common Objection

One of the books through which I’ve been reading (and working) recently is Susan Bauer’s The Well-Educated Mind. It’s a practical and encouraging guide to a classical self-education through reading the great books of literature. Near the beginning, in a chapter on “The Act of Reading,” she responds to a common objection that often serves as a rationale (however unjustifiable) for not even attempting to read serious books. [Read more…]

A Look at “god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything” by Christopher Hitchens

I recently listened to portions of a radio debate hosted on the Hugh Hewitt radio program between Christopher Hitchens, author of the recently published book “god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything,” and Mark Roberts, author of the soon to be released published book “Can We Trust the Gospels?.” Roberts is in the middle of a series of blogs discussing the debate and reviewing Hitchens’ book that you can find via the link on his name above. [Read more…]

Why Read?

The of the primary purposes of this site is to encourage reading. This begs a very basic question…Why? For Christians, who are after all the the target audience for this site, one of the most important answers is that God has chosen to reveal himself to us through written text, the Bible. If we desire to grow and mature our relationship with him, reading that text is not optional. [Read more…]

Reading with Profit

“It has been the error of many ages, and still is of the present age, that to have read much is to be very learned. There is not, I may say, a greater heresy against common sense. Reading is doubtless necessary; and it must be owned, that eminence in knowledge is not to be attained without it. But two things are ever specially to be regarded on this topic, which are these: First, that more depends on the quality of what we read, than on the quantity. Secondly, more depends on the use, which, by reflection, conversation, and composition, we have made of what we read, than upon both the former.” (Professor Campbell, quoted in The Christian Ministry by Charles Bridges)

In other words, the act of reading is only a beginning in our stewardship of the life of the mind. [Read more…]