How Shall We Now Live, 13: It’s Times Like This We Need the Poems

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila

Access entire series here.

It’s Times Like This We Need the Poets

…who bid us follow them

beneath the tides,

metaphors luring 

to sunken treasures

and ancient krakens

(lest we forget)

below the hollow drumbeats

and crashing cymbals

on charred streets

where the lost

raise their fists to God

or their own gods–

rotting idols

in cracked riverbeds 

littered with busted altars.

It’s times like this

we need the poems.


For example: in these prophetically significant days as we prepare on many levels for the next events, spiritual preparedness includes an invitation to clear the conscience.

The follow excerpt from the fourteenth-century classic Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, translated by J. R. R. Tolkien, illustrates the joy we experience when we step away from the sometimes treacherous, often tempting, mortal quest, to repent, confess, and make ourselves right with God.

The resultant .joy is our strength–and a light in the darkness.

To the castle’s chapel then he came,

Approached a priest in private, and he prayed him

To hear how he had lived and better lead him

To save his soul when he returned his journey.

With fair intent there he confessed [*] his faults,

His sins both great and small, and sought God’s mercy

And asked for absolution of that man.

And he absolved and cleansed him so securely

The next day should have been the day of doom.

Afterwards he entertained the ladies,

Scintillating so with song and story,

HIgh in sprits, as he’s seldom done there since his stay.

   When daytime drew to night

   They felt it fair to say

   He’d never shone so bright

   As he had shone that day.


Here is another poem in lyric form on the reason for that same joy:

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear [revere] him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; (Psalm 103:11-13)


Note: in the fourteenth-century Middle-English religious culture confession was to a Catholic priest. For believers of all centuries, here is the biblical protocol.


This entry was posted in Christian poetry, GUEST and EMBEDDED FEATURES, HOW SHALL WE NOW LIVE SERIES, most recent posts. Bookmark the permalink.

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