OF A KIND – FROM ONE TO ANOTHER

Lo! on a narrow neck of land, 'Twixt two unbounded seas, I stand. Secure, insensible.  - Charles Wesley

Someday I will probably have to split my life story in three. One titled darkness, and the other light…and the one that falls between will be somewhat a grey area…where the line between there and here is so thin, they intertwine, mingle and shove me into a murky trench. My story will tell of the journey from one end, the stop in the middle, and the glorious emergence to the other side. Of these two sides, are poets who touch me deeply, Sylvia Plath on one side, and Charles Wesley on the other.

I am not writing about Plath today. Fine poet she was, her influence on me will not be forgotten. I write about Charles Wesley, another poet who was not superhuman, note it…he was mortal like us, and so like us he lived, and died…he had his own journey and if you pay attention to his works, you’d know it was not always smooth. As a Christian, and a writer, i relate to Wesley as closely as I relate to Plath.

Known to have written over 6000 hymns, Charles Wesley was no doubt a great poet. His hymns are so popular I am sure most of you sing them without knowing he authored it. He, of course, is one of my favourite hymnists (yes I am a lover of hymns) Even those I cannot sing, I read. They are, after all, poems.

As I read through most of his hymns, I couldn’t help but wonder what his struggles were – his uptimes, and downtimes. What was the Christian life like for Mr. Wesley? The man wrote with such a personal touch, one can only believe he wrote of his own experiences. I dare call them confessional pieces. And I am a sucker for those, especially when they mirror my present state, when they seem to cry out for me, at moments when words desert me, at moments when I just need to offload, but I find my pen dry and my mind too crammed with emotions scattered all over the place, when I cannot sit still and churn them out with a little effort, I resort to the poetry of others. For we are one of a kind, but of course, different exposures, different minds and yet I believe each poet finds one or more of its kind he/she can completely relate to.

This morning, after church service, I felt the need to read one of his works, and again, it was just what I needed. Just the prayer I wanted to pray, just what I was feeling, the very questions that were sitting in my heart, blessed Jesus, I broke down and cried. That is a great poet. Long gone but his works live so vibrantly they enter into your very soul and shake you up, you cannot stand…it sends you down your knees because it speaks so well for you and of you! Bless him! Let me share what I read with you.

The title is Depth of Mercy.

Depth of mercy! Can there be

Mercy still reserved for me?

Can my God His wrath forbear,

Me, the chief of sinners, spare?

I have long withstood His grace,

Long provoked Him to His face,

Would not hearken to His calls,

Grieved Him by a thousand falls.

I have spilt His precious blood,

Trampled on the Son of God,

Filled with pangs unspeakable,

I, who yet am not in hell!

I my Master have denied,

I afresh have crucified,

And profaned His hallowed Name,

Put Him to an open shame.

Whence to me this waste of love?

Ask my Advocate above!

See the cause in Jesus’ face,

Now before the throne of grace.

Jesus, answer from above,

Is not all Thy nature love?

Wilt Thou not the wrong forget,

Permit me to kiss Thy feet?

If I rightly read Thy heart,

If Thou all compassion art,

Bow Thine ear, in mercy bow,

Pardon and accept me now.

Jesus speaks, and pleads His blood!

He disarms the wrath of God;

Now my Father’s mercies move,

Justice lingers into love.

Kindled His relentings are,

Me He now delights to spare,

Cries, “How shall I give thee up?”

Lets the lifted thunder drop.

Lo! I still walk on the ground:

Lo! an Advocate is found:

“Hasten not to cut Him down,

Let this barren soul alone.”

There for me the Savior stands,

Shows His wounds and spreads His hands.

God is love! I know, I feel;

Jesus weeps and loves me still.

Pity from Thine eye let fall,

By a look my soul recall;

Now the stone to flesh convert,

Cast a look, and break my heart.

Now incline me to repent,

Let me now my sins lament,

Now my foul revolt deplore,

Weep, believe, and sin no more.

There is a true story behind this hymn…one that happened many, many years ago. An ac­tress in a town in Eng­land, while pass­ing along the street, heard sing­ing in a house. Out of cur­i­o­si­ty she looked in through the open door and saw a num­ber of peo­ple sit­ting to­ge­ther sing­ing this hymn. She list­ened to the song, and af­ter­wards to a sim­ple but ear­nest pray­er. When she went away the hymn had so im­pressed her that she pro­cured a co­py of a book con­tain­ing it. Read­ing and re-read­ing the hymn led her to give her heart to God and to re­solve to leave the stage. The man­a­ger of the the­a­ter plead­ed with her to con­tin­ue to take the lead­ing part in a play which she had made fa­mous in other ci­ties, and fi­nal­ly he per­suad­ed her to ap­pear at the the­a­ter. As the cur­tain rose the or­ches­tra be­gan to play the ac­com­pa­ni­ment to the song which she was ex­pect­ed to sing. She stood like one lost in thought, and the band, sup­pos­ing her em­bar­rassed, played the prel­ude over a se­cond and a third time. Then with clasped hands she stepped for­ward and sang with deep emo­tion:

“Depth of mercy! Can there be

Mercy still reserved for me?”

This put a sud­den stop to the per­for­mance; not a few were im­pressed, though many scoffed. The change in her life was as per­ma­nent as it was sin­gu­lar. Soon af­ter she be­came the wife of a min­is­ter of the Gos­pel.

I will not say much more, but that the creative being must choose where it wants to be…and there, in darkness or in light, write…go on and write! In all its honesty, it will touch those it is meant to touch, infuriate some, repel some…but stay true to your art and where you stand (even if you stand there alone) and like Plath, or Wesley…you will attain immortality, if you get what I mean.

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16 thoughts on “OF A KIND – FROM ONE TO ANOTHER

    1. He was so in tune with his faith, I believe that was the essence in his works that draws me to them. Being able to sing the very words that speak so strongly to me elevates the whole experience even more for me.

      And the word ‘essence’ brings to mind an image of a priceless alabaster box containing perfume, equally priceless…not much in quantity…but…hmmm, very, very important…and when you find where your treasure is…you go ahead and spill it all over it…if it is your art…let it have that essence, and it will give off fragrance to attract those whose sense of smell are keen…and who appreciate quality perfume when they smell one.

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      1. Indeed Amma…indeed!
        Even if it is your art.

        Find that treasure and spill it over it!

        Art in tune with faith.

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  1. After my first read I was inspired to write two poems on theme of “Mercy.”

    This post has more to it, I feel.

    It will amaze the things in this post that touch my mind.

    I agree with your first paragraph, and I now understand why you just the quote that begins this post. I see the similarity.

    I think I smiled in my head when as I read the following sentence :

    “I write about Charles Wesley, another poet who was not superhuman…note it.”

    There’s much to write about Charles Wesley in the bigger picture of things. I know just a little about him and this post has caused me to read more about him – I’m glad for it.

    “he had his own journey and if you pay attention to his works, you’d know it was not always smooth.”
             That line is something we need be much aware of. No matter how saintly a person may be they have their own journey. I have my own journey. I wonder how many Ghanaian poets have bits of their life in their work which we may need pointers to. I think such things may help us understand their works on so many level or be much interested in them. I guess this could spark more interest, who knows.

    “Known to have written over 6000 hymns, Charles Wesley was no doubt a great poet.”
          Indeed he was poet…a great one.
    Maybe I should write 10,000 hymns :). This however brings my mind to the first hymn I wrote  – I guess it was hymn. I put sound to it and it didn’t sound any different from the usual ones – I wrote it when my grandmother died.
        Need I say this…but I think rhyme sounds best in verse. Well-arranged lines of poetry. The metered ones.

    I also liked this part a lot:

    ” (yes I am a lover of hymns) Even those I cannot sing, I read. They are, after all, poems.”

    And I can just read the following paragraph for a whole day and be inspired to write many things: 

    “The man wrote with such a personal touch, one can only believe he wrote of his own experiences. I dare call them confessional pieces. And I am a sucker for those, especially when they mirror my present state, when they seem to cry out for me, at moments when words desert me, at moments when I just need to offload, but I find my pen dry and my mind too crammed with emotions scattered all over the place, when I cannot sit still and churn them out with a little effort, I resort to the poetry of others. For we are one of a kind, but of course, different exposures, different minds and yet I believe each poet finds one or more of its kind he/she can completely relate to.”

    The “geometry” of the title of Wesley’s hymn moved me to write poem about Mercy.
    How it inspired me, I think I should write it in an essay about how artists (poets specifically) are inspired by things around them.
           The hymn itself…I need to take time to read through it.

    I think I am convinced that inspiration is successive – one poet is inspired by another poet’s work. And it goes on. It feels like poems have a life of their own and can give birth to another poem via a different writer… *holds that thought* 
    There’s too much to write about, and that is a good thing.
          Now, the paragraph after the Wesley’s hymn inspired me to write yet another poem,wow!

    And this very part moved me:

    “She list­ened to the song, and af­ter­wards to a sim­ple but ear­nest pray­er. When she went away the hymn had so im­pressed her that she pro­cured a co­py of a book con­tain­ing it. Read­ing and re-read­ing the hymn led her to give her heart to God and to re­solve to leave the stage.”

    And the following is of epic proportion. It reminds of the fact that we as believers ought to “confess before a congregation.”
    But what odd congregation did she have! A congregation nonetheless!!
    How we ought to recognize, as believers, the various kinds of congregation there could be to which we may confess out faith to:

    ” As the cur­tain rose the or­ches­tra be­gan to play the ac­com­pa­ni­ment to the song which she was ex­pect­ed to sing. She stood like one lost in thought, and the band, sup­pos­ing her em­bar­rassed, played the prel­ude over a se­cond and a third time. Then with clasped hands she stepped for­ward and sang with deep emo­tion”

    And indeed the singularity of salvation cannot be impressed on my mind anymore than this:

    “This put a sud­den stop to the per­for­mance; not a few were im­pressed, though many scoffed. The change in her life was as per­ma­nent as it was sin­gu­lar.”

    This next sentence reminds of a thought I had this morning…that there is a dark(er) side of art:

    “but that the creative being must choose where it wants to be…and there, in darkness or in light, write…go on and write!”

    And you closed this post ever so perfectly with this! 

    “In all its honesty, it will touch those it is meant to touch, infuriate some, repel some…but stay true to your art and where you stand (even if you stand there alone)”

    It reiterates the quote that begins this post.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

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      1. And yes, do take some time to read the hymn as carefully.

        “Art in tune with Faith.” I like. New and absolutely exciting.

        “Secure….insensible” Insensible!!!

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  2. Apt! You see, each time any of your writings other than a poem, I need to have a cup of tea or a saché of water by me ( will tell you why some other time). As a methodist, hymns have been ineluctable in my christian life. But of course, this has brought to my notice certain micro elements in that particular hymn. Hmmmm so i must say, as always, this has been a very instructive read ( certain phrases in there, just what i needed!) 🙂

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  3. You couldn’t have said it better Amma. Words centuries old yet so potent and new. Like I read/sing Wesley and am thinking these were prophesies into my present situation cos I relate to the music so deeply. Words that sum up my fears and prayers and speak for me when myself am short of words

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    Like

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