Friday, April 16, 2010

Two impressions of religion in Italy

I wouldn't have chosen this next poem, but I visited this area of Italy where the massacre occurred. In this place is where John Taylor, and later Ezra Taft Benson, dedicated Italy for missionary work, as well. I must say that my lifetime's experience with the Pope (and several lifetimes before mine) has been nothing like this "triple Tyrant" that Milton describes. Some things have certainly changed for the better.

On the Late Massacre in Piedmont

Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered Saints, whose bones
  Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold;
  Even them who kept thy truth so pure of old,
When all our fathers worshiped stocks and stones,
Forget not: in thy book record their groans
  Who were thy sheep, and in their ancient fold
  Slain by the bloody Piemontese, that rolled
Mother with infant down the rocks. Their moans
The vales redoubled to the hills, and they
  To heaven. Their martyred blood and ashes sow
O’er all the Italian fields, where still doth sway
  The triple Tyrant; that from these may grow
A hundredfold, who having learnt thy way,
  Early may fly the Babylonian woe.

        John Milton 1608-1674

I wrote this next poem as I was leaving Italy, or shortly after I left. I may now question the accuracy of a couple of lines, but it is true to how I felt, and I like the sounds and pictures.

No One Will Ever Know

I lost my mind.
Or more truly, the world did.
How I loved, how I hoped,
How I prayed, how I groped for truth
in a foreign world.
How I lived the strangeness of every day.
How the clock ticked,
My heart beat,
My friends breathed,
And the city moved around us.
How in a place most will never hear of,
I did a work most will never know.
How I loved people that will never
make the news.
How our names will only be remembered
to our children,
But we don’t care because,
For one moment,
We knew we had a friend,
And knew that life was good and God was love.
But no one will ever know
Because the world has lost our minds
That died with us,
Still inside our heads.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Jonathan Edwards and another poem

I just read a nice, short book about Jonathan Edwards. I still think some beliefs he considered very important are crazy, but I'm convinced he was a very good, thoughtful man who sought to do God's will and help others do the same. This is a short quote from him:

We make a distinction between the things that we know by reason, and things we know by revelation. But alas we scarce know what we say: we know not what we should have known . . . had it not been for revelation. . . . Many of the principles of morality and religion that we have always been brought up in the knowledge of, appear so rational that we are ready to think we could have found ‘em out by our own natural reason. . . .

Jonathan Edwards, The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God, in The Great Awakening, ed. C. C. Goen, WJE, vol. 4 (1972), p. 240, in Jonathan Edwards and the Ministry of the Word, Douglas A. Sweeney, InterVarsity Press (2009), p. 92.

I suppose a mission poem is appropriate with the above quote, since Jonathan Edwards was perhaps the most influential theologian in creating the culture among Evangelical Christians (and some other major groups) of preaching the Word to the whole world. I wrote this for a woman I worked with in Italy for several months. We were a few months from going home, and she was feeling down about her accomplishments. I'm sure the Italian translation isn't perfect, but it was the best I could do, and I'm not better at it now.

Sorella Mia

A friendly life comes to a sprawling town—
A town that’s made of metal, rock, and glass,
Where crumbling streets and walls can be replaced,
And no one ever misses just a stone.
A lovely friend comes to a living heart—
A soul that’s made of feeling, blood, and flesh,
Which makes of all an undivided mesh—
Imperfect if without its smallest part.
The life may leave the city, and her mind
May think, for all she’s tried, that she bereaves
The town of nothing from her soft effect,
And when the friend will leave the heart behind,
She’ll think her touch, as with the town, she leaves
Unfelt, but truly years will not forget.

Una vita simpatica viene a una crescente citta’—
Una citta’ fatta di metalo, pietre, e vetri
Dove strade e muri crollanti possono essere rifatti
Ed a nessuno manchera’ un solo sasso.
Una bella amica viene a un vivo cuore—
Una anima fatta di sentimento, sangue, e carne,
La cui fa di tutto una rete indivisa—
Imperfetta se e’ senza la minima parte.
La vita potrebbe lasciare la citta’, e sua mente
Potrebbe pensare, malgrado tutto cio’ che lei avesse fatto, che spoglia
La citta’ di niente dal suo gentile effetto,
E quando l’amica lasciera’ in dietro il cuore
Pensera’, cosi’ come con la citta’, di avere lasciato il suo tocco
Inosservato, ma in verita’ gli anni non potranno dimenticarlo.