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.


  1. I'm certainly not emotionally present enough to enjoy poetry right now -- a good thing, I suppose, considering what this week holds in store ;) -- but I really enjoyed your voice in the paragraph introducing your poem.

  2. Was the original in English or in Italian? I love the unobtrusive rhyming structure of the English. You have written in the great tradition of sonnet writing that you know much better than I. I love your poetry.

  3. The English was first, but she was an Italian Sister who didn't speak English, so I spent quite a bit of time on the translation.