Two Classic Poems about God in Nature

| By on Faith and Science Seeking Understanding

William Watson (left) and William Wordsworth (right). Both images in public domain.

Over the past six weeks, I’ve hosted a series of articles on the subject of divine action: how God acts in the world, and whether science affects this understanding. Next week, I’ll offer some closing reflections on the series. But this week, let’s take a break from purely intellectual exploration of this subject and instead let ourselves be drawn into the world of the poet.

The English Romantic poet William Wordsworth seems to lament the view toward nature that the reigning creed had engendered within his culture. An increased understanding of nature’s laws led to the Industrial Revolution and a drastically altered relationship to nature. In this poem from 1802, Wordsworth pines for a “creed outworn” that enabled glimpses of the divine within nature.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!            
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

William Watson is a mostly forgotten poet from the turn of the 20th century. His longer poem “England My Mother” has a second stanza that I came across in a book by C. Lloyd Morgan. In this view, God is not an engineer who designs and builds a well-oiled machine that runs on its own. Rather, God is a poet, and his song reverberates throughout creation.

Lo, with the ancient
Roots of man's nature,
Twines the eternal
Passion of song.
 
Ever Love fans it,
Ever Life feeds it,
Time cannot age it;
Death cannot slay.
 
Deep in the world-heart
Stand its foundations,
Tangled with all things,
Twin-made with all.
 
Nay, what is Nature's
Self, but an endless
Strife toward music,
Euphony, rhyme?
 
Trees in their blooming,
Tides in their flowing,
Stars in their circling,
Tremble with song.
 
God on His throne is
Eldest of poets:
Unto His measures
Moveth the Whole.

What resonates in these poems with you? The metaphor of God as engineer runs deep within Evangelicalism, but seems to lead to difficulties in understanding God’s relationship to nature. Does the metaphor of God as poet provide a helpful corrective?


God, give us ears to hear your song.

Notes

Citations

MLA

Stump, Jim. "Two Classic Poems about God in Nature"
https://biologos.org/. N.p., 21 Jun. 2016. Web. 19 September 2018.

APA

Stump, J. (2016, June 21). Two Classic Poems about God in Nature
Retrieved September 19, 2018, from /blogs/jim-stump-faith-and-science-seeking-understanding/two-classic-poems-about-god-in-nature

About the Author

Jim Stump

Jim Stump is Senior Editor at BioLogos. As such he oversees the development of new content and curates existing content for the website and print materials. Jim has a PhD in philosophy from Boston University and was formerly a philosophy professor and academic administrator. He has authored Science and Christianity: An Introduction to the Issues (Wiley-Blackwell, 2017) and edited Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design (Zondervan 2017). Other books he has co-authored or co-edited include: Christian Thought: A Historical Introduction (Routledge, 2010, 2016), The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), How I Changed My Mind About Evolution (InterVarsity, 2016), and Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation: Discussing Origins with Reasons to Believe and BioLogos (InterVarsity, 2017).

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