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 beA 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 ancientRoots of man's nature,Twines the eternalPassion of song.Ever Love fans it,Ever Life feeds it,Time cannot age it;Death cannot slay.Deep in the world-heartStand its foundations,Tangled with all things,Twin-made with all.Nay, what is Nature'sSelf, but an endlessStrife toward music,Euphony, rhyme?Trees in their blooming,Tides in their flowing,Stars in their circling,Tremble with song.God on His throne isEldest of poets:Unto His measuresMoveth 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.