Poetry, Piety and Prayer

“Poetry and Piety: The Book of Common Prayer and Literature in English” was the talk I attended last week, given by visiting speaker Professor Helen Wilcox. Points made by her I particularly noted:

  • Prayer together is like a banquet, the ‘common prayer’ and sharing is supposed to be nourishing.
  • The Book of Common Prayer was produced by lay people in a common language, not Latin monks – the language of devotion available democratically.
  • The Collects’ syntax flows so well, the prayer is almost all one sentence and is read and prayed like breathing.

She also mentioned a poem I must read at some point (Take, Eat – Fiona Sampson), and shared an extract from Laurie Lee’s ‘Cider with Rosie’, and a poem by George Herbert called ‘Mattens’

I Cannot ope mine eyes,
But thou art ready there to catch
My morning-soul and sacrifice:
Then we must needs for that day make a match.

My God, what is a heart?
Silver, or gold, or precious stone,
Or starre, or rainbow, or a part
Of all these things, or all of them in one?

My God, what is a heart?
That thou shouldst it so eye, and wooe,
Powring upon it all thy art,
As if that thou hadst nothing els to do?

Indeed mans whole estate
Amounts (and richly) to serve thee:
He did not heav’n and earth create,
Yet studies them, not him by whom they be.

Teach me thy love to know;
That this new light, which now I see,
May both the work and workman show:
Then by a sunne-beam I will climbe to thee.

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