She Walks in Beauty (Lord Byron)

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

Lord Byron (1788-1824)

Sonnet 120 (William Shakespeare)

That you were once unkind, befriends me now,
And for that sorrow, which I then did feel
Needs must I under my transgression bow,
Unless my nerves were brass or hammered steel.
For if you were by my unkindness shaken,
As I by yours, y’ have pass’d a hell of time,
And I, a tyrant, have no leisure taken
To weigh how once I suffer’d in your crime.
O, that our night of woe might have remember’d
My deepest sense, how hard true sorrow hits,
And soon to you, as you to me, then tendered
The humble salve which wounded bosoms fits!
But that your trespass now becomes a fee;
Mine ransoms yours, and yours must ransom me.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

God’s Grandeur (Hopkins)

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

The Garden of Love (William Blake)

I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen:
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.

And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
And ‘Thou shalt not’ writ over the door;
So I turn’d to the Garden of Love,
That so many sweet flowers bore.

And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tomb-stones where flowers should be:
And Priests in black gowns, were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars, my joys & desires.

William Blake (1757-1827)

The Trees (Philip Larkin)

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

Philip Arthur Larkin (1922-1985)

Ode on Solitude (Alexander Pope)

Happy the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air,
In his own ground.

Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire,
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter fire.

Blest, who can unconcernedly find
Hours, days, and years slide soft away,
In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day,

Sound sleep by night; study and ease,
Together mixed; sweet recreation;
And innocence, which most does please,
With meditation.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me die;
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lie.

Alexander Pope (1688-1744)

“Listen to the silence…”

Radio, live transmission
Radio, live transmission.

Listen to the silence, let it ring on
Eyes, dark grey lenses frightened of the sun
We would have a fine time living in the night
Left to blind destruction
Waiting for our sight

And we would go on as though nothing was wrong
And hide from these days we remained all alone
Staying in the same place, just staying out the time
Touching from a distance
Further all the time

Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, to the radio
Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, to the radio
Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, to the radio
Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, to the radio

Well I could call out when the going gets tough
The things that we’ve learnt are no longer enough
No language, just sound, that’s all we need know, to synchronise
love to the beat of the show

And we could dance

Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, to the radio
Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, to the radio
Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, to the radio
Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, to the radio.

The Breath of God (Pentecost)

And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit…” John 20:22 (for the context of the whole chapter click here).

Just as air is vital for our physical survival, so the regular breath of God is essential for our spiritual health. We readily understand the physical world, but the concept of the spiritual realm can be less easy to grasp. Indeed, the idea of spirituality is frequently mentioned, but often not defined, and its very nature makes it somewhat nebulous.

In the Bible, the word for ‘spirit’ and the words for wind and breath are closely linked. John portrays the Risen Christ breathing on his disciples his life giving breath, the very energy of his being in an act of new creation.

This life giving energy of the Spirit transforms men and women, shaping them to share God’s radiance and Christ’s saving love. It’s an energy that binds his people together, summed up in the Greek word koinonia, which we can translate as communion and fellowship.

The Holy Spirit at Pentecost recreates us in the image of the God of love, and enables us to live in Christian fellowship. This is the heart of Christian spirituality, not a vague and spongy otherworldliness. The transforming grace of the Holy Spirit also creates a passion in individual lives and collective fellowships for the welfare of others and a deep longing for God.

Pentecostal spirituality is about human lives being shaped by the life of Jesus Christ, with people finding their meaning and identity in the pattern of his self giving love. This Christian spirituality is not an escape from the world, but living in the real world, a world that can be transformed by God’s grace.

Let me share some words and poetry by Harry Read:

We had not long been appointed as Territorial Commanders to the Australia Eastern Territory, when we met the wise, gracious and widely experienced Colonel and Mrs Colonel George Carpenter, the son and daughter-in-law of the late General and Mrs General George L. Carpenter.

In the course of a thoroughly enjoyable exchange of experiences, Colonel George’s wise words to the fledgling Territorial Commanders were: “You don’t have to work harder, just hoist your sails higher to catch the ‘Wind of the Spirit’.”

With sound of rushing wind the Spirit came,
His very nature full of mystery.
The ‘Wind of God’, His Word reveals His name,
The cleansing, stirring wind of liberty.

Like Trade Winds He maintains His course with ease;
An evidence, and means of massive power
At times unscheduled, like a wayward breeze
Caressing life and bloom on tree and flower.

“Great Wind of God, refresh our stagnant world,
Bring life to every heart and mind and soul.
Direct our ways as we, with sails unfurled
Ourselves abandon, to Thy strong control.”

We need not strive a meagre goal to gain –
We hoist the sails and He will take the strain.

…suddenly there came from the sky a noise like that of a strong driving wind…
Acts 2:1-3 (New English Bible)

Language of the Soul, Harry Read’s latest book of prayer poetry is available in every country in paperback or Kindle.

Order your copy here:

And Heart Talk, Harry Read’s first book of prayer poetry, is now also available on Kindle here:

Disorder (Ian Curtis)

Disorder is the opening track of the debut album Unknown Pleasures (1979) by Joy Division. The song sets the tone for this post-punk masterpiece, with perceptive and raw lyrics by singer Ian Curtis.

I’ve started reading the book So This is Permanence, an anthology of the intensely personal writings of one of the most enigmatic and influential songwriters and performers of the second half of the twentieth century.

The image is of his original notes for the opening song, with the lyrics below.

I’ve been waiting for a guide to come and take me by the hand
Could these sensations make me feel the pleasures of a normal man?
These sensations barely interest me for another day
I’ve got the spirit, lose the feeling, take the shock away

It’s getting faster, moving faster now, it’s getting out of hand
On the tenth floor, down the back stairs, it’s a no man’s land
Lights are flashing, cars are crashing, getting frequent now
I’ve got the spirit, lose the feeling, let it out somehow

What means to you, what means to me, and we will meet again
I’m watching you, I’m watching her, I’ll take no pity from your friends
Who is right, who can tell, and who gives a damn right now
Until the spirit new sensation takes hold, then you know
Until the spirit new sensation takes hold, then you know
Until the spirit new sensation takes hold, then you know
I’ve got the spirit, but lose the feeling
I’ve got the spirit, but lose the feeling
Feeling, feeling, feeling, feeling, feeling, feeling, feeling.

Lucrece Poem (Shakespeare)

Those that much covet are with gain so fond
That what they have not, that which they possess
They scatter and unloose it from their bond,
And so, by hoping more, they have but less,
Or, gaining more, the profit of excess
Is but to surfeit, and such griefs sustain
That they prove bankrout in this poor-rich gain.

The aim of all is but to nurse the life
With honour, wealth, and ease in waning age;
And in this aim there is such thwarting strife
That one for all or all for one we gage:
As life for honour in fell battle’s rage,
Honour for wealth; and oft that wealth doth cost
The death of all, and all together lost.

So that, in vent’ring ill, we leave to be
The things we are for that which we expect;
And this ambitious foul infirmity,
In having much, torments us with defect
Of that we have. So then we do neglect
The thing we have and, all for want of wit,
Make something nothing by augmenting it.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
From ‘The Rape of Lucrece’ (Lines 134-154)