There is no Frigate like a Book (1286)
By Emily Dickinson (1830–86)

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul –

*    *    *

from An Essay on Criticism
By Alexander Pope (1688–1744)

        Some to conceit alone their taste confine,
And glitt’ring thoughts struck out at ev’ry line;
Pleas’d with a work where nothing’s just or fit;
One glaring chaos and wild heap of wit.
Poets, like painters, thus, unskill’d to trace
The naked nature and the living grace,
With gold and jewels cover ev’ry part,
And hide with ornaments their want of art.
True wit is nature to advantage dress’d,
What oft was thought, but ne’er so well express’d,
Something, whose truth convinc’d at sight we find,
That gives us back the image of our mind.
As shades more sweetly recommend the light,
So modest plainness sets off sprightly wit.
For works may have more wit than does ‘em good,
As bodies perish through excess of blood.

*    *    *

On Writing Poetry
By C. J. Heck (1949–)

A friend once asked why I write poetry.
Judging by the pinched look on her face,
she might as well have asked why I juggle snakes.

In thinking on the matter,
it’s like having a sneeze that won’t come.
When it finally does, it just feels good.
A poet understands ...

To my friend, I simply said
there are things inside that must come out.
They are uncomfortable where they are,
like having a mosquito bite that you can’t quite reach.
When you find someone to scratch it,
it just feels good.

Oops, gotta go.
I feel a poetic sneeze coming on
and it’s gonna feel
so good.

*    *    *

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832)

GOD to his untaught children sent

Law, order, knowledge, art, from high,
And ev’ry heav’nly favour lent,

The world’s hard lot to qualify.
They knew not how they should behave,

For all from Heav’n stark-naked came;
But Poetry their garments gave,

And then not one had cause for shame.

*    *    *

The Spirit of Poetry
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–82)

There is a quiet spirit in these woods,
That dwells where’er the gentle south-wind blows;
Where, underneath the white-thorn, in the glade,
The wild flowers bloom, or, kissing the soft air,
The leaves above their sunny palms outspread.
With what a tender and impassioned voice
It fills the nice and delicate ear of thought,
When the fast ushering star of morning comes
O’er-riding the gray hills with golden scarf;
Or when the cowled and dusky-sandalled Eve,
In mourning weeds, from out the western gate,
Departs with silent pace! That spirit moves
In the green valley, where the silver brook,
From its full laver, pours the white cascade;
And, babbling low amid the tangled woods,
Slips down through moss-grown stones with endless laughter.
And frequent, on the everlasting hills,
Its feet go forth, when it doth wrap itself
In all the dark embroidery of the storm,
And shouts the stern, strong wind. And here, amid
The silent majesty of these deep woods,
lts presence shall uplift thy thoughts from earth,
As to the sunshine and the pure, bright air
Their tops the green trees lift. Hence gifted bards
Have ever loved the calm and quiet shades.
For them there was an eloquent voice in all
The sylvan pomp of woods, the golden sun,
The flowers, the leaves, the river on its way,
Blue skies, and silver clouds, and gentle winds,
The swelling upland, where the sidelong sun
Aslant the wooded slope, at evening, goes,
Groves, through whose broken roof the sky looks in,
Mountain, and shattered cliff, and sunny vale,
The distant lake, fountains, and mighty trees,
In many a lazy syllable, repeating
Their old poetic legends to the wind.

And this is the sweet spirit, that doth fill
The world; and, in these wayward days of youth,
My busy fancy oft embodies it,
As a bright image of the light and beauty
That dwell in nature; of the heavenly forms
We worship in our dreams, and the soft hues
That stain the wild bird’s wing, and flush the clouds
When the sun sets. Within her tender eye
The heaven of April, with its changing light,
And when it wears the blue of May, is hung,
And on her lip the rich, red rose. Her hair
Is like the summer tresses of the trees,
When twilight makes them brown, and on her cheek
Blushes the richness of an autumn sky,
With ever-shifting beauty. Then her breath,
It is so like the gentle air of Spring,
As, front the morning’s dewy flowers, it comes
Full of their fragrance, that it is a joy
To have it round us, and her silver voice
Is the rich music of a summer bird,
Heard in the still night, with its passionate cadence.

*    *    *

Ars Poetica
By Archibald MacLeish (1892–1982)

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit,

As old medallions to the thumb,

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown—

A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds.


A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs,

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
Memory by memory the mind—

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs.


A poem should be equal to:
Not true.

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf.

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea—

A poem should not mean
But be.

*    *    *

Sonnet 18
William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st,
        So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
        So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

*    *    *

Ars Poetica
Mark Green (1957–     )

“A poem is never finished, only abandoned.” Paul Valery

You smell the sea; you stagger out, pursuing
Rudderless, but with ideas brewing
Posing like a ship that’s sailing by
The muse calls out and pleads for you to try

To capture perfect vagueness for display
At your command. Instead, she slips away
This ideal ketch, coquettish, teasing, teasing
Yet you pursue, dreaming of your seizing

That craft, Your perfect poem—what might have been—
With quest abandoned, sails away again.

*    *    *

The Poem’s Way
Gregory Edward Reynolds (1949–     )

The poem’s way has sprung with symmetry
From concentrated, well-spent words,
As Horace in the art of poetry
Has said, with beauty like the flight of birds.

Then, enumerated Archibald MacLeish
How poetry should be, not mean—
The music of the words unleash
As if wordless and unseen.

“Unleash what?” you ask, and I
Say, the sound of sense that
Reverberates in every line to lie,
Making music that is fat

With movement in your soul
To make you think again about
The things you see and roll
Them over in your mind with doubt

That you have seen them well,
For now they make you sing
The words of the poet’s spell;
Now you are truly on the wing.

The muse’s lyre works magic
In your mind as you contemplate
The enchanted spirit of its lyric
Rhythms makes you meditate.

Ordained Servant Online, June–July 2021.

Publication Information

Contact the Editor: Gregory Edward Reynolds

Editorial address: Dr. Gregory Edward Reynolds,
827 Chestnut St.
Manchester, NH 03104-2522
Telephone: 603-668-3069

Electronic mail: reynolds.1@opc.org

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Ordained Servant: June–July 2021

Poetry for Preaching and Enjoyment

Also in this issue

The Power of Poetry for Preaching and Enjoyment[1]

Your Personal Odyssey in Stereo

The Writings of Meredith G. Kline on the Book of Revelation: Chapter 2, “The First Resurrection” (1975)

Commentary on the Form of Government of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Chapters 18–20

Medical Technology: A Blessing Not to Be Idolized: A Review Article

Pastors and Their Critics: A Guide to Coping with Criticism in the Ministry by Joel R. Beeke and Nick Thompson

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