Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Rowan Williams on the greatest of poets, John Milton

"The poet cannot finally avoid the summons from confident speech to the brokenness and harsh linguistic economy of witness; the disciple cannot avoid the summons from heroism to silent fidelity, knowing only that this has been God's way of transforming the world. 'If we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him'. Milton, poet and disciple, faces this as reluctantly as any great or heroic figure ever did. Yet face it he does – patchily and reluctantly, but truthfully; and so must we."

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, at the September 18, 2008, celebration of the 400th anniversary of the birth of the poet John Milton. And he's going from Milton to Dostoevsky in a week, with a pilgrimage to Lourdes in between. Will he violate his own vow to resist air travel for 2008 and fly over for a political rumpus in Manhattan on Thursday? If he's reading Milton and Dostoevsky, we think not.

A must-read is his sermon on Milton. He cites C.S. Lewis and goes on from there. The homage he pays to Milton could not be found on this side of the Episcopal Atlantic. Just when one is ready to toss in the towel, he comes up with this terrific sermon on one of the greatest poets of all time. And the quote above is sublime and apropos for these darkened days. Read it all here.

Our most favorite poem, the famous one, by Milton and the one we know by best heart:

WHEN I consider how my light is spent
E're half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide,
Lodg'd with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present 5
My true account, least he returning chide,
Doth God exact day-labour, light deny'd,
I fondly ask; But patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts, who best 10
Bear his milde yoak, they serve him best, his State
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o're Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and waite.

No comments: