A Follow-Up To The Post: To Make Us Consider How Our Light Is Spent

I am so glad to have attentive readers of my blog! And they were working overtime earlier this week thanks to poem called The Purposes of Poetry by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, a professor at the University of California. Here’s her poem:

The Purposes of Poetry

To find a way of putting what can’t be said
To startle us into seeing
To train words to dance
To rescue worthy words from slow death

To reassert the power of whim
To combat mind erosion
To make us feel what we think
And visa versa

To resuscitate the media-impaired
To remind us that truth is round
With holes and corners
To notice what will never happen
Just that way again
To make us consider how our light is spent

Or that the world is too much with us
Or petals on a black bough

Marilyn Chandler McEntyre


So what caught the eye of two of my readers? The last three lines! The ones that pay direct homage to three celebrated poets. Those lines amended, ever so slightly, are from poems by John Milton, William Wordsworth and Ezra Pound. I caught the Pound reference but missed the other two entirely.

So many thanks in particular to two readers and friends! First, to Andy Parker, a poet and Episcopal priest from Texas who, with his wife Liz, also a priest,  have so warmly welcomed me into their church family to lead a poetry workshop  – Poetry as Prayer – once a year for the last four years.

And second, to D.S. (Don) Martin who I first encountered through a wonderful interview published in Image Journal that he did with the late Margaret Avison, a celebrated Canadian poet. In recent years I have kept in touch with him on a regular basis through his wonderful blog Kingdom Poets which profiles poets of Christian faith every week. You can find it by clicking here: http://kingdompoets.blogspot.com . You will surprised at the list of of varied poets in his extensive archives. You can see Don and Andy’s comments in the previous post!

Here are the three poems where McEntyre’s lines come from!  And so the line that knocked me for six as a cricketer might say – To make us consider how are light is spent – is from Milton! I missed it. Then there is the Wordsworth line – THE world is too much with us; late and soon – and the Pound –  Petals on a wet, black bough. Ageless. That is the nature of great poetry. And I so appreciate how these lines live so comfortably inside a contemporary poem!

On His Blindness

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere 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
My true account, lest he returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
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
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

John Milton (1608-1674)

The World Is Too Much With Us; Late And Soon

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!
The 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 be
A 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 wreathed horn.

William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850)

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Ezra Pound (1885 – 1972)


  1. Posted April 14, 2013 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    Hello Richard,
    Enjoying your rich postings on your blog again, I followed the link you provided and landed at Kingdom Poets. Sigh. Such great writers past and present, and I realize I could spend much time there reading and learning, as I always do with you, dear poet.

  2. Richard
    Posted April 16, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Dear L-A – Thank you! Don at Kingdom Poets has done a great job assembling such a vast range of poets and every week! I am envious!

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