The new year has finally begun! A new year means a fresh start, and it’s the perfect time for new resolutions. Coming out of a stressful 2020, a myriad of uncertainties can arise. Many hope for a better and calmer year, but nothing is truly certain. In these times, the only one who we can rely on to never waver, change, or falter, is our God in Heaven who offers us comfort in troubling times. What better way to begin the new year than combining Jesus and poetry? Below are a biographies of and poetry from a few influential Christian poets who recognize God in much of their work.
1. Anne Bradstreet
Anne Bradstreet was born in Northamptonshire, England in 1612. She was the very first female New World Poet to be successful. She never went to school, but instead learned from her father, who was a bookworm to the extreme. When she was about sixteen years old, she married Simon Bradstreet, and they remained happily married as long as they lived. In 1630, along with the rest of her family, she and her husband moved to New England. There they had their eight children, four boys and four girls. Bradstreet was unhappy in the New World and was devastated by the illness and starvation she saw around her. She joined a Puritan church and eventually accepted where she was after she realized it was God’s will for her to be in New England. She often wrote praises to God, whether admiring his work in nature, or pondering Bible verses. Bradstreet definitely had a difficult life—her granddaughter Elizabeth died in 1665, a year later her house was burned down, and three years after, another of her young granddaughters passed away. She wrote poems on all three of these events, and in each one her attitude is the same: she gives thanks to our Savior and trusts him with her situation. She saw the good in each circumstance and looked for the Lord’s hand in it all. “Meantime my throbbing heart’s cheered up with this—Though with thy Savior art in endless bliss,” she wrote in “In Memory of My Dear Grandchild Anne Bradstreet…” In much of her poetry, she also references Bible verses, such as in the poem I included below—she alludes to Song of Solomon 8:7.
“To My Dear and Loving Husband” Anne Bradstreet
If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee.
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay;
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let’s so persever,
That when we live no more, we may live ever.
2. C.S. Lewis
Possibly one of the best known Christian poets of the twentieth century, Clive Staples Lewis, fondly known by his loved ones as Jack, was born in Belfast, Ireland in 1898. He had a very active imagination and would often play made-up games with his brothers, the eldest of whom he was the closest with, until, at a young age, after his mother’s death, he was sent to England for schooling. He grew up in a Protestant home, but as a teenager he strayed from his faith. As evidenced in much of his writing, Lewis experienced much war in his lifetime. He fought in WWI for England, but was wounded by shrapnel and sent home. After the war, he began to have questions concerning God and Christianity. After talking with J.R.R. Tolkien and other such friends, Lewis finally decided that he believed in God’s existence, and a couple years later he officially converted to Christianity, later becoming a warrior for God’s truth. During WWII, he cared for three children who were evacuated from their homes. It was during this war that he began “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” He soon married a woman named Joy Gresham, who passed away in 1957 due to cancer. Six years later, C.S. Lewis passed away from medical complications on the same day of J.F. Kennedy’s assissination. Throughout a few years after Lewis’s death, three more books he had been working on were released to the public.
“After Prayers, Lie Cold” by C.S. Lewis
Arise my body, my small body, we have striven
Enough, and He is merciful; we are forgiven.
Arise small body, puppet-like and pale, and go,
White as the bed-clothes into bed, and cold as snow,
Undress with small, cold fingers and put out the light,
And be alone, hush’d mortal, in the sacred night,
-A meadow whipt flat with the rain, a cup
Emptied and clean, a garment washed and folded up,
Faded in colour, thinned almost to raggedness
By dirt and by the washing of that dirtiness.
Be not too quickly warm again. Lie cold; consent
To weariness’ and pardon’s watery element.
Drink up the bitter water, breathe the chilly death;
Soon enough comes the riot of our blood and breath.
3. Fanny Crosby
Fanny Crosby is one of the most incredible poets in all of history. She became ill soon after her birth, and only six weeks into life she lost her sight. However, she viewed what others would call a disability as a blessing. She said, in response to another’s comment, “‘Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I was born blind?’” (Christianity Today). Her mother taught her that sometimes physical hindrances are granted by God in order to teach and guide, allowing us to become even closer to Him. Fanny began writing poetry at age eight. When she wasn’t writing, she was reading and memorizing the Bible, and soon knew a very large portion of the Word of God by heart. When she was fifteen years old, her mother, for her father had passed away when she was very young, was able to send her to the New York Institution for the Blind. She learned there for many years and later became a teacher at that school. While in a teacher’s position, she met numerous famous people such as Henry Clay and General Winfield Scott, and even met many of the Presidents of the United States. Fanny was very gifted with finding lyrics to fit melodies—she wrote over eight thousand hymns, many of which are still extremely popular today. She wrote so many, she placed some under different pen names because she didn’t want hymnals to only be filled with her name. She was very blessed in life, but also experienced a lot of sorrow. She lost her only child while still in infancy, her husband, and her best friend, and supported Henry Clay while he was grieving his son’s death. But nothing could shake her faith in Jesus or her positive attitude. Crosby herself passed away at age ninety-four in 1915.
“Oh, What a Happy Soul I Am” by Fanny Crosby
Oh, what a happy soul I am!
Although I cannot see,
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be.
How many blessings I enjoy
That other people don’t!
To weep and sigh because I’m blind,
I cannot, nor I won’t!
“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.” – Isaiah 55:8. Even when life didn’t go as planned, these poets recognized that their Lord in Heaven was watching over them and used poetry as an outlet and a way to speak their thoughts to God. Their inspiring and uplifting poetry can serve as a reminder that God is always in control. Have a Happy New Year!
“Fanny Crosby.” Christianity Today. www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/poets/fanny-crosby.html Accessed December 11, 2020.
Carlson, Lindsey. “Fanny Crosby: Her Story, Her Song.” Revive Our Hearts. www.reviveourhearts.com/true-woman/blog/fanny-crosby-her-story-her-song/ Accessed December 11, 2020.
Hall, Jacob H. “Miss Fanny J. Crosby: Hymn Writer and Poetess.” Wholesome Words. www.wholesomewords.org/biography/bcrosby5.html Accessed December 11, 2020.
“Oh What a Happy Soul I Am.” Faith Music Connection. faithmusicconnection.com/oh-what-a-happy-soul-i-am/
“C.S. Lewis Biography.” Biography Online. www.biographyonline.net/writers/c-s-lewis.html Accessed December 11, 2020.
“About C.S. Lewis.” C.S. Lewis. www.cslewis.com/us/about-cs-lewis/ Accessed December 11, 2020.
“C. S. Lewis.” My Poetic Side. mypoeticside.com/poets/c-s-lewis-poems Accessed December 8, 2020.
“After Prayer, Lie Cold.” My Poetic Side. mypoeticside.com/show-classic-poem-16788 Accessed December 11, 2020.
“C.S. Lewis Biography.” Biography. www.biography.com/writer/cs-lewis Accessed December 11, 2020.
“Anne Bradstreet.” Poets.org. poets.org/poet/anne-bradstreet Accessed December 11, 2020.
“Anne Bradstreet.” Poetry Foundation. www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/anne-bradstreet Accessed December 11, 2020.
“Anne Bradstreet.” Christianity Today. www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/poets/anne-bradstreet.html Accessed December 11, 2020.
“In Memory of my Dear Grandchild Anne Bradstreet, who deceased June 20, 1669, being Three Years and S.” All Poetry. allpoetry.com/In-Memory-of-my-Dear-Grandchild-Anne-Bradstreet,-who-deceased-June-20,-1669,-being-Three-Years-and-S Accessed December 11, 2020.
“Verses upon the Burning of our House, July 10th, 1666.” Poetry Foundation. www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43707/verses-upon-the-burning-of-our-house-july-10th-1666 Accessed December 11, 2020.
“To My Dear and Loving Husband. Poetry Foundation. www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43706/to-my-dear-and-loving-husband Accessed December 11, 2020.