Thursday, August 13, 2009

Vos: An Anniversary

Sixty years ago, on August 13, 1949, Geerhardus Vos entered into his heavenly rest. On this anniversary of his death, I thought it would be worthwhile to give consideration to some of his poetry, a facet of his writing that does not receive as much attention as his theological works. These samples are from Charis: English Verses (1931):


Some call him tyrant,
More reverently King,
By terrors environed.
Though poets may dream,
And wise men esteem
Him kind to redeem,
Yet none see him nearing,
But think his appearing
A horrible thing.
Who will beguile him
With magic or prayer?
Who reconcile him?
He shamelessly saith:
I loathe vital breath,
For my name is Death;
No bud turns to flower,
No young life to power,
But I too am there.
Sweet love he despises,
And changes to strife;
What pleasure arises
He turns into pain,
Mars beauty with stain,
Treats fair with disdain:
“Why so much protesting,
Resisting, contesting,
Thou greedy of life?”
Death comprehends not
This time-thirst of mine;
Indignant, love ends not,
As end burnt-out fires,
Quick end he requires.
Yet, love, my desires
Sought no more of living
Than brief days for giving,
Till all should be thine.


At dusk, before thee kneeling,
Could I confess it all,
In one complete revealing,
The things both great and small,
Were room left for confiding,
With deep humility,
That, in great love abiding,
Thy heart would pardon me?
Words written may bring censure,
Estranging miles between,
But speech will win its venture,
Let eye to eye be seen.
Prayer overclimbs the mountains,
Till it has found the place
Where spring the mystic fountains
Of woman’s sovereign grace.
Faith will, to force repairing,
God no release accord,
As showed with dauntless daring
Jacob at Jabbok’s ford.
Firm hold on Him retaining,
It fights while sinews last;
What cords endure such straining
These hold forever fast.

The following poems come from his Western Rhymes (1933).


Love-land is Canaan’s land, fair open vales extending,
The star-near hilltops round baptized in limpid light;
Alas, the loveliest road, Southward to Zion bending,
Ends at an inmost shrine withdrawn from lover’s sight.


Time wears a thousand faces. Void of energy
And solid substance, it encompasses all things,
And bears them on its stream to their predestined end.
It is the oldest and the youngest thing in one,
In each new moment dying and given birth therein.
Fair youth, maturity, old age together it binds,
That would, but for this bond, scarce one the other know.
So softly glides it with the dance of youth along,
That to a consciousness the dancer seldom wakes
Of his mute partner’s steps, except for feeling them,
Perchance, not quick enough. After, in ripened years,
To men’s more sobered minds the stately, measured stride,
Though kept in tune with theirs, is clearly audible;
But such as have obtained the journey’s end in view
Feel at their side a press of ominous hastening,
Driving them onward to an unknown, unwilled goal.
It smilingly bestows surpriseful precious gifts,
But also brigand-like lurks at the highway’s turn,
And, ere the traveler knows what sprang or struck at him,
Doth leave him naked, stripped of treasure and raiment both.
Again, from brutal fiend to kind physician turned,
It, without medicine, just by mere nursing, heals
Caressingly the wounds, so that their memory,
Transfigured, into a sweet sadness grows.
But to the final call it comes veiled in a shroud,
With gesture of leave-taking, till the very end
Hiding its visage and withholding the last grace
Of frank avowal, whether it leaves us friend or foe,
Lifting the chamber-doorlatch with unturned-back face.


The cloth is full-woven;
The weaver folds up
The last finished pattern,
Then walks out to sup.
His fingers are stiffened,
His back is sore-bent;
Will eyes grown still dimmer
Hold out till the end?
To weave its own shadows
The night needs the room.
Will it see him next morning
His labor resume?
Old age should stop caring
Nor fret for repairing;
Are not the Norns tending,
Without thought of ending,
Their never outwearing
Nor slowing-up loom?

1 comment:

  1. These are really wonderful. I'm thrilled to have the pdf books. Thanks so much for posting this.