Thursday, November 1, 2007

Too much Jones Very

Jones Very (1813-1880) wrote around 900 poems. Emerson published about 70 of them, along with three literary essays, in 1839, in Essays and Poems. The rest of the poems were published in 1880, by Very's friends, in a book helpfully, or confusingly, called Poems and Essays.

So I've read the poems in the 1839 book. I posted one yesterday. I want to read more of his poems, but I need a Selected Poems, to which I don't have access. 900 is too many. Almost all religious poems, too.

In 1838, age 26, Very discovered that he was the Second Coming of Christ. He spent a few months in a mental institution, but since he was lucid and peaceful, he did not have to stay there. For a while, he wandered around New England, visiting his Transcendentalist friends, failing to convert any disciples to himself. Then he became a recluse, for almost 40 years. The whole time, he wrote poems, poems, poems. Almost all religious, even the nature poems, even the political poems.

Leafing through the 900, here are some titles: "On the Nebraska Bill", "The Congress of Peace at Brussels", "Do Nations ever become Insane?" Help. He lived long enough to go from "The First Telegraphic Message" to "The Telephone" . I've grazed a little, enough to know that there's a lot to like here.

Here's one of his explicitly religious poems, typically gentle:

The Prayer of Jabez

The prayer of Jabez, too, should be our prayer:
"Keep me from evil, that it may not grieve."
How hard the sight of wrong and ill to bear,
When we cannot the sufferers relieve!
The child of sorrow, he for others' woe,
As if it were his own, did deeply feel;
Though he had naught of riches to bestow,
Nor power their wrongs and miseries to heal.
God heard his prayer, and answered his request;
And by his sympathy did help impart
Unto the poor, the suffereing, and opprest,
That healed their wounds and robbed them of their smart;
Nor suffered cruel deeds, nor words unkind,
To grieve his heart, or rankle in his mind.

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