A lot of people define themselves as “spiritual but not religious,” and many claim to be able to feel God more on a mountaintop than in a church. I can definitely understand that feeling. So can Anne Bradstreet, Puritan and one of the earliest American poets. Here is a selection of four stanzas from her longer poem, “Contemplations.” The whole thing is worth reading, and not too long at all. I love the sense of wonder expressed in this poem. Let me know what you think.
I wist not what to wish, yet sure thought I,
If so much excellence abide below,
How excellent is he that dwells on high?
Whose power and beauty by his works we know.
Sure he is goodness, wisdom, glory, light,
That hath this under world so richly dight.
More Heaven than Earth was here, no winter and no night.
The on a stately Oak I cast mine Eye,
Whose ruffling top the Clouds seem’d to aspire;
How long since thou wast in thine Infancy?
Thy strength and stature, more thy years admire,
Hath hundred winters past since thou wast born?
Or thousand since thou brakest thy shell of horn,
If so, all these as nought, Eternity doth scorn.
4. Then high on the glistering Sun I gaz’d,
Whose beams was shaded by the leafy Tree.
The more I look’d, the more I grew amaz’d
And softly said, what glory’s like to thee?
Soul of this world, this Universe’s Eye,
No wonder some made thee a Deity:
Had I not better known (alas) the same had I.
I heard the merry grasshopper then sing,
The black clad Cricket bear a second part.
They kept one tune and played on the same string,
Seeming to glory in their little Art.
Shall creatures abject thus their voices raise?
And in their kind resound their maker’s praise:
Whilst I, as mute, can warble forth no higher layes.