“All things bright and beautiful”

I am going to jump to the end of Coleridge’s masterful poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. If one of the major themes has been the disruption of the balance between humankind and nature then Part VII brings about the possibility of reconciliation! Once again I am using some verses which may be familiar to you, and they are certainly familiar to those of us who have a large repertoire of hymns. One of the earliest hymns I recall learning and singing as a child is All things bright and beautiful. The hymn was written in 1848 as one of a series of hymns based on The Apostle’s Creed by Cecil Frances Alexander. There is nothing to say with any certainty that Alexander used lines from Coleridge, so let us just assume that Alexander, herself a poet, would have no doubt been familiar with Coleridge’s ballad poem, which was published in 1798. Today, we live amidst much disruption of the balance of nature, and amidst the ongoing struggle between good and evil, so it is welcoming to return to these beautiful words of Coleridge and it is my hope that we too can have such hope and joy. These past three posts have only scratched the surface of this poem and by no means attempt to say all that could be said. Enough though for you to ponder and pause over the many lines of such a masterful poem.

From Part VII
O Wedding-Guest! this soul hath been
Alone on a wide wide sea:
So lonely ’twas, that God himself
Scarce seemèd there to be.

O sweeter than the marriage-feast,
‘Tis sweeter far to me,
To walk together to the kirk
With a goodly company!—

To walk together to the kirk,
And all together pray,
While each to his great Father bends,
Old men, and babes, and loving friends
And youths and maidens gay!

Farewell, farewell! but this I tell
To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.

The Mariner, whose eye is bright,
Whose beard with age is hoar,
Is gone: and now the Wedding-Guest
Turned from the bridegroom’s door.

He went like one that hath been stunned,
And is of sense forlorn:
A sadder and a wiser man,
He rose the morrow morn.

O Creator God,
day by day the evidence grows
at how by our wasteful and selfish ways
are causing increasing harm to the delicate
balance of nature and of our planet.
Might we once again learn to sing
All Things Bright and Beautiful, not as some
pretty wishful hymn, but as a declaration
of our partnership within nature to care for
all creatures great and small.
O Creator God,
remind us that we are called to care for
this planet, our only home.
Encourage and empower those whose day to day work
seeks to mend what we have broken and through creativity
to find ways forward that will result in sustainability
in our planet and in our life together.
May Coleridge’s words encourage and inspire us
He prayeth well who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast. Amen.

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