The Motion of a Hidden Fire

Prayer described.

PRAYER is the soul’s sincere desire,
Utter’d or unexpress’d;
The motion of a hidden fire,
That trembles in the breast.

Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear;
The upward glancing of an eye,
When none but God is near.

Prayer is the simplest form of speech
That infant lips can try;
Prayer the sublimest strains that reach
The Majesty on high.

Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath,
The Christian’s native air;
His watchword at the gates of death:
He enters heaven with prayer.

Prayer is the contrite sinner’s voice,
Returning from his ways;
While angels in their songs rejoice,
And cry, “Behold he prays!”

The saints in prayer appear as one,
In word, and deed, and mind;
While with the Father and the Son
Sweet fellowship they find.

Nor prayer is made on earth alone;
The Holy Spirit pleads;
And Jesus, on the eternal throne,
For mourners intercedes.

O Thou, by whom we come to God,
The life, the truth, the way!
The path of prayer Thyself hast trod:
Lord! teach us how to pray.

James Montgomery, 1819.

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The Language of Pain in Poetry

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along.
—W.H. Auden, “Musée des Beaux Arts”

Pain—has an Element of Blank—
It cannot recollect
When it begun—or if there were
A time when it was not—.
—Emily Dickinson, “Pain—has an Element of Blank”

“Physical pain however great ends in itself and falls away like dry husks from the mind, whilst moral discords and nervous horrors sear the soul.” —Alice James, diary entry (1892)