Saturday, September 23, 2006

Joy Under the Sun

I claim no originality for any of the below, as much of it is verbatim from Ecclesiastes. I shamelessly plagarize scripture when I write poetry :).

Vanity of vanities. All is vanity.
What does a man gain by his toil?
Like cycling winds of ceaseless calamity,
So are a man's days on earth's soil.

A man may labor faithfully under the sun.
But for what? He lives and then he dies.
The fruits of his toil will go to another one.
The same end meets all, fool or wise.

Under the sun, toil is the lot of wise and fool.
What gain have the wise? They die too.
But above the sun, another measuring tool
Is used to sort mankind in two.

Not the fool and wise, but the righteous and sinner:
Such is God's view above the sun.
To the upright God grants peace in daily dinner,
Joy while their tasks are being done.

Not freedom from toil, but joy amid his labors,
Is granted to one who fears God.
The righteous one's task is not unlike his neighbor's.
To the daily grind all are called.

Instead the difference lies deep inside a man's heart.
The just for their dear Lord do live.
They see the great drama of which they are a part,
And to God, great glory they give.

But, one may protest, all have sinned. Who can please God?
Joy for the righteous is all well,
But there are none righteous, none who seek to please God.
Dead in sin, all are bound for hell.

'Tis true, yes, but not the whole truth, for there is hope.
God sent His only Son to die.
He saw sinful men, as in the darkness they groped.
To low man He came from on high.

The sinless Lamb shed His blood for His wayward lambs.
The speckled flock became snow-white.
Clothed with the righteousness of He with nail-scarred hands,
By faith they now walk in the Light.

Both the righteous and the sinner share the same work.
Toiling on earth under the sun.
But for Christ's sheep, tasks are worship, duties they shirk
Not, but worship in light of the Son.


Lydia said...

Neat poem! Ecclesiastes is one of my favorite books. I used to read it more when I was depressed (years ago) although I don't think it is the best book to be reading when you are depressed, just more of a draw maybe. It makes much sense to me from a finite human perspective. I look forward to more of your thoughts from studying scripture.

Sherrin said...

I like your poem, Susan! Well done.

helen said...

I like it! :-)

(I would suggest a space between the a and the p in apart)

I love Ecclesiastes.

(you should thank the Delta agent for so many comments from me in one day!)

Susan said...

Thanks for catching that mistake, Helen :). That little space (or lack thereof) certainly makes a difference!

And yay for Delta agents! ;)

Adrian C. Keister said...

Very nice, Susan. I like! Would you be open to what is hopefully constructive criticism from me? I view your poem as really good, but maybe you could make even a bit better (only a little).

I like the alliteration in line 3; it adds to a sort of whirling effect. The second stanza works very well indeed; very natural sounding. In the third stanza, the short sentence "They die too." works well with "sort mankind in two."

Maybe you could end line 13 with a colon instead of a period. Your thought is definitely going on to the next line, which modifies it.

In line 16, might you consider changing "while" to "when"? The time scale doesn't match between "while" and "done."

Might I suggest that you make "labor" plural at the beginning of the fifth stanza? Then it would rhyme with "neighbor's" more exactly.

Nice reference to "daily grind." Ecclesiastes never turns a blind eye to the difficulties of work and its tediousness.

Also, the word "Lord" is notoriously difficult to rhyme, as you found out in the sixth stanza when the last line seems a bit awkward, at least to me. You could reword it thus:

The just for their dear Lord do live,

and then reword the last line to rhyme accordingly. I'm just brainstorming.

I love stanzas 7 and 8, because you're seeing Christ in Ecclesiastes. Wonderful.

For the first line, stanza 8, wouldn't it work better to make it one sentence? Perhaps put a comma instead of a period?

The line

To lowly man He came from high.

seems awkward to me. Perhaps you could insert the word "on" right before "high?" And if you want to keep the same number of syllables, you could change "lowly" to "low."

Stanza 9 is studendous!!

The third line in stanza 10 doesn't quite work for me, because "tasks are worship" is not parallel with "duties not shirk." I'm a bit stumped as to suggestions, though, since shirk is a very good rhyme for work, and it conveys the thought you're after.

Overall, very impressive indeed. Can we have more poems? Please?

In Christ.

Susan said...

This is great! It's hard to find constructive critism for my writings, so I greatly appreciate this. I don't have much experience with writing serious poetry. I've written many a limerick, though :).

I changed to a colon in line 13. Nice thought.

For line 16, I see what you mean, but I'm actually aiming for a continual action. "Joy while tasks are being done," I think is what I mean, but it messes with the meter. Hmm. Suggestions? I wanted to communicate joy amid labor, not just after.

Nice suggestions for labors.

It's funny, because you're highlighting all the places I also found awkward - like in the sixth stanza with "Lord" and "toward." I like your rewording of line 2, but I haven't found a good match for line 4 yet. I'll think on it some more.

Nice thought on the first line of stanza 8. I made that change.

Concerning To lowly man He came from high, He did come from high, not just on high. From high heaven to earth. May I ask why you prefer the additon of "on." I feel that I'm missing something.

I know, I know, I can't think of what to do with stanza 10 either. I really like "work" and "shirk," but I'm fully aware that the sentences aren't parallel. Hmm.

Thank you very much for the encouragement and the criticism. Both are appreciated. I'd happily supply more poems, but I've really written very few, unless you count diamantes and haikus in grade school ;). I have a handful of sonnets from my British literature class and a few more, but that is all. I posted one other poem a few months back, if you want to critique that one :).

Adrian C. Keister said...


You're very welcome; I see you have accepted my criticism very much in the spirit in which I intended it. Thank you for that! I'm so tired of people who think I'm attacking them by so doing. *lots of relief*

Well, one overall comment: have you checked out Rhymezone? It's at

Wonderful place for poetry. You can find synonyms and antonyms, definitions, rhymes, thesaurus. Great stuff. I have a feeling it would help you out of maybe two or three of your difficulties.

Another comment. While you're generally keeping to the same number of syllables per line, it appears that you're not doing any particular meter like iambic. Is that right? In that case, you'd be about half-way between free verse and rhymed and metered poetry.

Ok, I see what you're after in line 16. By the way, interesting on-its-head idea in line 14. That's kind of fun. :-)] How about:

"Joy while their tasks are being done."

You have to leave out wisdom this way, but that almost seems better, because of peace, joy, and wisdom, wisdom seems the odd one out.

How about:

The just for their dear Lord do live,
And to God great glory they give.

Has the advantage of alliteration. ;-)]

About the To lowly man He came from high line, it just seems awkward. You wouldn't say, "Lane came from left," or "Susan came from right." You'd say, "Lane came from the left" and "Susan came from the right." You could say "He came from above," but you wouldn't say "He came from high." Grammatically, I do not think it works. You're using the word "from," which is a preposition. Therefore, you need a word or two that can function as the object of that preposition, and "high" is an adjective. I'm not sure it's good grammar to use an adjective as the object of a preposition. I'm not sure, but it just sounds weird. I'm not disputing the theology here, just the grammar! ;-)]

Well, about stanza 10. There's no rule that says sentences or phrase or even thoughts have to end at the end of the line. Right? So rob Peter to pay Paul. Try this on for size:

Both the righteous and the sinner share the same work.

Toiling on earth under the sun.

But for Christ's sheep, tasks are worship, duties they shirk

Not, but worship in light of the Son.

That last line is now one syllable off, but your sixth line has nine syllables as well.

Maybe I'll take a look at your other poem sometime. Not today or tomorrow, I think. Just a little too busy to do it all. ;-)]

Again, you're very welcome.

In Christ.

Susan said...

*whimper* Blogger just lost my comment :(.

Let's summarize, since I'm short on time:

I liked your solutions to a few of those awkwardnesses (Is that a word?), and have made changes accordingly. Thank you very much!

I see now what you mean by "came from high." I'm not sure why I was missing that before :).

I've never been a fan of the finish-a-phrase-on-the-next-line strategy, acually, when there is only one word left. It always strikes me as awkward, unless the whole poem is done that way - then it sounds right. Your solution for the tenth stanza just doesn't *feel* right to me (call me picky). Hmmm.

This poem is generally a 12-9-12-9 pattern, but you're right it isn't a usual meter. Dirty Hands is supposed to be a bit more free in rhyme (sometimes assonance, as you noticed) and meter. I haven't had much of a chance to thoroughly read your comment for Dirty Hands, but I will when I get a chance. Thank you for looking at it!

Adrian C. Keister said...

You're welcome for anything you regard as a service to you. :-)]

Really, I don't view one or two words relegated to the next line as awkward. Lines are an arbitrary division anyway, right? Look at Shakespeare's 116. The very first line carries over into the next. Of course, the sonnet is a somewhat stricter form than you're dealing with (must be 14 lines of iambic pentameter, with either Shakespearean or Petrarchan rhyme scheme).

Well, I can't dictate your artistic feel here. Do what you think is best.

In Christ.

Susan said...

I think maybe I *do* read my poems mentally in something akin to "sing-song," like you mentioned was an "abomination" in your analysis of Dirty Hands. Hmmm. I don't read Shakespeare that way at all, so carrying a thought to the next line seems natural in 116. Now I'm rereading your suggestion and it doesn't seem bad to me. I rather like it, in fact. I'll have to sleep on it tonight. It's growing on me :).

Susan said...

Okay, I'm officially sold on your solution for stanza 10. I just made the change. I just had to sleep on it overnight. The key was to read my poem normally, not trying to think in sing-songy rhythm ;). Thanks!

Adrian C. Keister said...

You continually amaze me, Susan. I haven't met very many people as teachable as you and yet as firm as you on certain matters (like theology). Now I don't mean to imply that "I'm always the teacher" and "You're always the student." I've learned things from you as well. It's just that you have this thirst for knowledge, and are willing to ask humbly for it. Truly you are great in the Kingdom of God! Don't let it go to your head. (Be like Fezzik. ;-)])

Actually, the "sing-song" thing is very helpful in one context: working out rhythm. When I'm trying to make words fit into a rhythm, I'll exaggerate into a sing-song.

Have you ever studied metrical feet and scansion? You've got rhymes; have you really tried meter? Because while poetry doesn't have to be rhymed and metered, certainly my favorite English poems generally are. And rhymed and metered poetry has great power to it, especially if it's not terrribly awkward. Elinor Wylie has some fantastic poems that are rhymed and metered and very natural-sounding. Try her "Velvet Shoes" for one. Lane wrote a beautiful song on that poem. She has lots of great poems. I love Robert Frost as well, I have all his poems. Paul Revere's Ride, by Longfellow, is really great as well. I once could recite that entire poem. I could still do a good bit of it, I think. Ah, there's so much great stuff out there, and so little time!

In Christ.

Susan said...

I haven't met very many people as teachable as you and yet as firm as you on certain matters (like theology).

You have absolutely no idea how ironic that statement is, Adrian. I distinctly remember being (rightly) reprimanded by my father countless times, especially in middle school, and specifically being admonished that I needed a more teachable spirit. I've gradually learned more in the area of teachability through much pain and strife and, quite frankly, by finally being broken before God. Thank you for the encouragement, and I won't let it get to my head :). How could I with my memory of the past and with my knowledge that I yet have far to go? 'Tis all God's grace.

And I really appreciate your eagerness to feed my thirst for knowledge, and your skill at giving constructive criticism that doesn't seem condescending. Thank you for that!

I have no idea what scansion is. . . but I'm about to find out. *thanks Google* Oh, nope, never have studied metrical feet or scansion, that I remember. Interesting. I'm a novice when it comes to poetry composition :(.

As I think I mentioned before, my poetry background is not very impressive. I only really became interested in poetry in college, when I was forced to write five sonnets and realized it was actually fun after the first torturous attempt :). Even since then, I've only written a few poems.

Mmm, Velvet Shoes is very beautiful. *thanks Google again* I read it and just *saw* and *felt* the poem, not just absorbed the words. Quite a delightful feeling.

I quite enjoy Shakespeare's sonnets and some of Donne (not some of his earlier works!), also various other poems. But I'm only slowly getting into poetry, I must admit. Of course Tolkien's poems are also wonderful :).

Adrian C. Keister said...

Yes, it is all God's grace, praise Him.

And thank you, in turn, for the compliment on my teaching style. Teaching is what I want to do with most of the rest of my life. That light-bulb moment is awfully hard to beat! I'm sure you've seen that many times in your tutoring. For me, that's what makes it all worthwhile.

In my view, teaching should not be condescending. It should be extremely patient. For while you do know more than your students, most of the time, you're always teaching more than just your particular subject at the time. You're teaching them proper behavior, theology, etc. all the time by example. Condescension, with the negative connotation, is improper behavior in pretty much every circumstance. Ergo, it's a bad idea to engage in it.

If you're interested in studying meter, I recommend starting by memorizing "Metrical Feet" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It's a fun little teaching poem where each line is in the kind of meter it's talking about.

Well, I've only written a few poems myself; most of the best ones are on my website.

You should hear Lane's setting of "Velvet Shoes" some time. It works really well with a very young soprano voice.

In Christ.

Susan said...

That light-bulb moment in teaching is hard to beat. I've seen it in teaching and tutoring both, and it makes the hard work worth it :). Teaching math is not what I want to do with the rest of my life, but it is my calling now, and I've learned to love it. I never thought I'd enjoy teaching, actually, but I do - most of the time ;).

What subject(s) do you want to teach? I could definitely see you teaching math or logic, or even literature.

Absolutely teaching should not be condescending. I've had tutoring students come to me that admit that the reason they delayed finding a tutor for so long (while their grade continued to fall) was because they didn't want to feel stupid. They seemed surprised that I treated them like beings of intelligence who have the ability to succeed(!). I tell the students I teach in my classes that I'm not going to laugh at them, and any other students will regret it if they laugh at them either.

I'll have to look into the poem "Metrical Feet." It sounds helpful. The last few days have been crazy, so I haven't even googled it yet.

I'd love to hear Lane's rendition of "Velvet Shoes" sometime. I imagine that poem set to song would be beautiful. Ah, to have a young soprano voice :). I've contented myself with alto, though I always wanted to be able to sing high. Ah well. It's more fun to sing harmony than melody anyway :).

Susan said...

And I forgot to mention that I read the poems on your site. They were very good. I especially liked Shamed by a Rock and The Prelude (on the same page, coincidentally). But there were many more I could name that I thought were very interesting.

Adrian C. Keister said...

I'd love to teach logic, choir, Tae Kwon Do. Probably my dream, though, is to teach a mathematical physics course. And by that I mean an integrated calculus plus calculus-based physics course. You see, my Dad went to Cornell for engineering physics. And when he was there (I don't know if it's still true), he would learn a concept in the calculus class, and then a week later he'd use it in the physics class. The two classes were completely dovetailed. I'd love to do that at a classical Christian school somewhere.

I don't know about teaching lit. I'd love it, of course, but I'm not formally trained in it with degrees and all that. After I finish Cucumberland Island, I think I'd be ready to teach P&P with the best of them, but I might only do that as a sub for a week or two. Parents probably would object to a regular teacher who didn't have a degree in the subject they were teaching. Logic is closely related to my field, and I've got a brown belt in Tae Kwon Do, but nothing formal in English. English was my favorite subject in high school. We just read all the stories out loud. We may have analyzed them a bit, but for the most part we just read them.

I'm glad you liked my poems. Thank you for the compliment.

In Christ.

Susan said...

Logic, choir, Tae Kwon Do, calculus, physics. That's quite an assortment. And you think I'm interested in too many things? ;) Seriously, though, I could see you teaching each of those. Go for only a few preps at a time, though :). Why do you want to wait 5-10 years to teach (looking at your profile), out of curiosity?

I think integrating calculus and physics is an excellent idea. Physics really isn't all that great without calculus. I took non-calculus physics in high school and didn't care for it. But I really liked my calculus-based course in college. It drew it all together, and I was taking multi-variable calculus at the same time. I mean, displacement, velocity, acceleration are so much more meaningful and related with calculus.

I think dovetailing classes is the best way to go about it. In the classical program where I teach math, all the "core classes" - literature, history, grammar, rhetoric - are integrated like that. They study literature in conjunction with history, for example. It works really well.

A brown belt in Tae Kwon Do? Cool. (Envision me saying that with dark shades.) I knew you did Tae Kwon Do, but I didn't know you had a brown belt. Can you explain to me the difference between Tae Kwon Do and Karate? Is the latter an Americanized version of the former (which I know has Eastern roots), or am I just showing my ignorance?

Interesting that your favorite subject is English, since you went into a very technical track. It bothers me when people think that it is unnatural to be well-rounded. I've had people compliment me on my writing skills in surprise that a "math person" also has language skills, like the two things are mutually exclusive(?). I don't think a degree in English is nearly as important as experience and a love for the subject, and I don't sense that you would be teaching in public schools ;), so maybe a specific degree wouldn't matter. But then, you have plenty of other options for classes you could teach. . .

Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Susan.

I'd like to wait for 5-10 years in order to get real-world experience. It has been my experience in the classroom that students are much more motivated if they know how they can utilize all this stuff in the real world. And how will they know that unless their teacher knows something of how it works in the real world? And how is he going to know how it works in the real world unless he's been in the real world (as opposed to academia)? There you have it. I'm wanting to do it because I think it will give me a distinct edge in the classroom. I want to be the most qualified person I can possibly be, and this seems to be the way to go about it.

Derivatives and integrals do make physics more understandable, don't they? You have to go through all these conniptions (sp?) to get it to work when, if you had calculus, it'd be a snap.

Dark shades on you may not be all that hard to imagine. What may be hard is keeping a straight face doing so. It's your hair! Perhaps it's just my impression, but the majority of people these days don't think long hair such as you have is cool. My opinion? That's their loss! It looks great.

Tae Kwon Do is a twentieth century phenomenon. It originated in, I believe, the 50's, from a fellow from Korea. (Tae Kwon Do is the official Korean sport.) It is directly descended from Tang Soo Do Karate. Karate as a whole came from China in the 16th century, but it is a significant departure from most of the Chinese arts. Most Chinese arts focus mainly on circular motions, and also on the internal aspects ("chi"). They are called "internal martial arts." This is in opposition to most of the Korean, Okinawan, and Japanese arts, which tend to be more linear straight-line motion arts, and also focus on body mechanics (physics). They are called external martial arts. These are not completely air-tight categories, just general observations. The external arts, in my opinion, are generally quite safe for Christians to practice, whereas the internal arts are dangerous; I wouldn't touch them with a ten-foot pole. They incorporate way too much Eastern mysticism.

My favorite subject was English. Now I don't know. I don't like English any less than I did, but I like some other subjects just as much. I love math (I'm sure you've never figured that one out), and I really like logic. You see, I didn't get on to the classical Christian thing until I was a sophomore in college. Then I read Recovering, and that was that. I found out that logic is by far the single most important point of departure between the classical method and any other method. A Sayers wrote in her essay (loosely quoted), "Its neglect is the root cause of nearly all those disquieting symptoms mentioned earlier." The symptoms included irrelevant matter cropping up at committee meetings, inability to defend oneself from the barrage of words, words, words, inability to extract information from a reference book that interests them. It's huge, I think.

Well, I have to run. More later on other posts, perhaps.

In Christ.

Susan said...

What? Real-world experience? Shocking! A teacher who wants to have experience in his subject before teaching it?!?! ;) So perhaps you will actually be able to have an answer for the over-asked question, "When am I ever going to need this?" :) Most of my answers to that in Geometry (my favorite math subject) either focus heavily on carpentry, quilting, construction, and surveying, or much better, I explain that Geometry develops thinking and reasoning skills (like logic!) that will serve them well in life :).

At least, that should be a benefit from a geometry class. . . but not most public school geometry courses, unfortunately - excepting honors and up. How can a geometry teacher give students beautiful area formulas for quadrilaterals (rhomuses, kites, parralelograms, etc.) and not explain the derivation??? It's criminal! And I get to try to undo the damage with 1-2 hours of tutoring per week, per student. Yeah. . .

No wonder so many kids hate geometry, and the rest of math! Have you ever seen all those very logical exponent rules from Algebra I explained to a class with no (and I really mean absolutely no) explanation as to why any of them work? I have. It was a depressing sight.

Okay, that was a lengthy tangent. Thank you for listening to "Susan's Rant".

While we're on the subject of education, I have an amazing anecdote. Since studies have shown that freshman who fail their classes are less likely to graduate, the local high school has told its teachers that they need to try to pass their freshman, being more lenient, etc. so they will pass. Someone does not understand causation!

Actually, I do wear sunglasses in the summer quite a bit, especially while driving. My eyes are super-sensitive to sunlight, and squinting constantly just isn't fun :). And I'm sure the long skirt and hair is a funny match for the glasses, but oh well! And thank you for the compliment.

( :-)

What made you decide to read Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning? I can't remember exactly how I first became interested in classical education. Maybe it was just from hearing of the concept through various venues (specific, I know). This past year I've been even more interested, since I teach for a classial program, and since I keep hearing you rave about the method :). And reading Wilson's book this summer was very helpful also.

That's a very good quote by Sayers. (Is "A Sayers" a typo, or is she kin to Dorothy "D" Sayers?) Our society is becoming more and more illogical, 'tis true. Just watch politicians dodge questions, and watch the American public not even realize how elusive and illogical their representatives are being!

John Dekker said...

My brother just calls her "Dorothy"...

Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Susan.

Yeah, that's the idea: be able to answer the "What use is it?" question. And your answers to those questions re: geometry are certainly good; I wonder if your students buy it, though? With so many other influences in their lives telling them that logic is out-dated and unnecessary, why should they bother developing the skills of careful "analysis and deduction", as Holmes would say?

Ask them what math is sometime, and you'll probably get something very far from the truth. The more I go into math, the more am I convinced that mathematics is the recognition of patterns in God's creation, especially with a view toward number. You're welcome for listening to your rant. Anytime.

Yes, your anecdote is not terribly surprising to me, actually. Such foolishness is quite widespread.

Maybe my imagination can stretch to take in the long skirt, long hair, and shades. It'll take all the Dickens, Austen, Doyle, Christie, Tolstoy, etc., I have in order to do that. ;-)] You're welcome for the compliment; you're getting good at taking compliments! ;-)]

What made me decide to read Recovering? I honestly don't remember. Mom and Dad had it; by that time I had done tutoring, so I was interested in teaching. That was probably motivation enough. Incidentally, if you haven't read it, I would highly recommend John Milton Gregory's The Seven Laws of Teaching. It's fantastic. Warning: there are two versions out there, the original, and a "sanitized version"; the latter leaving out a good bit of the Sunday School stuff. I haven't actually read the original, but I'm itching to do so one of these days.

That typo should have been "As Sayers..." Thanks for pointing that out. It certainly was Dorothy Sayers to whom I was referring. Note to John: that's pretty funny. Getting a little cavalier, are we? Poking fun at the person who sparked the classical Christian school movement? Naughty, naughty. Mustn't do that, you know. Otherwise people will think we can laugh at ourselves.

In Christ.

Susan said...

John, I'm glad Adrian found the humor in your comment, because I'm still scratching my blond hairs, trying to understand(?). I'll just let you two enjoy the joke, I suppose :).

Ah, Adrian, but you forget that my students are enrolled in a classical program, so I'm not the only influence telling them the benefit of reasoning skills. The rest of their education is permeated with that emphasis. Most have taken either symbolic logic, advanced logic, or both by the time they take Geometry with me. So I have a distinct advantage over most Geometry teachers :).

I like your definition of mathematics. Nice. The key to mathematics (and every other subject!) is to recognize God as the author and orderer of that knowledge.

Well, in turn, I thank you for teaching me how to take compliments well. Your tutorial on Cucumberland Island was quite good, actually. And Hannah said it made enormous sense (or something to that effect).

I've heard of The Seven Laws of Teaching before, probably from you. I would like to read it some time - the "pure" version, of course :).

Adrian C. Keister said...

The humor in John's comment relates to the following analogy: calling John Calvin "Ol' Johnny." Calling a long-dead, respected historical figure by their first name is a bit cavalier, and usually meant to be funny.

That is a huge advantage over other Geometry teachers. I hope you don't rub it in to the other teachers. ;-)]

You're certainly welcome for whatever biblical things I've been able to teach through the Holy Spirit. :-)] Without that Helper, real teaching is in vain. Thanks, Hannah, as well.

In Christ.

Susan said...

*delayed laughter*

That was a very amusing comment, John. (We'll pretend I got it the first time.)


Psst! Thanks for explaining that, Adrian

If it is agreeable to you, Adrian, we can TIOC?

Adrian C. Keister said...

You're welcome for the explanation.

Sure, let's TIOC.

In Christ.