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Biblical Aesthetics and Godly Poetry

A Forma Classic from June 4, 2004

In Psalm 45 the poet pulls back the curtain on how godly poetry is composed and provides a model for us to imitate.

Consider the words of the first verse:

My heart overflows with a good theme
I will recite my verses to the king
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.

Here, listed unpoetically, are some principles exemplified in this verse:

  • The heart can still overflow during a recital
  • There is no conflict between the fully active mind and the fully active heart.
  • The audience must be recognized and honored in the form of the poem
  • During a recital, the words should be prepared with skill. To be a ready writer means to be a writer who is ready to write. That takes training. In fact, some translations use the phrase “skilled writer” and it is clear that the poet who wrote this Psalm was no slouch – as he himself tells us in line 3.
  • Inspiration and labor are not in conflict. This poet was inspired by God in the most complete sense of the phrase (this is scripture!) and yet he didn’t set aside his own duties in the production of this masterpiece.
  • The form of the poem must fit the occasion of the recital

The closing verse reminds us of the fundamental purpose of all artwork:

I will make your name to be remembered
from one generation to another;
therefore nations will praise you for ever and ever.”

What you remember is the result of what you attend to. What you remember determines who you become.

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