I had been told that the great biblical theologian Geerhardus Vos considered himself to be somewhat of a mystic. Hearing that caught my attention and sort’ve endeared me more to him. Yesterday I came across some of his poetry that confirmed in my mind what I had heard. Though he was no St. John of the Cross, his poetry is still very deep and moving. Considering he was a master theologian from Princeton Seminary, it’s interesting to see that his poetry isn’t typically “Christian.” Rather, there is a depth to it that reflects Vos as a person. Not to say that his being is somehow disengaged from his Christianity, far from it, instead I mean he does not appear to be stuck writing on Christian themes.
His poetry is intriguing, especially if you are familiar with his major scholarly works like “Biblical Theology” or “The Pauline Eschatology.” There is nothing of the dense, biblical, theological onslaught of information. His poetry is reflective, observant, and even (dare I say) dark.
Here is an excerpt from one that you might enjoy:
He turned him in the sickness of desire,
That could not be appeased and yet would live,
Unto his gods: “Have ye no help to give?
O, for physicians who can quench this fire
Of fever in my blood!” Anon an answer came:
“The nature of thy pain allows but three
Can work relief from this infirmity,
Their methods differing but their task the same.
Peace on her brow and lethe in her hand,
Night’s first-born daughter shall attend thee, Sleep,
With lashes dark shading the slumbrous deep
Of her eyes’ tranquil waters. To a land
Where sense is hushed she bids thee follow blind,
Or where, if stirred, it stirs but in a dream,
Causing the fruit of thy desire to seem
Within thy hand, upon thy lips. While kind
To all, for all are sufferers more or less,
Awake, yet men most desperately bestead,
Like to a nurse by her sick lover’s bed,
She touches with a tenderer tenderness,
And in the realm of Sorrow sits, a Queen
Of Consolation, who from untold hosts
Has grateful reverence the far-flung coasts
Of silence and oblivion between.”
So spake the gods. But he said: “O, my Lords,
Ye are the Unsleeping Ones, and ye should know,
How oft that messenger disdains to go
Where sorest needed; no beguiling words
No magic spell her to the pillow woo
Of one within whose heart some passion burns,
Which, blazing up, all other presence spurns;
Jealous she flees and I in vain pursue.”
Responsive to his plaint, they from their feast
Paused long enough to render thus reply:
“Ourselves we too would fain encircled lie
By Sleep’s soft arms, from that same joy released,
visits not, and from us not departs;
Could but oblivion with Immortals dwell,
We would not wait one instant to expel
All rival loves from our joy-weary hearts.
The poem goes on further, but I figure you can read the poem yourselves if you want to. They can be downloaded as PDFs at:
Some of the names of the poems are interesting in and of themselves. Such as: Dream Suffering, Jealousy, Helen-Rust, Loving the Sea, Sea Idyl, Sea Silence, Night and Sea, California, San Diego, Autumn Roses, Nativity, The Solitary Tree, The Mission Bell, Disquietude etc.
You can also find some of his works on theological matters at that site as well, including stuff on the Pentateuch, the Kingdom of God etc.
Other theological sites dedicated to Vos and his tradition are: