Monday, July 8, 2019

Ralph Erskine

Ralph Erskine (1685—1752) is a Scottish poet and chaplain. He attended Edinburgh University, and was ordained in 1711. He is remembered for his devotional writing, especially his Gospel Sonnets — poetic theological reflections, with memorable analogies, which were not structured as sonnets at all. By 1797 they had appeared in 25 editions.

One of his most interesting creations is “Meditations On Smoking Tobacco; Or, Smoking Spiritualized” — a 50-line poem of metaphoric reflections for smokers:
-----...And when the smoke ascends on high,
-----Then thou behold’st the vanity
-----Of worldly stuff,
-----Gone with a puff.
-----Thus think, and smoke tobacco...

He died at Dunfermline, where he served for many years. A larger-than-life statue of him was erected there, in front of Queen Ann Street Church, in 1849.

from The Believer's Soliloquy; Especially in Times of Desertion, Temptation, Affliction
Sect. VI. The Song of Heaven desired by Saints on Earth

…Glory to God that here we came,
And glory to the glorious Lamb.
Our light, our life, our joy, our all
Is in our arms, and ever shall.

Our Lord is ours, and we are his;
Yea, now we see him as he is:
And hence we like unto him are,
And full his glorious image share.

No darkness now, no dismal night,
No vapour intercepts the light;
We see for ever face to face,
The highest Prince in highest place.

This, this does heav'n enough afford,
We are for ever with the Lord:
We want no more, for all is giv'n;
His presence is the heart of heav'n."

While thus I laid my list'ning ear
Close to the door of heav'n to hear;
And then the sacred page did view,
Which told me all I heard was true;

Yet shew'd me that the heav'nly song
Surpasses ev'ry mortal tongue,
With such unutterable strains
As none in fett'ring flesh attains:

Then said I, "O to mount away,
And leave this clog of heavy clay!
Let wings of time more hasty fly,
That I may join the songs on high."

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.