Music Fit for Thee

by Elouise


Saint Cecilia with an Angel, Orazio Gentileschi (1563-1693)

Amy Carmichael’s life might be summarized by one word: Interruptions. Here’s her poetic internal dialogue about this daily dilemma. My comments follow.

 The Humble Song of Deeds

Oh, that I were
As Saint Cecilia,
And could invent
Some goodly instrument
Passing all yet contrived, to worship Thee
In music, great, celestial!
Or, if that cannot be,
Oh, would that I could break
With all conventions, and all trivial and low-roomed
Conceptions of Thee; being inwardly
Freed and informed by Thy pure Spirit, and consumed
By Fire of Love
By Love majestical,
That I might sing that Love in words of glory
That should shake
The very firmament!

It may not be; for ever when I seem
Almost upon the border of my dream,
Cometh a call to some slight duty touching human needs,
Mixed in some small life-story.
And then, distinct above
The sound of music in me, it doth shout—
That call imperious—which, if at all
Ignored, is wont to make such deafening din
And clamor of displeasure, me within
And round about,
That all my shining thoughts affrighted fly
And scatter, as the wind-blown wing-ed seeds
Of thistle weeds.
But, turning back from my poor strivings, I
Hear a low voice repeat
Over and over: “To thy Lord, most sweet
Of all sweet songs, the humble song of deeds.”

Amy Carmichael, Mountain Breezes: The Collected Poems of Amy Carmichael,
pp. 267-268. © 1999, The Dohnavur Fellowship,
published by Christian Literature Crusade.
First published in Made in the Pans, 1917

Who doesn’t have thoughts of doing something grand, beyond all telling? Worthy of the Holy One. Able to shake this tired old heaven and earth with Glory unlike any seen before or after. Who hasn’t dreamed of this and more?

I don’t think Amy’s desire is for her own glory. Neither was Saint Cecilia’s. Amy wants only to show this world what she already glimpses–the Holy One. She wants to capture our imaginations with the glory of One who loves and cares for each of us. Right down to the most vulnerable members of society.

She envisions this happening through music. Perhaps a hither-to unknown musical instrument! Or even her voice singing words she hasn’t yet written or conceived of in her mind.

If only she could be like Saint Cecilia. Not for her glory, but for Thy glory. If not on a newly invented musical instrument, then perhaps with her own human voice! Not in tired old conventional words and phrases, but in newly birthed images inspired and freed from her tongue and pen by Your fiery Spirit!

Just as Amy waxes eloquent about her desire to make eloquent music in honor of God, a voice interrupts. Not once, but over and over. If she doesn’t respond, the air will go out of Amy’s dream. Her lovely vision will float away on the wind like snowy-soft thistle weed seeds. Scattered and forgotten. What a letdown.

Even worse, Amy may not even recall her grand dream. What faces her isn’t grand; it’s small. A sick child. A harried co-worker needing a helping hand. Everyday squabbles. Hunger. Sick bodies. Whines. Complaints. Tears of grief. Cries of pain. Nightmares large and small needing comfort. Loneliness. Sometimes death.

A constant, everyday chorus of human need. One after another, without pause or respite. Each about the same thing: another everyday, run-of-the-mill human need.

The sweetest, truest, most on-pitch voice in this poem isn’t Amy’s longed-for, grand voice of praise for her Lord. It’s the still small voice repeating over and over, mantra-like:

. . . To thy Lord, most sweet
f all sweet songs, the humble song of deeds.

* * *

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 June 2015
Public Domain image from Wikimedia Commons