Jewels From James: Choice Devotional Selections From The Works of John Angell James

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This verse seems to indicate that each sin must be separately revealed. A person can be neither physically whole nor spiritually whole unless all ailments have been addressed.


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The confessor is a person's spiritual physician. The full circumstances surrounding a particular sin should also be recounted.

Streams in the Desert: 366 daily devotional readings

Compare "The Table of Confession" Poem 7 , line If they do not, it becomes a case of the blind leading the blind. Proverbial Whiting S The advice offered here is that they take stock of their spiritual situations far more frequently. Compare Ecclesiastes The Table of Confession This comprehensive enumeration of the sins probably served as a guide to confession for members of the laity, but it may also reflect the poet's own heartfelt contrition.

Like the previous poem, it seems to give us a glimpse of Dunbar in his role as professional cleric; and also like the previous poem, it was probably written expressly for the Lenten season. Unlike "The Manner of Going to Confession," however, in which the speaking voice is admonitory and directed at the sinner, here the voice is that of the sinner himself.

The poem reads like a primer in medieval Christian doctrine, with stanzas devoted to the five senses, the seven deadly sins, the seven deeds of corporal mercy, the seven deeds of spiritual mercy, the seven sacraments, the ten commandments, the twelve articles of faith, the seven virtues, and so on. But, as Bawcutt observes, the poem "is more than a dry tabulation of sins, and is suffused with emotion, particularly in the refrain and the final prayers" Bw 2.

Twenty-one 8-line stanzas rhyming ababbcbC. Mc83, K6, Bw The speaker is presumably kneeling before an image of the Crucifixion, as in lines of "Of the Passion of Christ" Poem 2. The five wits, which are the five physical senses, are often mentioned in manuals on confession.

The failure to control them leads to sins of the flesh. In SGGK they are one of the five fives symbolized by the pentangle on Sir Gawain's shield; Gawain is said to be faultless in his control of them line , which the story largely bears out. The sins are listed in lines , beginning with pride, envy, wrath, and covetousness - the sins of the spirit.

Then come lust, gluttony, and sloth - the sins of the flesh although sloth may also be a spiritual sin. The five wounds of Christ two in the hands, two in the feet, and one in the side became a commonplace in medieval devotional literature. The first - and "most of excellence" - of the seven sacraments is Holy Communion; the serving of the Eucharist on Easter Sunday is the culminating act of the entire Lenten season.

For the Christian virtues compare 1 Corinthians and Galatians Mark warns against in Mark Presumably, this refers to "unnatural" sex acts; compare Romans As he did in line 29 of the previous poem and in line 85 of this poem, Dunbar again emphasizes the importance of selecting one's confessor wisely. The Lord's Prayer, from Matthew , which includes a series of seven clauses called the seven petitions. The King's Council, his chief group of advisors.

The Court of Sessions, the supreme civil court of Scotland, a parliamentary court that sat at various times in various places after In contrast to the previous stanzas, the speaker now acknowledges sins he knows he is capable of committing - sins that lodge in his heart - even though he has not actually committed them.

The model for the penitent sinner, she became the object of a popular cult in the Middle Ages. She was one of the witnesses to the Crucifixion and was among the first to see the risen Christ on Easter morning; she was also traditionally identified with the unnamed woman who washed Christ's feet with her tears in Luke In Luke , Jesus cast seven demons out of her, traditionally seen as the seven deadly sins.

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See the Digby play of Mary Magdalene for a late medieval confluence of Magdalene traditions on penance and redemption. Compare "Of the Passion of Christ" Poem 2 , lines All Earthly Joy Returns to Pain There is no neat dividing line between Dunbar's religious poems and his moral poems, as this poem illustrates, for while it clearly belongs to the poet's series of Lenten poems - it is written specifically for Ash Wednesday - it also shares with his moral poems a fundamental concern with human mortality and earthly mutability.

Dunbar has several poems in which the narrator tells us what he has overheard; in this case it is the "words" of a bird's song, a fairly common device in medieval poetry Chaucer had used it in The Complaint of Mars , for example. It seems likely that the poem's forty lines are intended to provide a parallel to the forty days of Lent. The verse form of the poem is the French kyrielle , a quatrain rhyming aabB ; Dunbar was fond of this form, employing it about a dozen times. B and MF which omits lines Mc71, K59, Bw The sentiment expressed in the refrain is a medieval commonplace.

Whiting cites several early proverbs that express this same idea J Hellmouth is commonly represented in medieval drama by the mouth of the Leviathan. Sometimes it was represented on maps as a place far in the west, opposite Eden, which was said to be in the east. Compare Henryson's Fables , line The image of the rain coming after a period of drought might seem more like joy following woe than the other way round, although in a damp, cold northern climate dry spells might be highly valued; in any case, the saying is proverbial Whiting D The refrain line here deviates from the refrain used in the other stanzas.

It is as if he is saying, "Since this is the way things are, let us endeavor to achieve a joy that will never end" - the joy of salvation. Of Man's Mortality [ Quod tu in cinerem revertis ] This highly conventional poem on the memento mori theme also belongs to the poet's series of Lenten poems.

Both the opening Latin verse and the Latin refrain are derived from the Ash Wednesday service as reflected in the Sarum Missal. Blending the motif of the fallen heroes one variety of ubi sunt with the motif depicting what we shall soon become the ubi erunt theme , the speaker admonishes his readers or hearers to "speed thee, man, and thee confess," for you shall soon return to ashes.

Once again, the central concern in this poem is with penitence, contrition, and confession. Six 8-line stanzas rhyming ababbcbC. B and MF where it is anonymous. Mc74, K61, Bw These phrases derive from Genesis - "dust thou art and unto dust thou shall return. Bawcutt translates the line: "Strive in no way to remain here long" Bw 2.

They are usually selected to show that whatever outstanding qualities people may possess - strength, wisdom, power, or beauty - those things have no value when death arrives, for all people go the way of all flesh. As Bawcutt points out, Alexander the Great "had particular popularity in Scotland the name was given to three kings " Bw 2. Like Hector of Troy, he was one of the Nine Worthies.

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Compare "The Lament for the Makars" Poem 14 , line Compare "A Meditation in Winter" Poem 15 , line Dunbar also uses this figure in line 13 of "Of the World's Vanity" Poem An Orison In this short, simple devotional poem the speaker acknowledges that his sensuality has sometimes lured his soul into sin, but he rejoices in the spark of "light and spirituality" that has awakened his mind and has allowed him to rise up in new awareness.

He begs for God's grace and a chance to make amends for his sins, in the hope that he can achieve peace and prosperity in this life and afterward attain the bliss of Heaven. This gentle, heartfelt poem anticipates the poetry of George Herbert in the seventeenth century. Bawcutt suggests that the poem may be an extract from a longer poem, which was a common practice in the sixteenth century Bw 2.

R and MF. One 8-line stanza rhyming ababbcbc. Mc78, K7, Bw Wit is the intellectual faculty that relates to knowledge and understanding, while ressoun "reason" often relates more to one's ability to make sound moral decisions.

The request for time to repent and atone for one's sins is also reflected in the refrain line of "The Table of Confession" Poem 7 in the phrase "laser to repent" "the time to repent". Of the World's Vanity [ Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas ] This is one of Dunbar's most conventional poems on the theme of worldly impermanence; as in several others, the voice of the preacher urges its hearers to be spiritually prepared for the journey they will soon take.

Although it does not mention confession specifically, that appears to be its implicit message. While "Of the World's Vanity" consists largely of moral commonplaces, the poem is enhanced by its rhetorical flair and its effective use of poetic devices. Three 8-line stanzas rhyming ababbcbC. MF only. Mc75, K60, Bw As Reiss points out p. While "friend" and "foe" may be taken literally, it is surely figurative as well - i.

This is one of the verses along with line 12 in which the need for repentance, contrition, and confession are most strongly implied. The "place" that needs to be readied is our heavenly abode, not our earthly habitation. The image of this earthly life as a "vale of trouble," a medieval commonplace, derives from Psalm in the Vulgate. The well-known refrain is taken from Ecclesiastes Hebrews provides the scriptural basis for viewing life as a spiritual pilgrimage to God. Dunbar's phrase "Walk furth, pilgrame" seems to echo line 18 from Chaucer's lyric "Truth": "Forth, pilgrim, forth!

Forth, beste, out of thy stal! This nautical metaphor is similar to what occurs in "Of Man's Mortality" Poem 9 , lines Bawcutt points out that the phrase "port of grace" was used for "New Haven and Burntisland, two small harbours on the Firth of Forth," and may therfore have had "a special piquancy for Scottish readers" Bw 2. Especially striking is the rhetorical pattern in lines ; here the first and fourth lines consist of a balanced pair of antithetical "now" phrases, while the two verses within them each contain four "now" phrases arranged in contrasting pairs.

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Poems Devotional and Moral | Robbins Library Digital Projects

Compare uses of alliteration and internal rhyme in "An Orison" Poem Of Life This short homiletic poem provides a succinct analysis of life as offering a choice between Heaven and Hell: we can choose short torment and receive unending bliss, or we can choose short-lived joy and receive lasting sorrow. What is unstated but clearly implied is the fact that we make this choice by how we live our lives. It is possible that this single rhyme royal stanza ababbcc is an excerpt from a longer poem.

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MF and B where it is anonymous. Mc76, K57, Bw This recalls the opening phrase of Arcite's death speech in Chaucer's Knight's Tale: "What is this world? What asketh men to have? The notion of life as a way to deid "a road to death" is a medieval commonplace and is also reflected in The Knight's Tale in Egeus' comment that "This world nys but a thurghfare ful of wo" CT I[A] The image of the sliding wheel is allied to the medieval concept of Dame Fortune and her wheel.

It brings to mind instances in which figures such as the Nine Worthies are placed upon Fortune's wheel and then dashed to their destruction when she spins it; e. The image of man as death's prey also occurs in line 95 of "The Lament for the Makars" Poem Of the Changes of Life One of Dunbar's several poems on the topic of earthly mutability, "Of the Changes of Life" focuses especially on the changes in the weather and the seasons as reflective of the impermanence of life in this world.

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