Nothing’s small

I noticed in wikiquote today that it is the birthday of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (born 1806). Browning has never been one of my favorite poets, but I do like some of the lines quoted in wikiquote. In particular, I’ve remembered the lines “Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God” since I was in ninth grade, and they were part of an anthem we sang in the church choir.

I had sometimes seen the following two lines quoted also: “But only he who sees, takes off his shoes, The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries.” But until today I never saw the lines that come before. Here is all of it, from Aurora Leigh Bk. VII, l. 812-826

And truly, I reiterate, . . nothing’s small!
No lily-muffled hum of a summer-bee,
But finds some coupling with the spinning stars;
No pebble at your foot, but proves a sphere;
No chaffinch, but implies the cherubim:
And, – glancing on my own thin, veined wrist, –
In such a little tremour of the blood
The whole strong clamour of a vehement soul
Doth utter itself distinct. Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware
More and more, from the first similitude.

It reminds me of the idea of “finding God in all things” in St. Ignatius‘ teaching on spirituality. In warm weather when I walk outside more, it is easier to remember, as I drink in the beauty of trees and flowers and sky and clouds and birds and their songs. Lately it has been only in gazing at the starry sky when I walk the dog at night.

But it’s getting warmer! Soon perhaps I can spend more time looking for common bushes afire with God. I’m sure they’re around indoors as well, but somehow they’re harder to see.

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One Response to Nothing’s small

  1. Karen O says:

    I try to make a conscious effort to see God’s handiwork in His creation, & in “everyday” kind of things. Seeing those things, & the gratitude enjoying them elicits, bring such blessing to my heart.

    As for things indoors, I especially like the way light hits certain areas, like the way it may spill across a countertop or over the floor (if it’s clean, that is!). Sometimes I’ll stop & admire the twinkling of light on a glass or crystal object, or watch the steam from my coffee or tea in the sunlight.

    My almost-20-yr.-old daughter, Emily, as you know, is kind of a prodigal right now. She & her boyfriend/fiance, Ryan, love nature. They go on hikes quite a lot. I pray that Emily will see the burning bush & not just the blackberries.

    Thank you for sharing this poem, & giving me a poetic expression to use in prayer.

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