God of the Quake and the Calm

Today commemmorates the death, in 1878, of Bishop George Augustus Selwyn, the first Bishop of New Zealand. He was, from what I have read, a wise and godly man who did his best to build up a healthy church in New Zealand, and resisted the land-grabbing and violence that pervaded British colonisation at the time. The following poem is based partially on a sermon he preached after an earthquake in Wellington in 1848.

God of the Quake and the Calm
(For George Augustus Selwyn)
God is known in the rustling of the trees in the cool of the day, or in the wind that breaketh the cedars of Libanus: at his will he reveals himself in the still small voice, or in the raging wind, in the earthquake or in the fire.
– Bishop Selwyn, St John’s College, 1849
You knew of the tides, the times
When it was safest to mount the waters in your boat,
And you studied the times of men and of wars,
Observed the uprisings, noted the stirrings
Of anger and resentment, gave praises
In the calm and saw always in the gentleness
Of the waves that you travelled the hand
Of the one who could shake them up in an instant.
When mountains shook, you were unperturbed,
Stood in your pulpit and called all to heed
The warnings that rumbled in each quiver of ground
And each belch of earth’s fires. You saw in both order
And flux in the seasons the wisdom and power
Of the hand that flung stars into the farthest of skies,
Who said to the waves, “Here are your limits, go no further,”
And yet shook the heavens when the time called for it.
You gave warning to those lost in sleep and did not
Slumber yourself while nations heaved up,
And as bodies collected in dead, broken soil,
Your hands turned to bury, your tongue to make peace,
Joined hands with the weary who still could rejoice,
Though the heavens were black, that they saw,
In the storm, that spot of blue sky, and joined
In the hope of the soon-passing storm?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s