Give me simplicity, that I may live

The Revd Canon Robert Wright

A couple of months ago I  was invited  to  undertake a commission  to paint an abstract painting  responding to George Herbert’s  (1593-1633) poem A Wreath,  and whilst  this is perhaps not one of his most well-known  poems, it is a  very beautiful poem:

A wreathèd garland of deservèd praise,
Of praise deservèd, unto Thee I give,
I give to Thee, who knowest all my ways,
My crooked winding ways, wherein I live,—
Wherein I die, not live ; for life is straight,
Straight as a line, and ever tends to Thee,
To Thee, who art more far above deceit,
Than deceit seems above simplicity.
Give me simplicity, that I may live,
So live and like, that I may know Thy ways,
Know them and practise them: then shall I give
For this poor wreath, give Thee a crown of praise.

As I began to think about this  - my paintings  start with a lot of  thought and prayer – it seemed to me that  this was an important  poem to live  with  during the Covid-19 crisis with all its associated  distress:  furlough,  closed schools and  churches, self-isolation, food  crises, domestic  violence, many  deaths  etc.; but also the many positive things for which we are  so thankful:  heroic actions by the NHS  and  carers, kindnesses, a slower pace of life, time to pray  and  reflect,  and some  glorious  weather, clear  skies  and silence.            

So the painting needed to reflect something of life’s journey (it is to be a 70th birthday present); the poem’s circularity (the end of a line is picked up in the next line) seemed to echo life in lock-down (“What day is it today?” “Another day shut in at home.”); and to reveal our hope, feeling and knowing that our lives are in God’s hands as we live towards God who is the one who loves us into being, images of Christ.

Following the poem, for me, once the   problems of home deliveries were mastered, there has been a simplicity so that with the Psalmist I can pray, “Hope in God for I shall yet praise Him my ever present help and my God.” (Ps 42.v11, ).

 I hope the painting suggests something of this.

robert wright art