Did John Wesley read poetry?

Of course, John Wesley read poetry. This we know. He read the Bible, after all. He sang all those wonderful hymns, and even wrote a few. He read the liturgy of the Church of England.

But this English major finds himself wondering if Wesley liked poetry, the kind we usually think of when we say the word. Did he read Milton or Pope or Dryden?

We died too soon to read Blake and Shelley and Byron and Keats. He never would have read the great romantics. I somehow think he would not have been charmed by them.

There is nothing profound in my musing today. It’s just that I was reading some poems I like yesterday, and it got me wondering. Did Wesley like poetry? Did he approve of people reading it? And does it change my attitude toward the man if he objected?

I suppose that is the key question for me. And it is a prickly one, because I suspect Wesley found reading poetry a trifle. He was a man always on the move and always about getting things done. He woke up to preach at 5 a.m. every day and rode in rain and snow to work long into the night. I just don’t recall reading about too many poets keeping such schedules. Your typical English major stops the poetry reading when the crowd stops throwing rocks. The Russian punk band that went to the gulag for breaking up a church service, they did that for politics, not poetry — if you can call punk rock poetry.

Wesley, I suspect, would not be a fan of Pussy Riot. He also found the mystics dangerously passive. Poets are brothers and sisters with the mystics.

And while I make not claim to be either a poet or a mystic, I quite enjoy reading poems and I have scribbled a few down from time to time. So the question gets me thinking about Father John. It gets me thinking about me. I has me wondering about Jesus, who had the imagination of poet.

It gets me wondering.


11 thoughts on “Did John Wesley read poetry?

  1. Poetry? Song? or both
    Hymn XII: Come, Ye That Love the Lord

    Come, ye that love the Lord,
    And let your joys be known;
    Join in a song with sweet accord,
    While ye surround his throne:
    Let those refuse to sing
    Who never knew our God;
    But servants of the heavenly King
    May speak their joys abroad.

    The God that rules on high,
    That all the earth surveys
    That rides upon the stormy sky,
    And calms the roaring seas-
    This awful God is ours,
    Our Father and our love;
    He will send down his heavenly powers,
    To carry us above.

    There we shall see his face,
    And never, never sin;
    There, from the rivers of his grace,
    Drink endless pleasures in:
    Yea, and before we rise
    To that immortal state,
    The thoughts of such amazing bliss
    Should constant joys create.

    The men of grace have found
    Glory begun below;
    Celestial fruit on earthly ground
    From faith and hope may grow:
    Then let our songs abound,
    And every tear be dry;
    We are marching through Immanuel’s grounds
    To fairer worlds on high.

    John Wesley

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