Verse > Anthologies > The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse > 53. A Poetical Version of a Letter from Facob Behmen
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Nicholson & Lee, eds.  The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. 1917.
  
53. A Poetical Version of a Letter from Facob Behmen
By John Byrom  (1691–1763)
  
’TIS Man’s own Nature, which in its own Life,
Or Centre, stands in Enmity and Strife,
And anxious, selfish, doing what it lists,
(Without God’s Love) that tempts him, and resists;
The Devil also shoots his fiery Dart,        5
From Grace and Love to turn away the Heart.
 
    This is the greatest Trial; ’tis the Fight
Which Christ, with His internal Love and Light,
Maintains within Man’s Nature, to dispel
God’s Anger, Satan, Sin, and Death, and Hell;       10
The human Self, or Serpent, to devour,
And raise an Angel from it by His Pow’r.
 
    Now if God’s Love in Christ did not subdue
In some Degree this Selfishness in you,
You would have no such Combat to endure;       15
The Serpent, then, triumphantly secure,
Would unoppos’d exert its native Right,
And no such Conflict in your Soul excite.
 
    For all the huge Temptation and Distress
Rises in Nature, tho’ God seeks to bless;       20
The Serpent feeling its tormenting State,
(Which of itself is a mere anxious Hate,)
When God’s amazing Love comes in, to fill
And change the selfish to a God-like Will.
 
    Here Christ, the Serpent-bruiser, stands in Man,       25
Storming the Devil’s hellish, self-built Plan;
And hence the Strife within the human Soul,—
Satan’s to kill, and Christ’s to make it whole;
As by Experience, in so great Degree,
God in His Goodness causes you to see.…       30
 
    The next Temptation, which befalls of Course
From Satan and from Nature’s selfish Force,
Is, when the Soul has tasted of the Love
And been illuminated from above;
Still in its Self-hood it would seek to shine,       35
And as its own possess the Light Divine.
 
    That is, the soulish Nature,—take it right,
As much a Serpent, if without God’s Light,
As Lucifer,—this Nature still would claim
For own Propriety the Heav’nly Flame,       40
And elevate its Fire to a Degree
Above the Light’s Good Pow’r, which cannot be.
 
    This domineering Self, this Nature-Fire,
Must be transmuted to a Love-Desire.
Now, when this Change is to be undergone,       45
It looks for some own Pow’r, and, finding none,
Begins to doubt of Grace, unwilling quite
To yield up its self-willing Nature’s Right.
 
    It never quakes for Fear, and will not die
In Light Divine, tho’ to be blest thereby:       50
The Light of Grace it thinks to be Deceit,
Because it worketh gently without Heat;
Mov’d too by outward Reason, which is blind,
And of itself sees nothing of this Kind.
 
    Who knows, it thinketh, whether it be true       55
That God is in thee, and enlightens too?
Is it not Fancy? For thou dost not see
Like other People, who as well as thee
Hope for Salvation by the Grace of God,
Without such Fear and Trembling at his Rod.…       60
 
    The own Self-will must die away, and shine,
Rising thro’ Death, in Saving Will Divine;
And from the Opposition which it tries
Against God’s Will such great Temptations rise;
The Devil too is loth to lose his Prey,       65
And see his Fort cast down, if it obey.
 
    For, if the Life of Christ within arise,
Self-Lust and false Imagination dies,—
Wholly, it cannot in this present Life,
But by the Flesh maintains the daily Strife,—       70
Dies, and yet lives; as they alone can tell
In whom Christ fights against the Pow’rs of Hell.
 
    The third Temptation is in Mind and Will,
And Flesh and Blood, if Satan enter still;
Where the false Centres lie in Man, the Springs       75
Of Pride and Lust, and Love of earthly Things,
And all the Curses wish’d by other Men,
Which are occasion’d by this Devil’s Den.
 
    These in the Astral Spirit make a Fort,
Which all the Sins concentre to support;       80
And human Will, esteeming for its Joy
What Christ, to save it, combats to destroy,
Will not resign the Pride-erected Tow’r,
Nor live obedient to the Saviour’s Pow’r.…
 
    Let go all earthly Will, and be resign’d       85
Wholly to Him with all your Heart and Mind!
Be Joy or Sorrow, Comfort or Distress,
Receiv’d alike, for He alike can bless,
To gain the Victory of Christian Faith
Over the World and all Satanic Wrath!       90

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