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Sample Poems by Ellen Roberts Young


Not for Them


William Paley walks past a
mill. Admiring its mechanism
he thinks of God's making.
How to explain this? He sets
out an image, a watch among
weeds and wildflowers,

speaks to his fellow
believers, more celebration
than argument, digresses in
elaborate sentences to block
objections, counter claims
that make them anxious.

Skeptics lean in to listen,
eavesdroppers picking up
fragments, suppose his
conclusions meant for them,
withdraw unpersuaded.
They've missed the core.

Paley's reason supports
faith's cathedral for
those within, neither
its floor nor foundation,
graceful and visible
as Gothic flying buttresses

Matters of Scale


With Uranus found, the solar system seemed
complete, a sacred seven planets, wavering
orbits explained as God's hand, tinkering.

If earth is a watch, too well designed
to need constant adjustment, the planets
travel in space bigger than a grandfather

clock. Leaving his image on the ground,
the writer describes "a will that restrains
and circumscribes" the heavenly bodies,

recommends astronomy to raise
thoughts to the sublime, cannot
imagine sending a man to the moon.

Immensity interests him less than the
minute: his God a deity of the details.

Parson Paley's Devotion

". . . to almost all the bones belong joints; and in these . . .are seen both contrivance and contriving
wisdom."
Natural Theology, 62

"Contriving" is his word
of praise, as he observes all
that is wonderfully made:
eye and ear, hip socket, knee
hinge. For him, faith and science
ride a tandem bicycle past
mill works whose mechanical arms
proclaim God's greatness by imitation.

Certain that science would solve
remaining puzzles?why blood
needs lungs, what drives
digestion?and thus confirm
the fixed and proper order of
all the body's parts, Paley
could stomach no alternatives.

But if we swung at the knee
and only bent at hip, would it
be so bad? Crops could still
be picked, laundry hung,
and we could dance all night.

Shared Ground


Walking among new-born
flies, aphids, all nature
to feed his wonder, the parson
loses regrets (the bishop's ring
never bestowed) finds comfort
in common creaturehood.

He's at home wherever
he walks, while I, creature
of foggy hills, green valleys,
walk on alien land where
nothing of profit's produced,
nothing is wasted.

A jackrabbit feeds on
freeze-battered prickly pear,
bolts at my approach,
happy in his speed, doing
what he's made for.

If the universe has a maker
is it made less lonely?
My legs being made for walking,
their motion settles my spirit.