Monday, December 27, 2010

The Bedtime Prayer of Sir Thomas Browne

I've just this evening finished reading Sir Thomas Browne's Religio Medici. You're safe to assume I'll have more to say about that great work here sometime soon. But, as prayer, of late, has become the unplanned focus here (and in my life) I thought I'd share what Browne refers to as "the Dormative I take to bedward; I need no other Laudanum than this to make me sleep; after which I close mine eyes in security, content to take my leave of the Sun, and sleep unto the Resurrection."

image via Wikipedia
The night is come, like to the day,
Depart not Thou, great God, away.
Let not my sins, black as the night,
Eclipse the lustre of Thy light:
Keep still in my Horizon; for to me
The Sun makes not the day, but Thee.
Thou, Whose nature cannot sleep,
On my temples Centry keep;
Guard me 'gainst those watchful foes,
Whose eyes are open while mine close.
Let no dreams my head infest,
But such as Jacob's temples blest.
While I do rest, my Soul advance;
Make my sleep a holy trance;
That I may, my rest being wrought,
Awake into some holy thought;
and with as active vigour run
My course, as doth the nimble Sun.
Sleep is a death; O make me try,
By sleeping, what it is to die;
And as gently lay my head
On my grave, as now my bed.
However I rest, great God, let me
Awake again at last with Thee;
And thus assur'd, behold I lie
Securely, or to awake or die.
These are my drowsie days; in vain
I do not wake to sleep again:
O come that hour, when I shall never
Sleep again, but wake forever.

It seems to me that I recall my dear husband requesting those last two lines as his epitaph.

7 comments:

Hydriotaphia said...

This verse is also an Anglican evening hymn.

David Porter said...

Laurie,

Thanks for sharing this. I enjoyed it.

Karin said...

That is so meaningful! Thanks for sharing!

Laurie M. said...

Kevin, Just the man I was hoping to hear from. My title for this post was deliberately ambiguous because I could not tell if Browne had authored this work himself or was quoting words he assumed his audience would already be familiar with.

So maybe you can clarify for me. Did he author this, or is he quoting a hymn already written?

BTW, I have often been blessed by the richness of the Anglican worship tradition.

Hydriotaphia said...

Hi Laurie!

I enjoyed seeing the photo's of you and Paul at Xmas. So he got the whole jolly lot, every spiffing episode of Jeeves and Wooster on DVD, i hope you enjoy their antics too!

The verse you posted is indeed by Browne himself, there's another also in R.M.

It looks as if early in life Browne wrote several near doggerel poems and wisely abandoned that path. There is also the late verse entitled 'A prophecy upon the state of several nations', Tract 12/13 in his miscellaneous writings.

Once a year the church of Saint Peter Mancroft at Norwich have an evening service near to October 19 celebrating their most famous parishioner, and the Hymn 'Now the night is come' is sung, it's in the Anglican hymn-book listed under 'Evening hymns'.

I began my Christian life in the Anglican tradition as a choir-boy from the age of 8 to 18, then as so often in life, thought i knew better; more recently i sing at an Evangelical church, on and off. I am a bit unorthodox in my belief and adherence to Christ. My favourite book examining Christian faith is Rob Bell's 'Velvet Elvis', in which he argues that Christianity is once more badly in need of repainting. Some disapprove of his bending of theological truths. Do you know this book? If so what do you think of it ?

Looking forward to reading more appreciative posts by you, Paul and Christopher in 2011 on my home-City's idiosyncratic, yet perennial philosopher!

Happy New Year to you both.

Laurie M. said...

Kevin,
Thanks so much for your thoughts and input. I'm swamped with work! It'll be tomorrow evening before I can make you a full response.

Laurie M. said...

Kevin,

I do know of the book, but haven't read it. To be perfectly honest, I've only ever heard it reviewed by its critics, who fault it for, as you put it, "his bending of theological truths".

I'm not comfortable discussing what I don't have first-hand knowledge of. If I run across it again I may pick it up so I can discuss it intelligently. As it stands I can only base my comments upon rumor. That said, I suspect what I would find upon reading it is that I would agree with his criticisms of the condition of the modern church and then differ with him on his proposed solutions.

It's been my experience that the problem with the church is not in its cardinal doctrines (though no doubt, flawed humans that we are, we don't understand all of these perfectly), but in distorted emphases placed on this one or that, the exclusion of some teachings in favor of others, and/or the pure and simple failure of the church to truly practice what it preaches. For every failing of the Church, or its individual members, there is Scripture already in place to address the matter.

Time and again it has been the prayerful seeking of wisdom in the Scripture that has illuminated the heart of a matter for me.

Next subject:
Did I mention Santa Paul's belated gift finally arrived? It's my very own free-to-dogear copy of Relgio Medici,Hydriotaphi, And the Letter to a Friend, from the Forgotten Books' Classic Reprint Series.