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Meditation 36

What rocky heart is mine? What pincky eyes

Thy grace spy blanched, Lord, in immensity?

But find thy sight me not to meliorize,

O stupid heart! What strange-strange thing am I?

I many months do drown in sorrow’s spring

But hardly raise a sigh to blow down sin.


What a strange thing I am. A sight of the great grace of God has had so little effect upon my life. I am so little changed. I can spend months weeping over the results of my sin, but I do hardly a thing to stop the sin itself. 

This poem thus concerns the perplexity felt by the Christian who knows the hideous nature of sin, hates its effects; knows the great grace of God and its effects; and yet sees so little change. In this it underscores a curious case of accusation against the believer: You think you are better than others. When, if the believer be true and the truth be known, the answer is I think myself much worse than others. I

The syntax of the first three lines is quite difficult to follow, but I will try to untangle it (and I think I have it right).


What rocky heart is mine? The phrase “rocky heart” has a couple of potential allusions, all of mean generally the same thing. (1) A promise of the new covenant in Ezekiel 36:26 is that God will take away the heart of stone and give one a heart of flesh. (2) The “rocky ground” of Mark 4:5 in the parable of the sower. (3) A plain unreceptive heart. 

What pincky eyes: eyes have shut or fluttering.

What pincky eyes/Thy grace spy blanched, Lord, in immensity. 

This is hardest clause in the poem: The eyes must be “spy” the grace. Blanched, weak, feeble, must refer to the eyes. My feeble, fluttering eyes spy the immensity of thy grace, Lord. 

But find thy sight me not to meliorize: This is not as obscure as the previous line, but it is a bit awkward at first read. Meliorize: to make better. I see your immense grace, but I am no better for the sight of it. 

This leads to the conflict which will drive the remainder of the poem

O stupid heart! What strange-strange thing am I?

What am I? What is wrong with me? In the next stanza he will consider the possible answers to this quandary; here, he raises the question. What am I that is not transformed by the sight of God’s grace? 

The poet has reached a psychological and spiritual crisis, an impasse:

Picture taken in Catania – Amenano’s Fountain. Courtesy of Domenica Prinzivalli

I many months do drown in Sorrow’s spring. Sorrow being personified, has a never ending spring of tears. Why he is crying is not stated here, but is implied by the next line:

But hardly raise a sigh to blow down sin. Here, “blow down” would be to stop. I make no effort to stop the sin, I merely cry at its continued presence. 

The remainder of the poem will then work through this quandary: what strange thing am I?