Someone once wrote that if you want to annoy a poet, start by attempting to explain his poetry. I suppose the same is true of any form of art or creative endeavor. Poetry is a personal expression. “Poetry is,” as Robert Penn Warren wrote, “a haphazard attempt at self-understanding: it is the deepest part of autobiography.”
Some years ago I came across the poem/hymn, “He Leads Us On” by Hiram Ozias Wiley (1831-1873). The words spoke to me and seemed to describe my own spiritual experience and faith journey through the years. You see, I’ve felt more led by God than I have felt protected, sheltered or saved by God. I’ve experienced more fainting, faltering, doubt, fear, storm, darkness, losses, sorrows and “o’er-clouded days” than I have any kind of heavenly bliss along the way—and every path on which I’ve walked has been one I did not know beforehand—“And still he leads on” even though we “are wounded by truth.”
He leads us on by paths we did not know.
Upward He leads us, tho’ our steps be slow;
Tho’ oft we faint and falter on the way,
Tho’ storms and darkness oft obscure the day,
Yet, when the clouds are gone,
We know He leads us on.
He leads us on thro’ all the’ un-quiet years;
Past all our dream-land hopes, and doubts and fears
He guides our steps; thro’ all the tangled maze
Of losses, sorrow, and o’er-clouded days
We know His will is done,
And still He leads us on.
This morning I read the poem again and again found it an expression of my journey. What of the author, what of Hiram Ozias Wiley? Sidney Perley said of him in The Poets of Essex County, Massachusetts: Hiram Ozias Wiley “sought to drown his sorrows and cares in the exhilarating cup, and became a wreck in his prime. In very destitute circumstances, he died of the small pox, in Peabody, January 28, 1873, at the age of forty-one." Faith is not a kind of “Armor All” protectant. Yet “still,” I believe with Hiram, “He leads us on!”
“I will lead blind men on their way and guide them by paths they do not know;
I will turn darkness into light before them and straighten their twisting roads.
All this I will do and leave nothing undone” (Isaiah 42:16).