Above: I Both Hold And Am Held
Image in the Public Domain
DORA GREENWELL (DECEMBER 6, 1821-MARCH 29, 1882)
Poet and Devotional Writer
These days, in most of the Western World, women have professional opportunities due to the successes of feminism. But Dora Greenwell did not live during a time in which she could enjoy these advantages. Her legacy, however, was–and is–quite impressive.
Dora Greenwell was a sister of two priests of The Church of England. William, eventually Dean of Durham Cathedral, and Alan, Rector of Golborne then Clifton. From 1848 to 1854 Dora lived with one brother then the other, helping in the work of each sibling’s parish. Then, in 1854-1872, she lived with her widowed mother at Durham. From 1872 to 1881 Dora resided at Tarquay then Clifton the London, advocating for proper mental health care. In 1881 an accident led to her death, which occurred at Alan’s home at Clifton, near Bristol.
Dora published volumes of poetry:
- Carmina Crucis (1869);
- Songs of Salvation (1873);
- The Soul’s Legend (1873); and
- Camera Obsucra (1876).
She also published volumes of devotional prose:
- A Present Heaven;
- The Covenant of Life and Peace;
- Two Friends;
- Liber Humanitatis;
- The Life of John Woolman;
- The Life of Lacordaire;
- Colloquia Crucis; and
- The Patience of Hope, which John Greenleaf Whittier classed with devotional classics.
She wrote extensively on the Atonement. Dora’s chosen symbol was Luther’s heart set against a black cross amid white roses–thereby signifying the joy, peace, and consolation found in Christ’s cross. The poet, referring to her position relative to the cross, said,
I both hold and am held.
One of the texts in Songs of Salvation (1873) was “I Am Not Skilled to Understand,” the text of which follows:
I am not skilled to understand
What God hath willed, what God hath planned;
I only know at His right hand
Stands One who is my Saviour.
I take God at His word and deed:
“Christ died to save me”–this I read;
And in my heart I find a need
Of Him to be my Saviour.
And was there no other way
For God to take?–I cannot say;
I only bless Him, day by day,
Who saved me through my Saviour.
That He should leave His place on high
And come for sinful man to die,
You count it strange?–so do not I,
Since I have known my Saviour.
And O that He fulfilled may see
The travail of His soul in me,
And with His work contented be,
As I with my dear Saviour!
Yea, living, dying, let me bring,
My strength, my solace, from this spring,
That He who lives to be my King
Once died to be my Saviour.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
JANUARY 31, 2013 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF CHARLES FREDERICK MACKENZIE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CENTRAL AFRICA
THE FEAST OF MENNO SIMONS, MENNONITE LEADER
Almighty God, beautiful in majesty, majestic in holiness:
You have shown us the splendor of creation in the work of your servant Dora Greenwell.
Teach us to drive from this world all chaos and disorder,
that our eyes may behold your glory,
and that at last everyone may know the inexhaustible richness of your new creation
in Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.
Isaiah 28:5-6 or Hosea 14:5-8 or 2 Chronicles 20:20-21
Philippians 4:8-9 or Ephesians 5:18b-20
–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 61
Revised on December 24, 2016