Set forth your true and lively word, O Lord,
Amidst this false and deadly earthen tongue
With which we are surrounded. For a horde
Of men with senseless syllables comes among
Us, trampling down your truth, to build a tower
From which they think to wield confusion’s power.

Send out your tuneful sound to earth again,
And unconfound her mad disharmony;
For in our dissonant cities is the din
Of their equivocal cacophony.
The clamorous clatter of Babel’s bricks destroys
All concord with its furious frenzied noise.

Rise up, O Lord, and let your enemies
Be set asunder, who on shifting sand
Raise up a heap of babbling blasphemies,
Insensible that falsehood cannot stand.
Let winds of truth demolish in an hour
Their monstrous monument to human power.

Send out your light; let darkness comprehend
The flame of truth which they would snuff with lies.
Creator, bring this chaos to an end;
These clanging symbols silence; harmonize
Earth’s noise. From stones of Babel’s devastation,
Construct the city of your new creation.

Raise up your Spirit’s power, and come among
Us. Let our incense rise from these remains.
Disperse us not with those of crooked tongue
Who name their evil Good as goodness wanes.
Our language purify; our tongues inspire;
And then, with heaven’s wind, light earth’s new fire.



Cynthia Erlandson is a poet and fitness professional living in Michigan.  Her second collection of poems, Notes on Time, has recently been published by AuthorHouse, as was her first (2005) collection, These Holy Mysteries.  Her poems have also appeared in First Things, Modern Age, The North American Anglican, The Orchards Poetry Review, The Book of Common Praise hymnal, and elsewhere.

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20 Responses

  1. Joe Tessitore

    A wonderful prayer that could not be more moving, more insightful, or more comprehensive – this does indeed say it all, and says it with reverence.

    Very, very beautiful, Cynthia.

    • Cynthia Erlandson

      Thank you so much, Joe. I’m very grateful for your thoughtful comment.

    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Thank you for this serious, passionate, and unfortunately relevant prayer, Ms. Erlandson I love the line “who name their evil good …”–beautifully constructed and dead on target.

  2. Gerry Poster

    Dear Ms. Erlandson,

    Thank you for this marvelous poem. I’m not sure whether I admire more your fluid use of words or the precision and passion (two things that rarely occur together) of your thought,

    Is this representative of your works? And, if so, how can one purchase copies of your books?

    Thank you, again.

    Gerry Poster

    • Cynthia Erlandson

      Thank you very much, Gerry. And thank you for asking about my books. I’m grateful for your interest. They are both available on Barnes and Noble, and on Amazon. “A Prayer from Babel” is from the Pentecost section of my first collection, “These Holy Mysteries”, which has several poems for each season of the Church year.

  3. jd

    I agree wholeheartedly with both previous comments. In my opinion you have created an excellent prayer.


    Cynthia, this poem is a marvel of deep insight and beautiful phrasing. There are probably half a dozen lines or phrases that are truly memorable:
    That “tower… to wield confusion’s power” “the monstrous monument to human power.” But I especially like your observant and accurate “who name their evil Good as goodness wanes.” Wow, that just says where we are in a nutshell. As someone who also admires bringing biblical stories to poetic life, and applying biblical messages to the modern “woke” world, I really love this powerful poem.


    • Cynthia Erlandson

      Thank you, Brian; I’m very grateful for your comments. Bible stories have provided a great deal of my ideas and inspiration. The Old Testament is so full of profound and amazing stories that never lose their power to move the human spirit with their truth.

  5. Margaret Coats

    Cynthia, what I like about this poem is the many echoes of traditional liturgical phrases (often originally from the Bible). And I see that you’ve re-thought the Bible story. Strange, incomprehensible language is not a punishment from God (in order to stop work on the tower). Instead, it is introduced by the pride and irreverence of the builders. And speakers in the poem pray that God restore truth and clarity of language, which is His gift. Your own language (vocabulary and sound) is rich, and your meter powerful.

  6. Cynthia Erlandson

    Thank you so much, Margaret. I am glad that you have heard the echoes of Scripture and Christian liturgy in this. I am deeply grateful for the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer, from which I have gained a love of beautiful, musical language, imagery, and narrative.

  7. James A. Tweedie

    I shall add my own compliments on both the skilled use of poetry and the cogency of thought it offers to us. Like Old Testament prophecy it speaks both to a particular time while addressing a truth applicable to times past and (sadly) times yet to come. A prayer worthy of the BofCP (old form).

    I fully agree with Julian in admiration of the phrase, “Who name their evil Good as goodness wanes.” Yet we have the assurance that Truth will win out in the end, even as we Continue to fight the good fight in whatever way God has called each of us to serve.

    • Cynthia Erlandson

      Thank you so much, James! Yes, I love the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, and we’ve been blessed, for many years, to belong to parishes that use it.

  8. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Cynthia, your beautifully, adeptly and thoughtfully crafted prayer offers insight where our past, present and future are concerned, and I (like others) am in awe of “who name their evil Good as goodness wanes.” This is a triumph of a poem that all should take to heart.

    • Cynthia Erlandson

      Thank you, Susan. I am grateful to belong to this Society, where we all love and try to do justice to the beautiful English language.

  9. Andrew Benson Brown

    Wonderful, Cynthia. I love the paralleling of the two negative prefixed words ‘unconfound’ and ‘disharmony’ in line 8, and (what I perceived to be) the effect of battling ‘C-’ and ‘D-’ alliteration throughout the stanza. A ‘tuneful sound’ indeed!


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