I was looking through a book that’s been on my shelf for years, The Christian Book of Mystical Verse, edited by A. W. Tozer, and I came across this delightful poem:

A little bird I am,
Shut from the fields of air;
And in my cage I sit and sing
To Him who placed me there;
Well pleased a prisoner to be
Because, my God, it pleases Thee.

Naught have I else to do;
I sing the whole day long;
And He whom most I love to please,
Doth listen to my song:
He caught and bound my wandering wing,
But still He bends to hear me sing.

My cage confines me round;
Abroad I cannot fly;
But though my wing is closely bound,
My heart’s at liberty;
My prison walls cannot control
The flight, the freedom of the soul.

Oh!  It is good to soar
These bolts and bars above,
To Him whose purpose I adore,
Whose providence I love;
And in His mighty will to find
The joy, the freedom, of the mind.

The author feels like a caged bird, imprisoned, bound, walled-in. And yet, the little bird keeps singing. It sings the whole day long, because there’s nothing else to do. God is the one who has caged the bird, limited its ability to fly; yet the bird still praises its Captor:

He caught and bound my wandering wing,
But still He bends to hear me sing.

Within its caged reality, the bird experiences”freedom of the soul” and “freedom of the mind” through praise of its Creator.

The author of this poem was Madam Guyon,* who lived from 1648 to 1717. She was born into a devout French Catholic family, and at the age of fifteen she was given into an arranged marriage to a man thirteen years older. In this loveless relationship, she bore five children, two of whom died early. She became a widow when she was twenty-eight, left to care for three small children. Perhaps these years of unhappy marriage were the cage she described in the poem.

But during this time, Madam Guyon had been discovering the joy and fulfillment that can be found in a life of prayer and meditation. Her husband’s estate left her with enough money to live comfortably, and she spent her midlife years pursuing a deeper and deeper relationship with God. She emerged as a leader in a movement that became known as “Quietism.” She and her associates remained committed to their Catholic faith, but they found spiritual fulfillment through an intense search for a more profound relationship with God, rather than through the disciplines and practices of the Church. As a result they were seen as dangerous subversives, and the movement was condemned by church authorities, even denounced as heresy by Pope Innocent XI. Madam Guyon spent two periods of time, a total of almost five years, in prison confinement. Maybe it was out of these experiences that she wrote about feeling like a caged bird.

Whatever limits, boundaries and fetters Madam Guyon would experience, she accepted her cage as from God and used her confinement as an opportunity to sing his praises. She really inspires me.

I found this poem on YouTube, sung by an anonymous young woman to a folk melody. Hope you enjoy it.
— Pastor George Van Alstine

            * Jeanne Marie Bouvier de la Motte Guyon