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CANTICLE FOR ABBA JACOB, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

"Canticle for Abba Jacob" is a poem by Marilyn Nelson, an American poet who was born in 1946 in Cleveland, Ohio. The poem was published in 2002 in her collection titled "The Fields of Praise: New and Selected Poems."


The poem is a tribute to Abba Jacob, an Ethiopian monk who lived in the 4th century and was known for his strict adherence to a life of solitude and contemplation. The speaker of the poem imagines Abba Jacob's daily routine and spiritual practices, as well as his encounters with the natural world. The poem is a meditation on the beauty of a life lived in devotion to God, and the ways in which such a life can inspire others.

Poetic Elements:

  • Free verse
  • Use of biblical allusions and imagery
  • Use of repetition and parallel structure
  • Rhyme scheme: The poem does not have a strict rhyme scheme, but it contains occasional rhyming couplets.


"Canticle for Abba Jacob" is a beautiful tribute to a historical figure who lived a life of devotion and contemplation. Through the use of vivid imagery and precise language, Marilyn Nelson captures the essence of Abba Jacob's spiritual practices and the natural world that he inhabited. The poem serves as a reminder of the power of a life lived in devotion to a higher purpose, and the ways in which such a life can inspire others.

Poem Snippet:

At dawn, Abba Jacob sings his canticle

among the green, mountainous landscape,

barefoot and bound in a long, white cloth,

the sun on his shaved head, his beard grown to his waist.

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