Left Menu
Life News
Are we using our memory for the glory of God? by Timothy Raymond
Can we in good conscience vote for Labor? by Andrew Lansdown and Dwight A. Randall
National MP slams perversity of Safe Schools program
Adult children of gay parents testify against same-sex marriage by Kirsten Andersen
Domestic Violence: Women can be as abusive as men by Dr Augusto Zimmerman
With the Lord: Wilma Drew
18th Annual Walk and Rally for Life
Former senator speaks up for the unborn by Joe Bullock
Qurans deadly role in inspiring Belgian slaughter by Nabeel Qureshi
Germany:Christian refugees persecuted by Muslims by Soeren Kern
Web Design and Development - abcplus Publishing Australia
by Andrew Lansdown
One for All
A Son to the war
Becoming a Christian
Train home
Sons Laid Down Their Lives
An Accurate Diagnosis
Starting again
Following hard after God
Starving our children
The first duty of fatherhood
The origin of fatherhood
An Easter Song
A Christmas carol
For This Purpose
In royal David's city
God's Placard
Believing the Bible: the issue of inerrancy
Marriage according to scripture
A biblical perspective on prostitution
Prostitution and social justice
Abortion: A biblical perspective
If people were dogs & other false arguments for euthanasia
How porn harms us
How Green is God?
Christians and Politics
When Christians Take Their Lives
The High Kings Watchmen

This sad, sweet longing


This sad, sweet longing

by Andrew Lansdown


Sehnsucht is a German word that means “deep longing”. It describes a fleeting state experienced by everyone from time to time—a profound yearning as real as it is intangible, a mysterious longing that sends the heart searching for something it can neither define nor find.

The strange and lovely thing about sehnsucht is that it is like grief and joy mingled together. It makes us feel sad, but we do not want it to stop. It is a sweet sadness, a paradox.

And it is paradoxical in operation, too. For we can only experience it as long as we remain unconscious of it. The moment we recognise its presence, it vanishes, as cuteness vanishes from the small child who becomes aware that she is cute. If we try to hold onto it, it turns into a parody of itself. It changes into something falsely sentimental, maudlin.

We cannot summon sehnsucht, nor can we know when (or even why) it will come. It may surprise us through children or nature or art. It sometimes accompanies moments of insight or reflection. It resembles the groaning in creation and in our spirits that Paul speaks of in Romans 8 and 2 Corinthians 5. It is always related to our mortality and our fallenness. It underlies passages in Scripture like 1 Chronicles 29:15: “For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding.”

Why do we experience this sad, sweet longing? Its purpose, I believe, is to awaken us to the spiritual world, to assert that we are more than matter and less than master. And its ultimate object is our Lord Jesus Christ, “For he satisfies the longing soul” (Psalm 107:9).

I have tried to explore and express this exquisite, desolate emotion from time to time in poetry, the language of the heart; and in doing so I have hoped to stir not only my readers’ feelings but also their reflections. I have hoped through my poetry to help others sense and see that here we have no abiding homeland and yet a Homeland exists where we may abide (cf Hebrews 13:14).

The following three poems are examples of my attempts to ensnare and share sehnsucht.

The first poem, “Kyoto Blossoms”, is a set of three haiku I wrote last year (2013) after visiting Japan with my wife during the cherry blossom season. It was first published earlier this year (2014) in Quadrant. 1

Kyoto Blossoms

for Susan


Lovely, the flowering

cherries … and yet, near the end

somehow lonely, too.


The falling petals—

almost they make us forget

we are immortals.


No weeping, dear heart—

they are just petals and they

were lost from the start.


The second poem, “The Colour of Life”, I wrote at the beginning of the 1990s in a café in Bridgetown. It was first broadcast on ABC Radio National in 1990 and first published in a Scottish literary journal, Verse, in 1991.2

The Colour of Life

Why is it that here in this cafe,

a hard wind harmless on the window,

a bright fire coughing in the grate,

scones and tea on the table, I feel


suddenly, strangely sad? Why is it,

and what? A loneliness, a longing—

not, it seems, in spite of, but

because of, the loveliest of things.


It is the colour of life. Sabi

the haiku poets would say. I say

too much. I break a scone and steam

wafts from the wound, like


the spirit of a just man, going home.


The third poem, “Sehnsucht”,3written at the end of the 1970s, is one of my earliest attempts to speak of this ache sometime after I had discovered the word for it in the writings of CS Lewis.4


Everyone else is asleep

and I am up this early

only to keep my small son from crying.


I carry him down to the river.

A slight mist lingers by the bend.

Trees stand on their heads in the still water.


Has he seen a river before?

I can’t remember.

He raises his hand,


reaching for it.

He looks back at me

to make sure I have seen it.


How can anyone find anything so amazing?

Yet it’s not just the river:

stones, leaves, chickens, fire—


things I still love

though they’ve fallen familiar—

fill him continually with joy and wonder.


‘Oo! Oo!’ he says

as if it hurts him

here in my arms, seeing the river


for the first time.

And a familiar strangeness

grips my heart


and I sing to him,

‘Jesus loves the little children’,

to keep from weeping.



1. When accepting “Kyoto Blossoms” (then provisionally titled “Kyoto Sakura Haiku”) for publication, the literary editor of Quadrant, Les Murray, wrote, “One at least of the Sakura haiku may be the best thing you’ve ever done—I refer to no. ii, the ‘forget we are immortals’ one.”
2. “The Colour of Life” was also published in Quadrant in 1992, Antipodes (USA) in 1992, Studio in 1994, The West Australian “Big Weekend” in 1994 and The Alternative in 1997. It has been collected in my books Between Glances (William Heinemann Australia, 1993), Primary Loyalties (with Peter Kocan & Hal Colebatch, Arawang Communication Group, 1999), and The Colour of Life (in Two Poets, Fremantle Press, 2011).
3. “Sehnsucht” was first published in On Being in 1982 and first broadcast on ABC Radio National in 1986 and again in 1987. It has been collected in my books Counterpoise (Angus & Robertson Publishers, 1982), Windfalls (Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1984), Far From Home (Wombat Books, 2010) and Gestures of Love (Wombat Books, 2013). It was most recently published earlier this year (2014) in the Irish literary journal, Poetry Ireland Review.
4. It was CS Lewis, in his book Surprised by Joy, who almost forty years ago gave me the name and the explanation for this emotion-cum-perception that I have experienced all too keenly from the days of my youth.
To learn more about Andrew’s poetry and fiction, visit his website: www.andrewlansdown.com


Web Design and Development - abcplus Publishing Australia
Web Design and Development - abcplus Publishing Australia
2015 Vol 3 Jul - Sep
2015 Vol 2 Apr - Jun
2015 Vol 1 Jan - Mar
2014 Vol 5 Nov - Dec
2014 Vol 4 Sep - Oct
2014 Vol 3 Jun - Aug
2014 Vol 2 Apr - May
2014 Vol 1 Feb - Mar
2013 Vol 5 Dec - Jan
2013 Vol 4 Sep - Nov
2013 Vol 3 Jun - Aug
2013 Vol 2 Apr - May
2013 Vol 1 Jan - Mar
2012 Vol 5 Oct - Dec
2012 Vol 4 Aug - Sep
2012 Vol 3 May - Jul
2012 Vol 2 Mar - Apr
2012 Vol 1 Jan - Feb
2011 Vol 3 Jun - Aug
2011 Vol 2 Apr - May
2011 Vol 1 Jan - Mar
2010 Vol 5 Nov - Dec
2010 Vol 4 Sep - Oct
2010 Vol 3 Jun - Aug
2010 Vol 2 Sep - Oct
2010 Vol 2 Apr - May
2010 Vol 1 Jan - Mar
2009 Vol 4 Aug - Sep
2009 Vol 3 Jun - Jul
2009 Vol 2 Apr - May
2009 Vol 1 Feb - Mar
2008 Vol 5 Oct - Dec
2008 Vol 4 Aug - Sep
2008 Vol 3 Jun - July
2008 Vol 2 Apr - May
2008 Vol 1 Feb - Mar
2007 Vol 5 Nov - Jan
2007 Vol 4 Aug - Oct
2007 Vol 3 Jun - Jul
2007 Vol 2 Apr - May
2007 Vol 1 Feb - Mar
2006 Vol 5 Oct - Nov
2006 Vol 4 Aug - Sep
2006 Vol 3 Jun - Jul
2006 Vol 2 Apr - May
2006 Vol 1 Feb - Mar
2005 Vol 6 Dec - Jan
2005 Vol 5 Oct - Nov
2005 Vol 4 Aug - Sep
2005 Vol 3 Jun - Jul
2005 Vol 2 Apr - May
2005 Vol 1 Feb - Mar