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An Analysis of the Poem Discipleship by David Watson

Updated on February 17, 2018
manatita44 profile image

Manatita is an esteemed author living in London, UK. He writes spiritual books, flash fiction and esoteric poetry, his favourite genre.


There are many poems written on Discipleship by Christian authors in the West. However, David Watson’s version, was the first one that I read and which was most inspirational and meaningful to me.

In this poem, Watson is talking about the different ways in which the Spirit of Christ expresses Itself. He makes it quite clear that this happens, not necessarily because of our speech or actions, but sometimes even when we are unaware of it. Something that happens naturally when the Heart is pure.

He draws upon the Buddhist teachings – unconsciously, perhaps - through very positive images, ‘a calm and peaceful smile’; a holy light upon your brow’, a laugh …

For him it was not erudite scholarliness, as in the first two lines of the third stanza, but like Brother Laurence’s states, the ‘presence’ of the divine that we bring with us, in our demeanour … our personality … our character…

Like St. Theresa, St Paul and Thomas A Kempis before him, he is inviting us to imitate the Life of Christ, indeed to such an extent, that He - Christ - shines in our eyes and in our Hearts, until we are only Him.

The poem is short, succinct and immaculately beautiful. Here it is:



Not merely in the words you say,

Not only in your deeds confessed,

But in the most unconscious way,

Is Christ expressed.

Is it a calm and peaceful smile?

A holy light upon your brow?

Oh no! I felt his presence while,

You laughed just now.

For me ‘twas not the truth you taught,

To you so clear, to me so dim.

But when you came to me you brought,

A sense of Him.

And from your eyes He beckons me,

And from your heart His love is shed.

Till I lose sight of you, and see

The Christ instead. –David Watson, taken from his book Discipleship.


I enclosed this poem at the beginning of my first book published in 2004. It is sixteen lines without a stanza. I do not remember how it appears in the book Discipleship, but I had gotten permission from Hodder and Stoughton Ltd to re-produce it. My book was called Forty Roses for Our Lord Supreme, now out of print. I have taken the liberty to put Discipleship in stanzas.

The first three lines of every stanza is eight syllables, followed by a fourth which is four syllables and the entire stanza rhymes excellently. Watson has used this approach very effectively, to enhance the cadence and the sublimity of the poem. I would probably call it a free verse Sonnet, really.

Note, however, that it has sixteen lines; not fourteen. Nevertheless, it sorts of grabs one immediately, carrying the image of beauty, vibrancy, flow and Light, all the way to the finish.

David Watson’s life never really lacked flow. One can feel this from his quote below:

“Consistency. Absolute consistency is required, if you want to impress God’s love and commands on your physical and spiritual children.” -David Watson

In my experience in travelling around the world and giving spiritual workshops, many come to us with fire in their blood, but go away and return a week, few months or years later, having made only a luke-warm start. Watson warns against this. Perfect obedience and a one-pointed or steadfast approach to the divine is paramount, he feels.


One of the best known evangelists of the Church of England, Watson was a leading figure in Britain's Charismatic Renewal movement, and an avid advocate of Christian unity, leading numerous ecumenical missions throughout the world. Among Watson's many books are Discipleship, from which this poem came and an autobiography entitled You Are My Lord. He also wrote an account of his struggle against cancer entitled Fear No Evil."

David Christopher Knight Watson, (1933 - 1984) was educated at Bedford College (1940-1946), Wellington College (1946-1951) and St. John's College, Cambridge, where he converted to Christianity. He was influenced by David Shepherd, who later became the Bishop of Liverpool. He became a priest in the Church of England, starting his ordained ministry among the dock workers of Gillingham, Kent.

Watson was a powerful orator, writer and evangelist and his congregation grew quite quickly to become many hundreds in only a few years.

As his ministry progressed, Watson was involved with missionary enterprises throughout the world and was a high-profile advocate of reconciliation and ecumenism in Northern Ireland. He was a regular contributor to Renewal magazine, a publication of the inter-denominational charismatic movement, which started in the 1960’s.

David Watson is said to have claimed that western Christians, have largely neglected what it means to be a disciple of Christ. “The vast majority of western Christians are church-members, pew-fillers, hymn-singers, sermon-tasters, Bible-readers, even born-again believers or Spirit-filled charismatics, but not true disciples of Jesus.''

The call to discipleship, he felt, was ‘a call to God's promised glory. This is not a day in which to play religious games. Time is running out fast.' Yet his life suggests that he was well loved and respected by many within the church.

David Watson died of cancer on 18 February 1984, after recording his fight with the disease in a book, Fear No Evil. John Gunstone remarked of Watson that "It is doubtful whether any other English Christian leader has had greater influence on this side of the Atlantic since the Second World War."J. I. Packer called him "one of the best-known clergymen in England.”

References from Wikipedia; Discipleship, from Hodder and Stoughton


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  • manatita44 profile imageAUTHOR


    3 years ago from london

    Ah, Gypsy, coming from you that's music to my ears. I want to do one on brother Laurence soon. God bless your poetic gifts from above.

  • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

    Gypsy Rose Lee 

    3 years ago from Daytona Beach, Florida

    A most inspiring and fascinating analysis.

  • manatita44 profile imageAUTHOR


    3 years ago from london

    Well my spiritual Brother. What can I say? I get inspirations like this not too often.

    Sometimes I walk out of the Temple in Pujaloy a little 'high' on Love. Sometimes I talk to seekers, as those in Kenya tonight and life becomes infinitely more meaningful.

    Now I read your invaluable outpouring of the Heart and it touches me deeply.

    What I need; what many need, is an elevation of Consciousness, the only way to heal the form. God bless your wisdom-Spirit

  • Sean Dragon profile image

    Ioannis Arvanitis 

    3 years ago from Greece, Almyros

    My dear Brother, Manatita, I admire you so much because you, with your hard work (mental and spiritual), have achieved a goal that is a sacred dream for me. You sound to this world as a fine instrument of God! And I think that you sound much higher than you even think, and I believe I'll give some evidence on this soon enough.

    Among many things that I love in your writings, I distinguish the respect that you put in every effort.

    I pray to His Love to give us the opportunity to joy your Light for a long time.

    And I will say one more time, I am sure that the grand master Sri Chinmoy is proud of you.

    Thank you so much for this gift, this beautiful hub!

  • manatita44 profile imageAUTHOR


    3 years ago from london

    Happy Weekend, Venkatachari M,

    May your family be blessed by Brahman Thank you for your great contribution.


    Appreciated. Love to Bev and others; Love to you.

    Thanks Eric.

    I appreciate it. One day I will melt like a doll of salt into the ocean of sugar and become SWEETT!! Lol. Some say when we arrive there, distinctions disappear. Hari OM!!

  • Venkatachari M profile image

    Venkatachari M 

    3 years ago from Hyderabad, India

    Very inspiring analysis of the wonderful poem Discipleship. It is a great message to people and it shows how noble and spiritually beautiful his soul is. Thanks for sharing this rich information, bro.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    3 years ago from Olympia, WA

    A fascinating man who led a fascinating life. Thank you for this brief biography. I feel I should know Watson better now.

    Peace always

  • Ericdierker profile image

    Eric Dierker 

    3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

    Maybe I have a strange thought here: Buddhism, Shinto, Hindu, Ancestor worship from both Vietnam and Navajo. These make me believe in Christ more deeply. Imitating I only want to do of Christ. I think I am blessed to know to try.

  • manatita44 profile imageAUTHOR


    3 years ago from london

    Although I like him, Linda. I grew up in Christianity and the books of the right Christian Saints are deeper... more profound.

    St. Theresa of Avila; St Theresa of Lieusieux; Therese Neuman; Julian of Norwich. Padre Pio of Petronela; St. John of the Cross... the Desert Fathers...particularly St John Climacus.

    Books to read. Small and sweet: At The Feet of The Master by Saddhu Sundar Singh. The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Laurence. The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis and finally the Way of the Pilgrim. All available on Amazon.

    But yes. David Watson was a devout Christian and depending on your own inner spiritual growth, you may find him easier to read.

    Thank you so much!

  • manatita44 profile imageAUTHOR


    3 years ago from london

    Not bold Michael. Courage and Faith; devotion and obedience. God is your birthright and there is a beautiful flame shining in your Heart.

    As always, I really love seeing you. Have you started writing? Peace.

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 

    3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

    Thank you for introducing me to David Watson, Manatita. I'm going to look for his books. They sound interesting.

  • Michael-Milec profile image


    3 years ago

    A bold approach to imitate Jesus - a Disciple - (disciplined) exhibiting God's presence in the world of indistinguishable deeds of Christ small and great, by loving compassionately the broken society.

  • manatita44 profile imageAUTHOR


    3 years ago from london

    Don't mention it, Nikki. Dhanyvaad!!


    I thank you, O great writer and friend. Fitting indeed at this time.

  • nikkikhan10 profile image

    Nikki Khan 

    3 years ago from London

    Many Thanks Manatita :)

  • manatita44 profile imageAUTHOR


    3 years ago from london

    Thank you, Dora.

    I couldn,t find it on the net but I knew that I had it in my published book.

    Your sweet contribution is appreciated. Thank you.


    I love the kids! Thank you so much!!

  • CaribTales profile image

    Dora Weithers 

    3 years ago from The Caribbean

    Thanks for your model review on the poem by David Watson, and the facts on his life. Good choice of poem, too.

  • nikkikhan10 profile image

    Nikki Khan 

    3 years ago from London

    A wonderful tribute to an amazing writer,, liked the idea to get God’s love and serve His creation.Very spiritual note,, really heart touching.

    Thanks for sharing,,God Bless you Manatita.

    And have a great weekend.

  • Frank Atanacio profile image

    Frank Atanacio 

    3 years ago from Shelton

    a wonderful piece.. it's fitting for these times... awesome my friend


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