Hello Balladeer and Friends,
Ouch! "Far" and "war" were at one point pronounced the same way, and may still be not only in Scotland and in Northern England but in selected sectors of English society and in areas of the United States. English is sensitive to regional variation, yes, but also to class variation. "Creek" can be pronounced to rhyme with "beak" but it is also pronounced in selected areas of the US as a rhyme with "stick." It certainly was in the area of Ohio where I grew up, but ONLY among working class folks. In parts of western New York, you"ll hear the "crick" variation in members of the middle class, but only those born before 1950 or so. The whose thing is more complex than you're trying to make it, and the authorities you're turning to don't allow for these variations. "Were" and "here" or "Here" and "there" are traditionally allowed as rhymes as well. Simply because two words don't sound like they rhyme now to your ear doesn't mean that that is the case universally to all other English speakers, even today.
Even proper names show this variation, as in the Island country of Jamaica. Most commonly in the United States, Jamaica is pronounced Ja MAY ka, while the way it's pronounced by the islanders is Ja MAY a ka, four syllables instead of three.
"War" and "far" are generally accepted as rhymes, and not simply as part of a computer generated list of words ending with "ar." Not all English pronounciation came from London. A fair number of folk who came over to the US on the Mayflower were from places where the vowel use was broader.
It wasn't clear to me if the urge for punctuation in the middle of the first line was within the phrase "to Christians near and far" or between "I'd like to say" and "to Christians near and far." The texts seem to read pretty much "between 'Christians near and far;'" and for actual understanding I'd have to know between "Christians near and far" and what other thing?
If however it's between "I'd like to say" and "to Christians near and far," I suspect your urge to drop in a piece of punctuation is because you hear the medial cesura, metrically generally noted this way //. It's especially emphasized here because, at least in part, the order of the idiom 'far and near" has been inverted to force the rhyme we've just been talking about; and it makes the line a just a bit too heavy handed at the end.
One of the tricks in revision that helpful on occasion is to notice where the discussion is stuck, in this case on the issue of the rhyme "far" and "War," and then to look a bit beforehand for the actual problem. If that can be solved, sometimes the later issue doesn't seem to be such an issue any more.
If you're as wacky as I am and you tend to rework poems for a long time before you show them to anybody, the equivalent is to notice where you've focused the majority of your revision efforts. Often it means you know you need to take that piece out and look at the rest to see what you have and how those pieces fit together once you've taken out the piece you know simply doesn't work.
Balladeer is pretty good darn good at forms and I suspect probably doesn't need to mess with this one. It seems to say what he wants and do what he wants and he's pleased with what he's got, quite rightfully so. But the poem is giving him these little messages in case he wants to do more with it. It has its own ambitions for itself, you see, as poems almost always do. There's a wonderful poem by Larry Levis, I think it's the first poem in his first book, in which the poet takes care of a poor little lost poem and in the end the poem beats him up, steals his clothes and his money and starts to head over to move in on the reader. Poems can do that sometimes.
Best to everybody, BobK.