Two Poems for our Times
I, along with a friend, have just returned from an eight-day cruise on the Viking Var, sailing up the Rhine River from Amsterdam to Basel. It was a lovely trip, through The Netherlands but mostly through Germany, exploring windmills, castles, and mediaeval cathedrals, sipping lovely Alsace wines along the way. So perhaps more about that voyage in a later blog. I, along with a friend, have just returned from an eight-day cruise on the Viking Var, sailing up the Rhine River from Amsterdam to Basel. It was a lovely trip, through The Netherlands but mostly through Germany, exploring windmills, castles, and mediaeval cathedrals, sipping lovely Alsace wines along the way. So perhaps more about that voyage in a later blog.
My state room, as well as my friend’s, came complete with a wide screen TV. The default channel, of course, was the ubiquitous CNN (International version in this case). And so for us, as well as for you, were the displays of the usual beheadings, terrorist threats, ebola death numbers, and all manner of evil goings-on about the world we live in. Sailing up the Rhine, as well as seeing the news when we got home (now we discover the secret, hard core of Qaeda, tagged Khorasan, who turns out are still very committed to killing you and me in our beds), one turns from the TV for some kind of respite from the darkness descending upon humankind.
I have mentioned in an earlier blog my friend Isobel DeGruchy, poet, botanist, and talented photographer as well. She has published a lovely collection of poems (Walking On), and one of them, titled “Easter Prayer,” I think beautifully fits our times. Although it was written in last year’s Easter season, taken metaphorically, it is a cry out of our times of bleakness. With her permission, I quote the last two stanzas here:
Lord, I can’t bear to hear about it, to think about it
I can’t think how–or do I even care enough–to act?
Lord, it is Good Friday–bad Friday–writ large,
Bad Friday, Black Saturday repeated,
Endlessly, like the treadmill.
We need Easter, Lord,
send Easter!–to the city’s slums
to the shacks, to the shebeens,
to the country’s desolation,
to the hearts and minds and wills of all.
Break upon our world with Easter.
Break open our world with Easter.”
So I think in times like these, we turn to each other, and we cling to each other, and we cry to God to send God’s Easter upon us. Yes, we have the guns and the drones, and the missiles. . .but as one Quaeda operative has said, they have the time. In the end, only God can save us. And so we hope.
The title of this blog refers to two poems. So I will end with a quote from one of my most favorite poets (aside from Isobel of course!)–20th century French poet, Charles Peguy. A collection of his religious poetry was published under the titled God Speaks. And toward the end of that volume, is the little poem called “Hope.” Peguy sees hope–both fragile and eternal–as the base for faith. He ends the poem thus:
I am, says God, the Lord of virtues
Faith is the sanctuary lamp
That burns forever.
Charity is that big, beautiful log fire
That you light in your hearth
So that my children the poor may come
and warm themselves before it on winter evenings.
And all around Faith, I see all my faithful
Kneeling together in the same attitude, and with one voice
Uttering the same prayer.
And around Charity, I see all my poor
Sitting in a circle around that fire
And holding out their palms to the heat of the hearth.
But my hope is the bloom, and the fruit, and the leaf, and the limb,
And the twig, and the shoot, and the seed, and the bud.
Hope is the shoot, and the bud of the bloom Of eternity itself.
So here we are by that fire, warming ourselves, and reaching out to grasp hope because in the end that is all there is for us poor ones sitting in the darkness of our times. And may God have mercy on us all.