Yes, the seas stir;
the Son, walking atop the waves, does not mind,
a sovereign treading the puddles of his soil.
We, quaking in the boat
or sinking with the self-consciousness of faith,
look aghast and fret. Teacher! The waves consume…
But see how He strides.
See the waves bend and break at His touch.
See Peter stand again, drenched in doubt, shaking with truth.
Do not be afraid.
He remembers we are dust, drifting atop the earth’s waves.
Watch and see: He does a new thing. Rise and believe.
When I first read Denise Levertov’s “Suspended”, it amazed me with the perfect way it blended the starkness of life with the delicate beauty of grace. You can read her poem here, in a wonderful post from CPX of their favourite religious poems, and here is my own response to Levertov.
Even So, Even So (After “Suspended”)
No sense can receive the sense
Of what it is that catches me;
You sing of joy, joy, in your heart
And I, sometimes, can know that joy, and yet
It is not clapping which sustains.
Hands that have no atoms hold me;
Even so, even so, in their infinite, silent substance they
Keep my frail floating self from
All these chasms that it seeks.
Well, November is running away from us and so far I’ve only managed one poem for my 12 Poets Project this month. So it’s time for another one, this one inspired by Denise Levertov’s wondering “Flickering Mind”, one of the best poetic expressions I have read of the human mind’s struggle with religious devotion. You can read Levertov’s poem here. Levertov’s poetic form is quite fluid, so I have gone with a looser interpretation of it here than I usually do. Happy reading!
Being (After “Flickering Mind”)
In this multiplicity,
this many-stranded, fragmentary
fold of life, I run
and flee from You, my God,
the constant in the changing whole.
I am absent, You are
the still point in this constant blur,
the first thought and the final Word.
and yet I seldom sit. Martha-movement
takes my sight
and I evade Your searching eyes.
to rest, to be before You,
this is costly; nonetheless
I live not if not
When complaint has its basis in the nature of the divine,
appealing to justice and mercy and truth,
waiting for signs which tarry now yet
will come without delay,
when complaining stands
at the ramparts and waits,
and wears as its armour thick faith,
then the fig-tree will bud and the olive crop soon
will blossom where now it yet
But you, indomitable Jonah, beneath your angry shade, are
more my mirror. Grace frustrates you and you fly
against its Ninevah-bound commands,
to Tarshish, pride wounded,
in the soil of shame,
and wearing the armour of Self.
Then the palm-tree withers and the worm consumes
the shelter of deflected
Better be Habakkuk, waiting with truth, waiting expectant;
better hope, trust and complain in the same breath:
for hope grows where doubt cannot fester
and worms eat at the dawn.
Better confess first
then obey in truth, than
obey with scaly skin and forked
tongue (turning fists inwardly to the sky); better
to trust with the rigour of
Doubt erodes, and
reason feeds on the brain that needs it,
but eyes can trust what they see
and lives the truth they know
and hearts can feel the hope stretched out
on the living tree
and breath gives life to lungs that will
open and receive it.
Well, our month of looking at George MacDonald is now finished, and to conclude it here is an essay I have written on MacDonald’s work. We have been focusing here through August on MacDonald’s poetry, but his work was far broader than that, so this essay considers not only his poetry but also his many works of fantasy and criticism. I hope it can give you all an interesting entry point into the richness of his work as a writer.
George MacDonald and the Regenerated Imagination