Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Heavenly Vision: Part One

There are certain poems that just stay with you.
Once you have read them, they never leave. Though they may fade somewhat with time and neglect and with the displacement of things less important, they will not disappear.
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, Robert Browning’s Youth And Art or his Meeting At Night... Hardy’s Darkling Thrush.
Never will they cease to exist.
Some poets strike the chord and you never forget the sound that they have made. So many times this has happened for me with the poetry of Nobel laureate, William Butler Yeats. (1865-1939).
Who can read his When You Are Old and not be moved?
And The Song of Wandering Aengus.... I can so relate to this poem! It speaks to my inner angler! And my inner wanderer/dreamer.
At any rate, today I have just been thinking of one of my all-time favorites.
Yeats’s The Indian Upon God.
I love this poem for its unassuming simplicity, its cadence, and its message.
By “message” I guess I mean it’s application.
If you can read this poem, you are a person.
And being human, you will readily know that this poem is not about the speaking characters within it. It is about the silent watcher, the observer.
It speaks volumes about the subjective nature of our concept of God, and does so better than any essay on the topic could have done. In a word, it is wondrous.
Tomorrow evening I will share with you one other poem, a favorite of mine, that does a very similar thing as this one.
Different poet, different style, different approach.
Same message or human application. And perhaps equally wondrous.
I think it is almost blasphemous to provide commentary after the reading of such a work of art, so I have done all my blabbing up top... up front. I am done.
Creep along with the watcher.... and listen....

The Indian Upon God

I passed along the water’s edge below the humid trees,
My spirit rocked in evening light, the rushes round my knees,
My spirit rocked in sleep and sighs; and saw the moorfowl pace
All dripping on a grassy slope, and saw them cease to chase
Each other round in circles, and heard the eldest speak:
Who holds the world between His bill and made us strong or weak
Is an undying moorfowl, and He lives beyond the sky.
The rains are from His dripping wing, the moonbeams from His eye.

I passed a little further on and heard a lotus talk:
Who made the world and ruleth it, He hangeth on a stalk,
For I am in His image made, and all this tinkling tide
Is but a sliding drop of rain between His petals wide.

A little way within the gloom a roebuck raised his eyes
Brimful of starlight, and he said: The Stamper of the Skies,
He is a gentle roebuck; for how else, I pray, could He
Conceive a thing so sad and soft, a gentle thing like me?

I passed a little further on and heard a peacock say:
Who made the grass and made the worms and made my feathers gay,
He is a monstrous peacock, and He waveth all the night
His languid tail above us, lit with myriad spots of light.

-- William Butler Yeats --


Amy said...

My copy of Yeats is ragged from so much use. "When You Are Old" was my favorite at university; I even wrote a paper on it in Irish Lit. As I've aged and read Yeats more, I just can't choose a favorite. I do still have "When You Are Old" in memory and recite it to myself on occassion. The import and cadence of his words is so comforting.

Stefanie said...

Lovely. I think is shows the vastness of God; how God can be god to all things and in the image of all things. Also, how there is something divine in every living creature. A short poem that says so much.