A Final Communion

December 16, 2008 - 2 Responses

From the Louisville Courier Journal, Dec. 7, 2008

Remembering Thomas Merton: A final communion with ‘Uncle Louie’

By Patrick Hart

My abrupt departure from Rome in June of 1968 was in response to a
summons from the newly elected Abbot of Gethsemani, Father Flavian
Burns. He had replaced Abbot James Fox, who had been Abbot of
Gethsemani for 20 years prior to his resignation in late 1967. My work at
the Trappist Generalate in Rome was originally an assignment for three
years, to be followed by several years at our Monastery of Roscrea in
Ireland. But alas: “Man proposes; God disposes…”

When I arrived back at Gethsemani, Abbot Flavian told me that Father
Louis, or Thomas Merton, would be doing more traveling in the future and
needed a full-time secretary to take care of his enormous correspondence.
Abbot Flavian added that he had asked for me, since I was acquainted with
handling his manuscripts during my decade of service as Abbot James’
secretary.

After a few days, Merton invited me to his hermitage to fill me in on what
my job would entail while he was traveling to the Far East. I recall when I
arrived at the hermitage after walking up the hill where his hermitage was
perched overlooking the knobs to the East, Merton was walking slowly at
the edge of the woods facing his hermitage reading Conversations:
Christian and Buddhist by Aelred Graham, the English Benedictine monk
who had been headmaster at the Portsmouth Priory School in Rhode Island.

Having welcomed me to the hermitage, I presented him with a gift from
Pope Paul VI, with whom I had an audience shortly before leaving Rome
for the States. It was an elegant bronze crucifix, which some bishops of the
Vatican II era were sporting as a pectoral cross. Merton smiled and thanked
me for hand-carrying it through Europe and the Isles before returning to the
States. He placed it on a desk in the main room of the hermitage, and
excused himself as he retreated to the kitchen of the hermitage where he
retrieved two bottles of beer, and one frosted glass. He opened one and
poured it into the frosted glass and offered it to me, while he himself used a
glass from the kitchen, non-frosted. A small thing, but after 40 years, I still
remember it as an indication of the singular hospitalilty of this American
Trappist hermit for another monk on a hot summer afternoon in Kentucky.

He asked me about my time in Rome, especially about what progress I had
made in Celtic studies with Father Joseph O’Dea, who was the Master of
Students in Rome, and was an expert in Celtic monasticism. He was
originally from Roscrea in Ireland, but had been sent to Nunraw Abbey in
Scotland to help out there, before being assigned to our Generalate in
Rome. It was Father Louis who had originally encouraged me in my studies
since he was too busy to continue his own interest in early Irish
monasticism, especially its art and poetry. He was now concentrating on
Russian and Chinese, as he confessed to me.

With Abbot Flavian Burns’ approval, he looked forward to experiencing
first-hand some other monasteries of the order, especially those in the Far
East — Hong Kong and Indonesia were scheduled as places where he would
be visiting to give conferences to the monks after he fulfilled his obligation
to present a paper on “Marxism and Monastic Perspectives” for the meeting
of Benedictine and Cistercian superiors to be held at Bangkok on Dec.
10th.

In addition to visiting Cistercian monasteries of the Far East, he was
primarily interested in making contacts with the Tibetan Buddhist monks
exiled in Dharamsala in northern India. Dom Aelred Graham had
introduced Merton to Tibetan monks and scholars, especially persons like
Harold Talbott of Harvard, who had been living close to the Dalai Lama,
and agreed to be his interpreter and translator for the three hour-long
audiences Merton had with the Dalai Lama in November of 1968. In short,
Merton was eagerly looking forward to his pilgrimage to the Far East, not
only sharing with these monks of the East something of his own Western
monasticism, but also learning first-hand the ancient wisdom of the East.
As his Asian Journal would make clear, he was blessed with meeting the
best examples of monasticism in the Far East.

The day before leaving on his long-awaited trip, Father Louis invited
Brother Maurice Flood, Phillip Stark, the young Jesuit scholastic from
Woodstock, and myself to the hermitage to help celebrate the Eucharist on
Sept. 9. Phil Stark had been helping Merton with the typing and layout of
Monks Pond, an avant-garde journal of poetry Merton was editing in 1968.
Brother Maurice assisted Merton in maintaining the hermitage, such as
supplying wood for the fireplace, and mowing the large lawn. We walked
through the woods leading up to the hermitage on Mount Olivet before
sunrise, getting our feet wet in the heavy dew along the path. When we
arrived at the Hermitage Merton was sitting on the lighted porch of the
hermitage reading his Breviary for the day, the Feast of the Jesuit St. Peter
Claver. Coincidentally, it turned out to be Phil’s birthday, so it was
appropriate to have the Mass in honor of a Jesuit saint.

After filling the cruets with water and wine, Merton began to vest for Mass,
as we lighted the candles. The chapel, which was a more recent addition to
the hermitage, was just large enough to accommodate a congregation of
three. On the wall above the cedar altar hung a group of five or six icons of
varying sizes (one originally came from Mount Athos), and on the floor in
front of the altar was a hand-woven Navajo rug, a gift from the Benedictine
monks of Christ in the Desert Monastery in New Mexico, where he had
visited several months earlier.

We all joined in the Prayers of the Faithful; Phil read the Epistle, and
Merton read the beautiful Gospel narrative of the Good Samaritan, after
which he surprised us with a brief but deeply moving homily. He compared
himself to “the traveler” who had been attacked by robbers on the road to
Jericho, and was then left half dead along the way. He went on to describe
how each of us in our own way had been Good Samaritans to him, helping
him “to get out of the ditch.” He embarrassed us by expressing his
appreciation for all we had done for him and concluded by saying he was
offering this Mass for our intentions. Before Communion he embraced
each of us with the “Kiss of Peace.” We received under both Species, and I
remember he addressed us personally, using our first names: “The Body of
the Lord, Phil, etc.” It was as beautiful and as meaningful a Mass as I have
ever experienced.

After a short thanksgiving, we heard “Uncle Louie” (his nickname which
amused him) in the kitchen preparing coffee for our breakfast, so we came
in from the porch and got in his way in an effort to help. Places were set on
the wooden table in the front room with the fireplace before the large
windows overlooking the quiet valley. By now the sun was beginning to
rise from behind Rohan’s Knob in the east. There in the joy of the morning,
we broke bread with our hermit for the last time.

We then cleared off the table and went out on the porch of the hermitage,
where the sun was not very bright. Merton remembered that he had some
unused film in his camera, and so he began at once taking pictures of the
three of us. We took turns with the camera so that we had photographs
taken with him in front of the hermitage and in the surrounding woods.
When the last roll of the film was shot we returned to the hermitage and
began cleaning things up in preparation for his departure.

Merton gave each of us books and photographs, saying “Here, Phil, a book
for you,” one of Victor Hammer’s excellent hand-printed books, Hagia
Sophia, and to me a copy of The John Howard Griffin Reader, which I was
eager to read. A “hermit button” (medal of honor) was pinned on Brother
Maurice’s shirt.

After some last minute instructions about taking care of his correspondence
during his absence, he handed me his set of keys to the hermitage and to his
post office box, where an enormous stack of mail was delivered daily. We
said goodbye, never realizing that this would be our last Mass with him.
With loaded arms, we headed down to the monastery.

This was my last sight of the man of God, who was to me a father, a
brother and a faithful friend. May the Lord be rich in rewarding him, “good
measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over…”

Thomas Merton has been dead 40 years, and I am still his secretary and
grateful for the opportunity to assist in editing some of his voluminous
legacy for future generations of seekers after the one thing necessary.

* * *

Brother Patrick Hart is the editor of Thomas Merton’s journals. He is also
the author of numerous books including The Intimate Merton (with
Jonathan Montaldo). He resides at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist,
Ky.

* * *

SONG: IF YOU SEEK …

August 9, 2007 - One Response

Song: If You Seek …
by Thomas Merton

If you seek a heavenly light
I, Solitude, am your professor!

I go before you into emptiness,
Raise strange suns for your new mornings,
Opening the windows
Of your innermost apartment.

When I, loneliness, give my special signal
Follow my silence, follow where I beckon!
Fear not, little beast, little spirit
(Thou word and animal)
I, Solitude, am angel
And have prayed in your name.

Look at the empty, wealthy night
The pilgrim moon!
I am the appointed hour,
The “now” that cuts
Time like a blade.

I am the unexpected flash
Beyond “yes,” beyond “no,”
The forerunner of the Word of God.

Follow my ways and I will lead you
To golden-haired suns,
Logos and music, blameless joys,
Innocent of questions
And beyond answers:
For I, Solitude, am thine own self:
I, Nothingness, am thy All.
I, Silence, am thy Amen!

IN SILENCE

August 6, 2007 - One Response

In Silence
by Thomas Merton

Be still
Listen to the stones of the wall.
Be silent, they try
To speak your

Name.
Listen
To the living walls.
Who are you?
Who
Are you? Whose
Silence are you?

Who (be quiet)
Are you (as these stones
Are quiet). Do not
Think of what you are
Still less of
What you may one day be.
Rather
Be what you are (but who?) be
The unthinkable one
You do not know.

O be still, while
You are still alive,
And all things live around you
Speaking (I do not hear)
To your own being,
Speaking by the Unknown
That is in you and in themselves.

“I will try, like them
To be my own silence:
And this is difficult. The whole
World is secretly on fire. The stones
Burn, even the stones
They burn me. How can a man be still or
Listen to all things burning? How can he dare
To sit with them when
All their silence
Is on fire?”

“When in the Soul of the Serene Disciple”

August 6, 2007 - Leave a Response

“When in the Soul of the Serene Disciple”

by Thomas Merton

When in the soul of the serene disciple
With no more Fathers to imitate
Poverty is a success,
It is a small thing to say the roof is gone:
He has not even a house.

Stars, as well as friends,
Are angry with the noble ruin.
Saints depart in several directions.

Be still:
There is no longer any need of comment

It was a lucky wind
That blew away his halo with his cares,
A lucky sea that drowned his reputation.

Here you will find
Neither a proverb nor a memorandum.
There are no ways,
No methods to admire
Where poverty is no achievement.
His God lives in his emptiness like an affliction.

What choice remains?
Well, to be ordinary is not a choice:
It is the usual freedom
Of men without vision.

Death Fell on Alabama

August 3, 2007 - Comments Off

DEATH FELL ON ALABAMA

What you do to the least of these, you do to me. – Jesus of Nazareth

by Father Sebastian Muccilli

 

            For over three months I lived with the disturbing news that a friend on death row in Alabama’s Holman Prison was slated for execution.  I continued hoping, up until the day of the execution, that some intervention by Governor Bob Riley or the U.S. Supreme Court would delay that date to allow for DNA testing to prove the innocence of Darrell Grayson. In the four years I had been corresponding with Darrell, and upon reading his published poetry, I had come to believe in his innocence of the charges of rape and of murder for which he was convicted and sentenced to death 27 years before at age 19. 

            When I learned that Darrell wanted me present for the execution, I was deeply touched but dreaded witnessing the terrible scene and the events leading up to it.  About three weeks before the scheduled execution, I went to the AAA travel agency in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, where a friend booked a flight to Mobile, and arranged for the rental of a car to drive from the Mobile airport to Atmore, Alabama, where Holman Prison is located. I arrived in Atmore in the late afternoon of July 24th.  I didn’t sleep well that night, of course.  I made the drive to the prison the next morning arriving about 9:30. 

Darrell had arranged for my visitor admittance to the prison some weeks before.  I had provided him with my status as clergy, address, and social security number.  I parked the car in the designated area and approached the entrance to the prison.  As I did so, a guard in the lookout tower adjacent to the barbed wire fence surrounding the facility shouted down to ask the reason for my presence.  I shouted up to him that I was there to visit the prison chaplain and Darrell Grayson.  There was a wait of about 5 minutes in the blinding sun while someone presumably checked into whether I was approved for admission.  I entered through two heavy and imposing metal entrance gates controlled electronically by the tower guard, and climbed the steps to the entrance to the administrative area of the prison.  A woman in the first office I came to tried locating the chaplain. I wanted to call on him as a courtesy.  When she could not find him, she advised me to proceed down the hall to the visiting area. 

I came to another secured area with a windowed metal door.  It opened electronically after I knocked on the glass window.  In that area sat 3 guards. I was frisked by one of the male guards; a woman guard asked for and took my photo ID, car key, and watch after which I signed in.  Then, I was directed to wait at another electronically locked door. It was opened by a guard located on the far side of the opposite wall of the visiting room.  The guard could observe me as I could dimly view him through a window in the wall.  That wall also had a door, which led to the inner areas of the prison. 

I was admitted to a large room with a long metal table and 12 plastic chairs.  Darrell sat with his sister, two nephews, a niece, and a woman attorney.  As I approached the table, Darrell, with a huge grin, rose and stood with his arms wide open in welcome.  He told me immediately how happy he was that I had come to be with him and then he introduced me to the others.  As the day progressed 2 other lawyers arrived.  One of them said it was encouraging at this late date not to have heard yet from either the governor’s office or from the U.S. Supreme Court.  We chatted with Darrell and one another until 4:30 pm when we all were alerted to leave.

On Thursday, July 26th, I arrived at the prison about 9:30 am and went through the same entry process as the day before.  Only Darrell’s most trusted friend and loyal advocate for 10 years, Esther Brown, was present in the visiting room with him when I arrived.  It was through her devoted efforts that Darrell came to terms with his talents and the realization of a teaching vocation.  In explaining that to me in a private conversation the day before, he told me with satisfaction of the depth of admiration and acceptance he had from his peers and brothers on death row whose lives had been uplifted and changed by his personal bearing, encouragement, and by what he wrote while incarcerated.  

It was because of Esther that Darrell Grayson and I became friends about four years ago. I had met Esther in 1967, when she and her family began attending Sunday Mass at the U.S. Navy chapel in Davisville, RI, where I, as a U.S. Navy chaplain, was stationed after serving 13 months in Vietnam.  Because of her energetic, determined, and caring nature, under girded by many years of social work experience and a degree in Religious Studies from Providence College, she continues to take on her 73-year-old shoulders the burden of friendship and advocacy for death row inmates in Alabama’s Holman prison. 

Esther and Darrell had worked tirelessly for a state moratorium of the death penalty.  With Darrells’s urging, she also asked me to be the spiritual advisor to death row prisoners in Holman.  In that capacity I had sent homilies and reflections that were occasionally published in their quarterly newsletter, On Wings of Hope.  Darrell had been its editor since its inception as the voice of Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty, an in-house organization whose mission statement reads that its purpose is “Working together with families, friends, supporters and other advocates to educate the public and bring about the abolition of capital punishment.”  

In late morning Darrell’s family and the three lawyers trickled into the visitors’ room. Also, the chaplain made an appearance and I petitioned him then to ask the warden to allow me to accompany Darrell into the death chamber – as Darrell had requested.   (I dreaded the thought of that experience but I wanted to do what Darrell wanted.)  I made it clear to the chaplain that neither Darrell nor I minded his being there also.  He agreed to ask the warden.  As that last day progressed there was no hint of fear in Darrell though I noted that he was not as calm as he had been the previous day.  When it came time at noon for him to take leave of his family members and lawyers, I tried to stay physically remote in that large room.  He warmly embraced individually his niece, his nephews, and his sister last, while conversing privately with each of them – an arm around their shoulders.  I left shortly thereafter to allow time for Esther and Darrell to converse without the distraction of anyone else being present, assuring Darrell that I would return at 3:30.  Before returning to the prison, and while I was in the parking lot of the motel, one of the lawyers came running up to me to show me the statement from Governor Riley noting that he had no intention of granting a stay of execution.  I knew immediately that he would not have come to that decision without knowing that the Supreme Court had also refused to intervene.

I returned to the prison’s visiting space about 4:00 pm, Esther took her final leave of Darrell about 4:15. Within minutes 6 burly guards arrived along with the prison chaplain.  Darrell was handcuffed and led through the door in the opposite wall.  The guards followed Darrell; the chaplain and I followed behind the guards as we made our way through the prison precincts with somber-looking faces of silent prisoners observing this last walk of the man they had come to regard as their teacher.  We passed through at least 3 other security sections until we reached an area that was painted white.  This area held the death cell, where Darrell had been held for 5 days.  Its white walls had no window.  It was about 15 yards from the open door to the execution chamber, which was lit up as bright as an operating room for the grim task of taking human life.  I could see the gurney upon which Darrell would lie for the intended execution by lethal injection. 

Darrell entered the cell, which was then secured. He quickly asked for a cigarette and a light from a guard while also reaching for paper to begin writing final thoughts to his sister and to Esther.  While Darrell was writing, I asked the chaplain whether my request to be with Darrell in the death chamber had been granted.  He said that the request had not been approved.  I worried immediately about how to tell him.  Darrell asked for another cigarette and smoked it while completing the second letter and sealing the two envelopes holding his last written thoughts.  As he tried to blow the second-hand smoke from his cell, smiling as he did so, he asked the guards to let me in.  As I entered, he handed me the envelopes and asked that I give them both to Esther, saying,  “She’ll know how to get this to my sister.”  Then he sat on his cot and motioned me to do the same, facing him.  He asked me to be sure to stay in touch with Esther and to befriend Jeff Rieber, the death-row inmate who was succeeding him as editor of the newsletter and Chairman of the Board of Project Hope for and End to the Death Penalty.

I took the opportunity to acknowledging his example of courage and fortitude to face the inevitable and that he was still being a teacher – even to me as well as the prison population.  He listened with his eyes closed.  I very slowly explained how deserving his body was for a final anointing, that his spirit had been held in a body deserving of that honor.  I said the words accompanying the anointing of his forehead, eyes, ears, nose, mouth and hands saying, “Through this holy anointing may God in love and mercy help you with the Grace of the Holy Spirit to realize how much God loves you and the tenderness of God’s affection for you.”  I followed with a prayer for the dying. Lastly, I invoked the Litany of the Saints, deliberately emphasizing certain saints who I think reflected his gentle disposition, his courage, and his integrity.  When I had finished, he embraced me with a grip I still can feel.  While holding on to me with his mouth near my left ear, he asked, “You’ll be in there with me, right?”

When I told him that I didn’t get the permission to be in there with him, he jumped off the cot and went to the entrance of the cell, rattling the bars to get the attention of the guards.  Darrell told them that he had purposely requested my presence with him in the death chamber.  Immediately one guard got on the phone.  I do not know whom he called but I presume it was the warden or deputy warden.  While on the phone, the guard looked at Darrell while shaking his head no.  I immediately went to Darrell, led him back to the cot and told him that he didn’t need me there, that his quiet dignity would see him through the ordeal and that I would be with him in spirit.  He immediately composed himself, saying twice, “I’m not afraid.”  Within seconds, a guard called into the cell, “Grayson, you have 5 minutes.” 

Darrell took off his almost-new sneakers to place them in a plastic bag, gave them to one of the guards with the name of the friend for whom they were intended. He glanced at me with a smile, and with silent dignity began his walk to execution in his stocking feet.  I was escorted in the opposite direction by a guard the long trek back to the entrance of the prison – in silence.

                                         …………………….

            I was asked to do what no Christian could refuse to do; one, which anyone would dread, but yet, would be honored to fulfill in spite of the demands it makes on the heart.  Even though I was with Darrell Grayson the last two days of his life, it was the intensity of the last 30 minutes, before he was summoned from his death cell to the execution chamber, which I want to remember always.  It’s unfortunate that Darrell’s expectation of my being with him in the execution chamber was not honored.  I wrote a complaint to Chief Deputy Commissioner Vernon Barnett of the Alabama Department of Corrections stating that denying his request was a “cruel and unnecessary response to a man about to die.”  I went on to say that some accommodation should have been made to escort me, at least, to the witness area adjoining the execution chamber where he would have observed my presence.  I know that would have been some consolation to Darrell and it would have satisfied me.  At least he could observe Esther’s presence there.

I am honored to be the spiritual advisor to the Board of Project Hope in Holman Prison.  Darrell asked me, while in his cell those last minutes, to continue on in that capacity and to be a special support to his friend Jeff Rieber who has succeeded him as chairman.  The unique in-house organization stands as a bright memorial to Darrell Grayson and a reminder to me of the barbaric nature of the penal system intent on maintaining a revengeful posture towards those, innocent or not, incarcerated on death row in too many of our state prisons.   Being a priest of a church opposing the death penalty as a right to life issue, I am proud of the institution which has publicly stipulated through its teachers, the U.S. bishops, that every convicted death row inmate still has a right to life similar to the human fetus and that we Christians have the honorable vocation to defend that adult human life from abortion in a prison death chamber.  If we can take that vocation seriously enough, I know that fetal abortions would diminish as would the penchant for war – and the violence, which haunts our neighborhoods and streets.  

I left Alabama the day after the state killed Darrell Grayson.  The shock of that experience has evolved into grief.  I want his hope for a less violent world to inspire others and me to live more simply while nonviolently opposing violence.  We still have the memory of his example and his poetry teaching us.  The words of another Alabama poet reached me as an email soon after my return to Florida.  They continue to console me.                                         

                                                                  July 26, 2007

I cut the grass while the State of Alabama murdered Darrell Grayson

My lawn mower is louder than my cries

The wind dried my tears as I cut.

The flowering bushes bowed their respect

For the man who lived most of his life on Death Row

The man who wrote poetry and mentored other tortured souls. 

 

I cut grass and thought of Esther Brown, my friend

And best friend to Darrell

She never stopped trying to save his life.

Never gave in to the challenges of age and pain.

The grass cut, I came inside to look up the word “murder” in the dictionary

It says murder is an unlawful killing.

Thou Shalt Not Kill, says the Ten Commandments

But we did it anyway, and still we claim to be people of faith.

 

I thought about the victim of the crime they say Darrell committed.

I prayed for her family and their pain.

I prayed for the people of Alabama and for our misguided cruelty.

Where do we go from here?

What do we do now?

When will we ever learn?

 

People see me cutting the grass.  “She keeps her grass cut”, they say with respect.

They can’t see the tears from the road. 

Tears for those on Death Row.  Tears for those of us who won’t take a stand.

Tears for the churches which won’t get involved.

Tears for our children who don’t understand that killing people is wrong,

Even when it is done in the name of the State.

 

My prayer is that Darrell’s execution moves Alabama

To stop the killing.

Let his murder, in our name, be the last.

Let us rise up with the new knowledge that killing is wrong,

Whether it is murder, execution or war.

Let it move us to act, using Jesus’ example.

And Lord,

Let me let my grass grow long and tall.

- Barbara Evans

ELIAS – Variations on a theme

August 3, 2007 - Comments Off

ELIAS – Variations on a Theme

by Thomas Merton

I

Under the blunt pine
In the winter sun
The pathway dies
And the wilds begin.
Here the bird abides
Where the ground is warm
And sings alone.

Listen, Elias,
To the southern wind
Where the grass is brown,
Live beneath this pine
In wind and rain.
Listen to the woods,
Listen to the ground.

O Listen, Elias
(Where the bird abides
And sings alone),
The sun grows pale
Where passes One
Who bends no blade, no fern.
Listen to His word.

“Where the fields end
Thou shalt be My friend.
Where the bird is gone
Thou shalt be My son.”

How the pine burns
In the furious sun
When the prophets come
To Jerusalem.
(Listen, Elias,
To the covering wing?)
To Jerusalem
Where the knife is drawn.
(Do her children run
To the covering wing?)
Look, look My son,
At the smashed wood
At the bloody stone.

Where the fields end
And the stars begin
Listen, Elias,
To the winter rain.
For the seed sleeps
By the sleeping stone.
But the seed has life
While the stone has none.

“Where the fields end
Thou shalt be My friend.
Where the bird is gone
Thou shalt be My son.”

II

There were supposed to be
Not birds but spirits of flame
Around the old wagon.
(“Bring me my chariot”)
There were supposed
To be fiery devices,
Grand machines, all flame,
With supernatural wings
Beyond the full creek.
(“Bring me my chariot of fire”)
All flame, beyond the rotten tree!
Flame? This old wagon
With the wet, smashed wheels
Is better. (“My chariot”)
This derelict is better.
(“Of fire.”) It abides
(Swifter) in the brown ferns
And burns nothing. Bring me (“Of fire”)
Better still with the old trailer (“My chariot”)
With the dead stove in it, and the rain
Comes down the pipe and covers the floor.
Bring me my chariot of rain. Bring me
My old chariot of broken-down rain.
Bring, bring my old fire, my old storm,
My old trailer; faster and faster it stands still,
Behind the felled oaks, faster, burning nothing.
Broken and perfect, facing south,
Facing the sound of distant guns,
Facing the wall of distance where blue hills
Hide in the fading rain.

Where the woods are cut down the punished
Trailer stands alone and becomes
(Against all the better intentions of the owners)
The House of God
The Gate of Heaven.
(My chariot of fire”)

III

The seed, as I have said,
Hides in the frozen sod.
Stones, shaped by rivers they will
Never care about or feel,
Cover the cultivated soil.
The seed, by nature, waits to grow and bear
Fruit. Therefore it is not alone
As stones, or inanimate things are:
That is to say, alone by nature,
Or alone forever.

Where do so many waters come from on an empty hill?
Rain we had despaired of, rain
Which is sent from somewhere else, descended
To fix an exhausted mountain.
Listen to the waters, if possible
And discern the words “False prophet”
False prophet! “So much better is the water’s message,
So much more confident than our own. It is quite sure
You are a false prophet, so ‘Go back’
(You have not had the patience of a rock or tree)
Go back into the cities. They want to receive you
Because you are not sent to them. You are a false prophet.

Go back where everyone, in heavy hours,
Is of a different mind, and each is his own burden,
And each mind is its own division
With sickness for diversion and war for
Business reasons. Go where the divided
Cannot stand to be too well. For then they would be held
Responsible for their own misery.

And I have been a man without silence,
A man without patience, with too many
Questions. I have blamed God
Thinking to blame only men
And defend Him Who does not need to be defended.
I have blamed (“Defended”) Him for Whom the wise stones
(Stones I lately condemned)
Waited in the patient
Creek that is now wet and clean of all ruins.

So now, if I were to return
To my own city (yes my own city), I would be
Neither accepted nor rejected.
For I have no message,
I would be lost together with the others.

IV

Under the blunt pine
I who am not sent
Remain. The pathway dies,
The journey has begun.
Here the bird abides
And sings on top of the forgotten
Storm. The ground is warm.
He sings no particular message.
His hymn has one pattern, no more planned,
No less perfectly planned
And no more arbitrary
Than the pattern in the seed, the salt,
The snow, the cell, the drop of rain.

(Snow says: I have my own pattern:
Rain says: no arbitrary plan!
River says” I go my own way.
Bird says: I am the same.
The pine tree says also:
Not compulsion plants me in my place,
No, not compulsion!)

The free man is not alone as busy men are
But as birds are. The free man sings
Alone as universes do. Built
Upon his own inscrutable pattern
Clear, unmistakable, not invented by himself alone
Or for himself, but for the universe also.

Nor does he make it his business to be recognized
Or care to have himself found out
As if some special subterfuge were needed
To get himself known for who he is.

The free man does not float
On the tides of his own expedition
Nor is he sent on ventures as busy men are,
Bound to an inexorable result:
But like the birds or lilies
He seeks first the Kingdom, without care.
Nor need the free man remember
Nay street or city, or keep campaigns
In his head, or countries for that matter
Or any other economy.

Under the blunt pine
Elias becomes his own geography
(Supposing geography to be necessary at all),
Elias becomes his own wild bird, with God in the center,
His own wide field which nobody owns,
His own pattern, surrounding the Spirit
By which he is himself surrounded:

For the free man’s road has neither beginning nor end.

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