Sunday, August 28, 2011

Poem of the Day: (Carrion Comfort)

I am heartsick at how much my family has been consumed by a deep and profound pain of spirit that has been visited upon us by and within what should be a comforting sanctuary. Not by any one particular person or group of people, but simply by unfortunate circumstance. Why? Where is God in all of this? I don't require God to exercise power, to heal, and to make things right. I don't require God to actively do anything. I just want God simply to be present. But I don't feel that presence. Kierkegaard was so right about that "sickness unto death." I don't want to despair, especially to despair of faith and despair of God; and I hate that despair can't be helped; and, worse, that despair recreates itself and feeds itself. And so I've been turning not to Nietzsche who believed a will to power could subdue despair (how wrong he is!), but rather to that Jesuit priest, Gerard Manley Hopkins, whose poetry embraces despair at the same time that his gorgeous words and imagery beautify it: a recognition that despair cannot be conquered but that it can be adorned. A bit of hope within the hopelessness. This particular poem has been a comfort to me recently:

(Carrion Comfort)

NOT, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist—slack they may be—these last strands of man
In me ór, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.
But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me
Thy wring-world right foot rock? lay a lionlimb against me? scan
With darksome devouring eyes my bruisèd bones? and fan,
O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to avoid thee and flee?

Why? That my chaff might fly; my grain lie, sheer and clear.
Nay in all that toil, that coil, since (seems) I kissed the rod,
Hand rather, my heart lo! lapped strength, stole joy, would laugh, chéer.
Cheer whom though? the hero whose heaven-handling flung me, fóot tród
Me? or me that fought him? O which one? is it each one? That night, that year
Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God.

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