Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Trial by Existence.


Your dad bought me a book of poems by Robert Frost one of our first Christmases together.  I'd never come cross this one in my education, but it knocked me out, and it's the only poem I've ever tried (and failed) to memorize.  I know you love Farenheit 451...if I could, I would "become" this poem.


Robert Frost (1874–1963). A Boy’s Will. 1915.

22. The Trial by Existence

EVEN the bravest that are slain

Shall not dissemble their surprise

On waking to find valor reign,

Even as on earth, in paradise;

And where they sought without the sword 5

Wide fields of asphodel fore’er,

To find that the utmost reward

Of daring should be still to dare.

The light of heaven falls whole and white

And is not shattered into dyes, 10

The light for ever is morning light;

The hills are verdured pasture-wise;

The angel hosts with freshness go,

And seek with laughter what to brave;—

And binding all is the hushed snow 15

Of the far-distant breaking wave.

And from a cliff-top is proclaimed

The gathering of the souls for birth,

The trial by existence named,

The obscuration upon earth. 20

And the slant spirits trooping by

In streams and cross- and counter-streams

Can but give ear to that sweet cry

For its suggestion of what dreams!

And the more loitering are turned 25

To view once more the sacrifice

Of those who for some good discerned

Will gladly give up paradise.

And a white shimmering concourse rolls

Toward the throne to witness there 30

The speeding of devoted souls

Which God makes his especial care.

And none are taken but who will,

Having first heard the life read out

That opens earthward, good and ill, 35

Beyond the shadow of a doubt;

And very beautifully God limns,

And tenderly, life’s little dream,

But naught extenuates or dims,

Setting the thing that is supreme. 40

Nor is there wanting in the press

Some spirit to stand simply forth,

Heroic in its nakedness,

Against the uttermost of earth.

The tale of earth’s unhonored things 45

Sounds nobler there than ’neath the sun;

And the mind whirls and the heart sings,

And a shout greets the daring one.

But always God speaks at the end:

’One thought in agony of strife 50

The bravest would have by for friend,

The memory that he chose the life;

But the pure fate to which you go

Admits no memory of choice,

Or the woe were not earthly woe 55

To which you give the assenting voice.’

And so the choice must be again,

But the last choice is still the same;

And the awe passes wonder then,

And a hush falls for all acclaim. 60

And God has taken a flower of gold

And broken it, and used therefrom

The mystic link to bind and hold

Spirit to matter till death come.

‘Tis of the essence of life here, 65

Though we choose greatly, still to lack

The lasting memory at all clear,

That life has for us on the wrack

Nothing but what we somehow chose;

Thus are we wholly stripped of pride 70

In the pain that has but one close,

Bearing it crushed and mystified.


Every line has a special meaning to me, but I am often reminded of:

The tale of earth’s unhonored things 45

Sounds nobler there than ’neath the sun;

I see so many people who don't see what heroes they are...they commit astounding  acts of kindness...that go totally unnoticed by their peers, but are deeply appreciated, life-changing,
in ways that no-one but the objects of their Loving-kindness will ever know.

I'm thinking of people who give up their lives in order to take care of aging parents, who don't deserve to die alone in enormously expensive warehouses for the elderly or infirmed.  "Important" people have the luxury to forget their parents...and give them the "best institutions" money can buy!

I don't know if you can appreciate this now, Ben, but you probably can.  You tend to "see through the clutter" and call bullshit pretty easily.  But there are still negative stereotypes and prejudices that cause people to dismiss those who are powerless or poor.  Yet, I think they hold the "heart of God" and keep it alive and beating in this cold world. Were it not for them...

Do you rememver Chandra, who works in maintainence at Daddy's job?  She's the gal who was born deaf, but it was never discovered for years.  She was always treated as mentally retarded before then. She had something she wanted to tell me yesterday, that she had become a grandmother!

Usually, I can't understand her, but yesterday every word came out clear as a bell...I was watching her lips  (yeah, I know, go figure...) She was talking about you and her 17 year old daughter who I found out was her baby, and she went on to tell me she had 3 more children, and their ages.

 Then she mumbled something about they just came along,  but then she said, "I just couldn't kill them.  They did't ask to be born in this world."

I doubt that she was ever married.  She had to have been poor as hell all her life. She is black, deaf, and poor, as archetypal a background for a woman seeking an abortion as any I've ever heard.  All her children still live with her.

"How disgusting!" the worldly say. You know they do...they invented the words that cut to the bone.

"My grandbaby's four months old...I'll have to bring the pictures so you can see her!" 

"Yeah, I'll see 'em next month when we come to class." I tell her

"I'll give you one then!" she says, and I can see the pride in her face as we say goodbye.

"Yes, you do that.  And every time I see it, I'll pray for her.." I say, even though I'm kinda agnostic.  People who are this strong, this kind, just kinda bring out my fledgling faith.  They NEED God, not the other way around.

We can think we own the world, that we are above others, and  be "thank GOD I am not like that man!" Pharisees. But me and Robert Frost know better.

No, wait:  That's God, me, and Robert Frost.

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

That is an awesome poem. God shows himself in many ways, and His presence can definitely be found in that poem.

It's a profound idea that we chose the life we live--we chose the hardships and the wonders--before we ever came to earth.

I do believe that and, when I can remember to think on it, it does help me through the hardships to the wonders.

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