I have not yet met one who had not grief engraved on his face,
And everyone I’ve met longed for the divine Beloved’s embrace.
Yet all, all were running as fast as their legs could carry them
Into the arms of distress that was waiting to marry them.
What a strange stage is this world on which is played contradictions,
And the players, both noble and base, are nothing but fictions.
The only thing that is real is suffering—and that only is
Because in our mad pursuit of happiness we fly from bliss.
We hang on by the thread of breath between accomplishment and shame,
Instead of stitching our lives to the Beloved’s golden name.
The play goes on scene after scene without anyone quite knowing
Why roses of lips stop singing and sunflower eyes keep on growing.
When, at last, travelling hard, we reach perfect separation,
In that place at that instant is love’s final consummation.
The beauty of lips passes. The sunflower eyes, symbol of longing in vain to follow the sun, keep on growing.
This longing for something beyond time, the face of the Beloved is the real longing but we chase after the play of opposites, accomplishment and shame, positive and negative. Francis like Shakespeare sees all the world is a stage.
And we might also say it is a Buddhist poem stating the universality of suffering until freedom is reached. It is a poem to awaken us from the world of illusion. Poetic language like ‘stitching our lives to the Beloved’s golden name’ make it more than just a statement.
The final stanza states the tough truth. Travelling is hard because we have to have perfect separation from our inherent tendencies and even from ourselves. Then is love’s consummation, the great metaphor of love’s embrace.