Seeing us downcast the Master said, Twelve years of depression isn’t much of a price to pay
For the glance of my mood that will reveal to you the beginning of the way.
First there are twelve years of bright hope, then twelve of despair, then twelve during which the light grows.
Put in round figures forty years all told—a drop of time as far as Existence goes.
Do not be like the children of Moses in the wilderness always complaining;
Complaint makes the feet lead, turns greenness into desert even while it is raining.
Consider the long toil—millions of years of it—of evolution’s grim gradients:
From stone to a rose, from rose to an eye—an eye carved out of stone to see love’s radiance.
I assure you there will come the day when both enthusiasm and disgust will seem
But the last vestiges of vague volumes of some long-forgotten dream.
Or take it from another angle: men spend forty years merely cataloguing
Words, objects, conditions, music-making, poetizing, or just money-hogging.
What I mean to say is, forty years is the usual price to pay for any success—
So don’t be complaining like Moses’ children in the manna-dropping wilderness.
With the exodus of the children of Israel still in mind this poem insists always look on the bright side. It may sound a little tongue in cheek but in fact it is presenting robust good sense. To reach the promised land(goal) will take forty years, as it did for the Israelites. This is the forty years bound by indentures he mentions in Poem 13. But we at least can put this into the greatly expanded vision of time and space we possess. And we too if our hunger is great enough will receive the manna of his grace while we wander in the desert. We can’t just march in with all the baggage we brought from Egypt (worldly enjoyment).
There is wonderful economy of writing when Francis asks us to consider the long toil in stanza 4. He conveys the miracle of love’s awareness of itself. Our subjective joys and sufferings are not much compared to this.
He is speaking from his own hard won wisdom but without any superior pride. The long 5 stressed lines convey a little of the amplitude of the whole process.