Everyone thinks he is the burden-bearing title-holder.
From the lover’s viewpoint no burden at all does he shoulder.
Over the entrance to Lover’s Lane is written: Refrain
From entering unless you have a strong back and no brain.
Behold love’s champions! skinny-legged, hollow-cheeked, sunken-eyed—
Yet none anywhere carries himself with such pride.
They travel light these men, for nakedness is their fashion,
Yet each bears on his back the mountain of God’s compassion.
Like Jesus their possessions are a cup and a comb—
Enough for a world traveler who never leaves home;
Who loafs all day and in the evening goes down the street
To the wine shop where the other shiftless out-of-work meet,
And the best singers pour out song to hand-clapping and eye-clicks,
And the Master fills the glasses with mature wine for nix.
A modern and unsentimental overview of what it means to be a slave of love. No attempt at owning and controlling can be permitted here. Nothing glamorous either about this quest. The burden carried is not of sin or ego but the crushing acknowledgment of the knowledge of God’s compassion and mercy. These night gatherers do not belong to the daylight world of reasons and purposes. They gather to celebrate his invisible presence. His wine is given free to those who have surrendered.
The poem itself has some of the cheerful abandon it describes. It captures some of the fervour of an assembly of dervishes. The requirement of ‘strong back and no brain’ puts service above all mental assets. What a nice touch the slang word ‘nix’ is that ends the poem. No complacent superiority for God’s followers here.