The rains have come and the earth has put out fresh tender shoots;
But our drought continues and gnaws at our slender roots.
The trees have become thousands of praises and sweet cries;
At night our camp-fire burns brightly fanned by our sighs.
We do not keep a fire to boil water and cook a meal:
Its flame reminds us of you—a seeming in lieu of the Real.
Where are the brave songs of the morning we began this trek?
Look at these who were stout men—drift-wood washed up from ship-wreck!
We can hardly recall why we journeyed or where we started from—
Some tale I remember that somewhere out here you had your home.
Ah, if we had never seen your portrait we should not have been misled
By the sort of story that is read to children going to bed.
Since this dry land has turned green, our longing has flourished,
And by the bread of our hunger your beauty is nourished.
What a great revealing of different states on the path this passionate poet gives us. What contrasts, yet all states presented with honesty and integrity.
Athirst and out of sync with the world of things and its symbols these are travellers who have lost confidence in themselves. They have experienced a terrible drift away from all that seemed meaningful. The whole story of the quest for an invisible reality now seems like a fairy story, not a life giving myth.
The paradoxes of this state are made explicit in the last stanza. The greening of the land has not brought relief but increased longing. And the dry and barren inner longing has made its object seem all the more desirable.
Francis always challenges us to give priority to the inner quest not the outer goals. This for him is the very essence of spirituality. Even despair can be fuel for hope. This band of travellers share in the flame, the torments of the way of deprivation. The Beloved seems far but in this separation burns bright. As the first line of the next poem suggests: