In this drought all has died except our crop of griefs;
And it flourishes, each day putting on new leaves.
These leaves are not green, they are bright tongues of fire
That glorify the Name of our heart’s desire.
In the acceptance of loss is security:
In the perfection of this is purity.
It is no easy matter for a man to become a child—
One must be a hero not to fight back when reviled.
So small the feet, so long the road to travel;
So weak the fingers, so tight the knots to unravel.
So short the arm to pluck the high sweet fruit;
So weak the purpose even though resolute.
No wonder our crop of griefs flourishes day by day,
And we wonder whether we are even on the way.
How good Francis is at sharing with us the difficult places on the way. The poem culminates with a confession of weakness and doubt.
Once again he turns to the radical words, those almost impossible demands of Jesus to limn the way.
“Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.…( Mt18: 3-4)
But I say unto you, That you resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Mt5: 39).
Not only is the moral bar set so high but our own capacities are dwarfed by the demands of the way, its upward stretching.
However the second and third verses of the poem have expresses a vision that goes beyond discouragement. The acceptance of loss as gain is the purifying Pentecostal fire. The acceptance of loss is gain – echoing the inspiring words of Paul, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil: 1, 21).
A creative tension is one of the things that make this a considerable poem.