The poverty which is wealth. The darkness full of light.
The mirror, itself nothing, contains love’s face so bright.
Those who multiply riches simply do not know they are heaping
Up nothingness within nothing, and that their souls are still sleeping.
In dream they go to World’s Fair to dream sell, to dream buy;
But it all vanishes as they change sides with a sigh.
The lowly who are exalted. The slaves who are kings.
The valley adoring the mountain from the mountain-top sings.
The path of love is the shortest distance between two points;
The work of science is in servicing sinews and joints.
They mouth Jesus’, Today is enough —And hoard goods and cash.
The lovers of God spend all on wine; the rest they treat as trash.
Jesus said, Let him who would be the highest take the lowest place.
In emptiness is fullness. In the mirror the Beloved’s face.
Francis is known to have reproved young acolytes when they expressed the view that the message of the Bible was old hat. He rightly insisted that they possessed a heritage of unlimited treasure, and that their understanding of the saviour figure of the God-Man would be unavoidably shaped by their response to Jesus. To a lesser extent this is still true today in our society which has loosened the religious heritage. Time and again he returns to the words of the gospels and the direct sayings of the Christ which have to many become empty mouthings. Such allusions can enormously increase the resonance of his message. In this poem he makes the allusions explicit:
Second last stanza “Take therefore no thought for tomorrow for tomorrow shall take thought of the things for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (Mt. 6:34)
Last stanza “And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant. (Mt. 20:27).
But there are more echoes still.
Verse 2 suggests Psalm 39: 6 – “Surely every man walks in a vain show, surely they are disquieted in vain, he heaps up riches and knows not who shall gather them”.
Verse 4, Isaiah 40: 4 “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain”.
All these support the revolutionary spiritual message. Appearances can be an inversion of the truth. Evolution brings inevitable turning of the wheel of existence. Hoarding up experience and possession is a mockery.
Science is concerned with material bodies. The path of love deals with the shortest distance between two points – ultimately no distance when duality is broken down. Lovers live with paradoxes which break down dualities.
Finally in the last line the high truth, the mirror of the heart makes clear the identity of lover and Beloved.