What of the warm-housed ones, and us on this trackless journey?
How great the distance between us — we are bound and they are free.
I would return to the hills of my youth and work in the fields —
But what woman would I now lead out at the harvest-festivals?
To partner me could only be one whom all other men scorn —
Yet to match my spirit’s step no goddess has yet been born.
Following the melodies and rhythms of your glance
Has made me an expert in every type of dance.
I have been dancing since you sent the stars out on your breath —
Dancing with my pretty shadow in a Dance of Death.
Lately, bushman-eyed (so I thought) I have been tracking your footprints to your dwelling-place —
Only now to discover that all along I have been in love with my shadow’s charming face!
Walled on one side by desert and on the other by sea,
There is nothing for it now but to await your whim’s mercy.
Again a very personal affirmation of the helpless state of the lover of God. As the first verse states, we give up the freedom to please ourselves and even to be ourselves, our own identity. As Baba made plain the path is different for each, with no beaten path to follow and before any promised land is reached we wander in a wilderness.
Then a nostalgic glimpse of his country youth, participating in the harvests of ordinary life.
But the old Francis as well as time has passed. Now the game is not possession of the desirable reward but compassion and kindness would lead, and anyway the loved object has become a partner of the spirit.
Francis enjoyed folk and other types of actual dancing. For a moment in verse 4 he prides himself on the intricacy of his dance with the lord of creation. But he straight realizes that it has all been a dance of illusion, a clinging to the perishable and perdurable. ‘Dancing with my pretty shadow in a Dance of Death’, is a great image for the dance, no skeleton here but his own pretty shadow and thus preparing us for the poem’s conclusion.
All the spiritual effort he has been making in this life is not following the trace of the Beloved but more of the narcissistic infatuation with his own illusory aims.
On one side is the boundless ocean of the infinite, on the other the desert of his own life. He waits on the border between them. He is walled in and can only await the mercy of the whim.
How he hated any human presumption which would obscure the real beauty of the surrender to love!