Poem 18

What for most of us remains as a creation story, was engaged by Francis at a deep heart felt level, an eternal moment of pledge which is inseparable from the present moment. The Infinite God is experienced as his living partner and lord. Being and awareness coalesce in his verse. The result is a very condensed and original treatment of his link with his origin.

The mirror of the first line suggests that even before the creation word there was aware consciousness in the divine mind. The pact gives from the Beloved objective being, ‘being-fact’, to the man soul, whilst his return obligation is to ‘speak’ the Beloved – to witness by thought word and deed the Beloved’s nature. The man soul has forgotten countless times and broken the pact which nevertheless remains operative through God’s infinite mercy.

In the mirror of the First Silence
we, Beloved, made a pact:
You would speak me into being-fact;
I would speak you in every word I spoke.
How truly you have kept your part, but how I have broke
faith millions of times! Yet your mercy still flows
cool as a mountain stream, sweet as ripe mangoes,
healing again and again my violence.

The mercy is expressed in beautiful concrete terms and then the breathtaking defining of the mercy as the ‘stages of gentle ruin’. The stages will bring the poet back to the faith of religion and then to the basic truth of the return path that our station is in ‘noble dust’. This emptying us of all illusions of separate selfhood is called ‘the final man-being-fact’. The hyphens might seem awkward but convey the link of creaturehood in being and in objective fact and as the final stage of the ‘being-fact in verse 1.

Yet because of your mercy I completely trust
that you will complete your creation-act
and lead me by stages of gentle ruin
back to the faith which I grew in,
and on to the final man-being-fact
that man’s true station is in noble dust.

Less regular in rhyme and beat than many of the poems, this gives a moving summary of glad submission to the Beloved who is the One, of becoming the lowest to rejoin the highest.