Francis can never be seen as dour world rejecter or life negater. How delightful the following little poem is:
The sun beats up to the earth
and the earth reaches up to man
and rain encircles the earth to keep it green.
The earth gives the sun form.
And man gives the earth the reason for its solidness.
Woman, you are a river.
But if you strew your bed with boulders
you make navigation risky,
and if you lose yourself in marshes
you make it impossible.
I will never look down on the sun
so long as there is gold in your voice,
nor tread heavily upon the earth
while your arms are willow branches.
In a poem unexpected diction keeps it fresh. “The sun beats up to the earth” suggests both eggs in a mixing bowl and pounding the earth to bring forth life. The sun is not beating ‘down’ on the earth but up since the earth is a higher stage of creation, the mother of organic and conscious life. Earth and rain give organic form to the energy of the sun. The whole process is purposeful or teleological resulting in the divine consciousness with which we can read the poem. Five lines of images convey the whole miracle of creation and evolution with naturalness and economy. How well the old poet could write by this stage. Then an abrupt change of focus in stanza 2. Poetry, good poetry can do two things at once. As he does so often the poet introduces an impish note of humour. An address to a woman as the flowing life force, with literal images of a river that make it sound a bit like a lover’s complaint. In the final stanza both earth and sun are paid homage through images of feminine beauty. We could sum up the poem as homage to the beauty of creation but how little that does it justice. It has a magic that great poetry can create. The three beats a line create a potent enchantment. A poem to be relished. Earth and sun must be praised since they have given form to beauty and to the gold of song.
Why have the critics and the public, even many Baba lovers, so little valued such humanity and humaneness? Perhaps people do not expect poetry like this with its bald assertion of service to God and rejoicing in God as the central psychological reality. It proclaims an encounter which is no longer really believed in, which seems retrograde to their own glossy and indulgent scepticism, or their diffidence in proclaiming their faith.
Eliot and Pound were in the heart of the literary world and able to capture what was truly modern and contemporary in their affirmations of faith and value, even though their affirmations were overshadowed by their despair or politics (Eliot’s The Wasteland was more famous than his Four Quartets and Pound believed in progress through fascism). Brabazon perhaps lacked some of their skills of high culture, literary sophistication, and even the natural gifts they brought to their work. However, his exposure to a real Master gave him a focus above and beyond the personal, that was very difficult for them. Francis is very much a man speaking to other men and women and if you are looking for the enigmatic, the playing with trendy notions of the self, or the monumental you won’t find it here in his poems. And to anyone not embarked on their own ‘voyage of ruin’ the poems can seem like alien messages left in a bottle by a stir-crazy solitary; or even worse, as fashionable exotica, as has happened to gobbled bits of Hafiz and Rumi.