Poem 3

A dramatic treatment of poverty and riches in the spiritual life. What sounds like mature disillusionment is really a freedom from expectation.

What a wandering and forgetting has kept us searching for such long eons, exiled from Him who is our Self. Now rather than clinging to his fixed separateness Francis is ‘but a shape of tears’. His suffering has made him as soft and yielding as water.

In a great jump of metaphors the tears become the doorway to the Beloved, freshly called the Husband of the Universe. Only when our purse is emptied through trials can it be filled with His treasure.

The third Stanza more or less concedes the poverty of his art as well, just a cluster of images, imitating the love complaints of a much earlier age; and complaints on how the Beloved leads His lovers on such a merry dance.

We are certainly not being promised any prosperity church, for the Beloved true gift is to make us abandon other hopes and desires.

The final verses are not a lament but a serene acceptance of a beggarly homelessness. It will mean being close to the end of his journey so why be apprehensive and desire comfort and security.

The last stanza gives a vision of union, a union which does not envy the beautiful love through the senses of the young lovers. Perhaps the real tracery is the marks of experience left by love’s experience. The vision transcends all contrasts between poverty and riches, between the stinking destitute and the young lovers.

I once strayed away from myself and it took me a million years
To find Him again; and to find that I am but a shape of tears.

Yet this shape is also a doorway in which the Husband of the Universe
(My Beloved) appears, and refills with gold my empty penny-purse.

A shape of tears and a doorway, and a parrot that repeats
Verses of long ago about love’s favours and deceits.

The Beloved is one who promises roses and gives thorns,
Promises a palace and makes one a beggar the world scorns.

He has reimbursed with coins of gold all my travel expenses —
But only because one day again I will be sleeping under fences.

I know that the day will come when dogs will sniff at me propped against a tree.
That will be the time when I have almost finished my journey.

Soon, then, my Beloved will come and lift me up and embrace me —
And young lovers will marvel in each other at love’s fine tracery.