Another very personal poem; what is all the loneliness and disappointment, the feeling of life having passed us by, to the one who has drunk direct from the wine cask divine wine?
A real frankness in the opening stanzas about feeling outmoded and irrelevant. He can take a humble role helping the young, and he has never looked for rewards for his labours. From childhood he is used to the loneliness. Notice how he uses ‘unpleasure’ rather than displeasure in verse 4. The Beloved is not angry, just not manifesting in a tangible joy. So the loneliness of the poet continues, a feeling of being not needed. Vivid images convey this.
What to do with the days? Everyone has work, I alone
Lie by the roadside — the road-mender’s left-over bit of stone.
Yet I am not old as men nowadays reckon time.
I could help carry the equipment by which younger men climb.
Once I used to drive a straight furrow for the autumn sowing.
And I’m not the sort who would begrudge another the mowing.
Lonely was my childhood — lonely as the fox’s cry at night;
And again, in my beloved’s unpleasure, this is my plight.
Line 1 of verse 5 is a bit ambiguous, sounding as if his friends become the stars but as the next line makes plain, it is the stars who become friends to his isolation. Golden wine from silver jars it may be as the stars witness in their beauty to the beauty of the creation but it cannot satisfy one who has tasted ‘love’s cask’. No confirmations and answers are now needed by such a one.
Since the wineshop closed its doors my friends are the stars;
They spill golden wine for my spirit from their silver jars.
But what is that to me who has drunk from love’s cask?
What is any answer to the question I ask?
As the final verse suggests Francis can now feel the universe as a part of the reality of his real self. Here is a presence more marvellous than creation itself. And the Beloved’s name incarnates the very energy of the love which ignited the stars and the poet’s own love.
So I hearten the stars in their journey by telling them the name
Of the Beloved whose one glance lit in them and me love’s flame.
By the way have you noticed that Francis seems to deliberately avoid using Baba’s name in this and other volumes? I wonder what his reason is?
In these short poems of statement Francis can dramatically move from his own plaints and sufferings to the triumphant affirmation of the infinite One.