How rich are love’s scents tonight and how sweet is love’s endless tale!
Each dust-grain is a rose, and each rose is its own nightingale.
The wine-master has shut His door and the Beloved has hidden His face
And God-Man has sealed himself in silence before he unseals His Grace.
The poem begins in the scented rose garden, a place of enchantment in much Eastern poetry. The perfumes here witness to love’s beauty and also are a product of the tale of love, that is, of the essence of creation. Love makes each grain and rose sing into being its own nightingale of song. Rose and nightingale, lover and beloved, are both in each grain of dust
This is a poem full of surprises, and they begin in the second stanza. The blissful beauty of the garden is there in spite of the absence of the God-Man, His silence and invisibility, his separation from us. Written perhaps during one of Meher Baba’s periods of seclusion, when He was taking on the burden of His universal work, it also applies to our situation now.
The world’s pain is His; but dust must keep on blooming and singing –
For these were in the seed of silence before the Beginning.
Love was before the suns and Earth tumbled out of the mouth of love’s pain;
Dust was before the oceans were made and the bearers of healing rain.
Yet still we sing. In stanza 3 dry forsaken dust must still produce its blossom of song since its divine nature, out of time, is sing love. Our true nature is love, as the striking affirmation of the next couplet declares – “Love was before the suns and Earth tumbled out of the mouth of love’s pain;” The ‘mouth’ conjures up an image of the great cry of pain of the God-Man as he takes on the burden of the world’s sanskaras. Earth is capitalized, since it is the place of awakening for the universe.
From dust and wine God fashioned Man and quickened him with his song-breath,
And told him: Because I have so made you you will never know death.
Then God made the suns as escorts for Man on his looped journey through space,
And to shout together at each returning and its Moment of Grace.
The wine-master may shut His door, the Beloved veil His face and God-Man withdraw before He sends the flood;
But dust must continue blooming and singing, for song is written deeply into each cell of its blood.
We are made of dust and wine. This is not just earth and spirit: it is the utter humility of our poverty without Him and the singing joy of our participation in Him, the paradox of being human.
In stanza 6 Francis, as so often, is reminding us of the breathtaking cosmological perspective accompanying this Incarnation. Our journey through time and space is a looped journey, not only from the ellipses traced out by the planet but because we are looping back to our origin. The suns shouting is as arresting an image as William Blake’s poem The Tyger
…When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Blake’s poem deals with the tension of paradox, and so does Francis’. In our mortal nature we hymn the divine. We sing but we remain before Him grains of dust. The flood is not just a flood of destruction like Noah’s; it is the bearer of the healing rain of His grace. Returning is italicized because this is the pivotal moment of the whole of creation and evolution. It is a Moment of Grace because our return is always the gift of God.
We sing because we must, as the poem so memorably concludes; song is written deeply in every one of our cells. Our dust is quickened by His song-breath. If the poem works it creates a remembrance of this.
This is the first of the three special ‘dust poems’ in the volume. Reading it leads on to 66 and 67.