Though we were to sing from now until time’s end, we will be no more
Than a band of minstrels playing a one-night stand before Your door.
Yet our song is more pleasing to you than the chorale of the stars:
Their song is free, ours must be within the limitation of bars.
The stars are the bees of Creation surrounding Earth their queen;
Their song praises Earth; ours, poured at your feet, makes love’s desert green.
Bondage is a girdle to keep spirit’s figure pleasingly slim.
When it can pass through a needle’s eye it is in spiritual trim.
How serene are the stars! How disturbed is man! But man’s disturbance
Pleases the Beloved for it shows he has lost self-assurance.
Self and love cannot exist at the same time in the same place.
Self seeks self’s pleasure; love longs for sight of the Beloved’s face.
Do not seek knowledge from the stars; their glory is less than Earth’s clay.
And the men of the stars are countless lives from where we stand today.
A recurring theme – the stars despite their beauty and power are much further back on the evolutionary track than puny men. Francis realized how crippling to the psyche of man modern astronomy has become so that many have lost all faith in their inherent divinity and see themselves as insignificant specks on an insignificant speck in the galaxy.
Our real humility as verse 1 says is our nothingness compared to the divine, but more than compensated for by our ability to sing the song of love. The stars seem to sing a song of simple flawless being but it is surpassed by our song from within the limit of ‘bars’. As he explains, our glory is that we are within bondage, the conflicts that keep us disturbed but which slim down our egos. Jesus words “And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God”(Mt.19:24) are applied here to the acquiring of real poverty, the losing of all the rich baggage of self-love.
Maybe it is a bit old fashioned for him to see the stars as a chorale and as serene but it has been a recurring tendency for humans to contrast their own messiness with the perfect beauty of the heavens. And in modern times people have been inclined to see our destiny as the conquering of the stars, despising the clay or wondrous film of sentient life on earth – our ‘clay’. Our song praising our desert of poverty makes ‘love’s desert green’. This is the spiritual ecology of Earth.