This poem begins with an evocation of time, time as the turning point between the flow of opposites that make up life: in tide and out tide, in breath and out breath, life and death. It is like a process in a workshop blowing glass.
Time is the turn of the sea-tides, the pause between inbreath and outbreath,
The blowing and the staining of a new bubble in the bubble-shop of death.
But in verse 2 it switches to the time of the new Advent and the rest of the poem focuses on the Master. This is the time for the evolutionary saltation or jump forward of all species. The bubbles are of course the subjective worlds of all creatures.
Time is the time of the Beloved who has come for all
Bubbles of men and ants who respond to His call.
Perhaps thinking of Baba’s enjoyment of marbles and other games verse 3 contrasts the small details of life with the role of the Avatar as captain of universal destiny.
The Master of ocean-crossings may enjoy playing with pebbles on the seashore,
But He has no thought of pebbles when He is on the bridge amidst the storm’s roar.
Verse 4 captures an intuition which many feel, that one’s own strayings cause pain to the Beloved and delay His work. Time counts when you are serving the Master. But most modern strivings for outer accomplishment do nothing to bring us home to Him or to make a home for Him in us. (verse 5)
I try to be careful of time so as not to increase
The Beloved’s burden, not to give his pain a longer lease.
The Beloved is our all-in-all, our setting out and our coming home
But who can build a house for Him on the moon or in the eye of the storm?
Thoughts, even like those of verse 3 contrasting large and small are only clutter, compared to the sacrament of His name. The sea may be part of the opposites of time but Baba is essentially the ocean beyond all differentiation. (verse 6)
It is best to have no thoughts, no hopes, nothing but His name on our lips:
He is the Master of ocean-crossings, and also the ferryman of harbour trips.
(Living in Sydney Francis had of course taken many ferry trips).
The poem finishes with a nice laconic rebuke to the poet who is still floundering in appearances.
Though ocean-born, who among us is ready to embrace the ocean?
Take it easy, Francis, first of all we have to get out of this sea of illusion.