King James Bible, Romans 3:22-24 –
“Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:”
The opening of this poem recalls these wonderful words of St Paul. Francis could at times as in Stay With God be rather dismissive of the apostle but here he endorses the truth that all human righteousness is unreal. All are mired in sin as his rhymed couplet robustly states.
Since virtue belongs to God, sin is the only means I have by which
To distinguish between myself and the other bubbles in the ditch.
Our individuality comes only from our different acquired sanskaras which put us all on the level of finite illusion. (verse 2)
Sin is not only a distinguisher, but the great leveller.
There is no difference between the good-laws man and the reveller.
However as he reminds us in verse 3, once we meet the Avatar we do have certain duty. ‘Seaweed sinkers’ is a fine name for intoxicants scooped up from the bottom ooze of life.
But remember, friends, that it behooves us as drinkers
To drink only what the Beloved gives — no more ‘seaweed sinkers.’
In verse 4 rough language helps convey the violence of his feelings towards the barbarity of the modern world. Remember Francis is not just writing for bibulous Australians; this drink is all the indulgences and false escapes the world offers us.
If we fall back into swilling that rot-gut stuff
We’ll be joining the Bomb boys, instead of calling their bluff.
We are bonded to Him but this binding is freedom not involuntary slavery. (verse 5)
All bondage and oppression is with the consent of the oppressed.
Once a man has drunk the Master’s wine he is from all bondage released.
In verse 6 the prince of poets is, of course, Hafiz:
“A thousand times I have ascertained and found it to be true.
The affairs of this world,
Are really nothing into nothing,
Still though, we should Dance”….
And even back in those days the poet could see how the computer would become an idol. But inner truth cannot be computed.
The world is nothing into nothing (so also the prince of poets said).
Put that into your computer and see what comes out, dear Egghead.
In the final verse Hafiz’ words are repeated. But we are reminded that this is not a type of nihilism. The Beloved’s dream is a thing of infinite wonder.
The world is nothing into nothing — and their progeny is but a seeming.
What marvellous dreams, beloved Dreamer, you dream — and thank God for the dreaming!
This leads on to the next poem.