A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Monday, 16 June 2008

A Year Of Grace

My mother died on 3 November 2004 after suffering from progressive Alzheimer's disease for 5 years. The next day I found on her bookshelves an anthology of spiritual poetry and prose chosen by Victor Gollancz and called A Year Of Grace: Passages Chosen And Arranged To Express A Mood About God And Man. It was first published in 1950. It helped see me through that 1st week after her death.

The book contains quotations from a diverse range of writers: William Blake, Meister Eckhart, Sir Thomas Browne, Goethe, Shelley, Spinoza, Gabriel Marcel, Aldous Huxley, William James, Marcus Aurelius, Thomas Traherne, Erasmus, Jakob Boehme, Erich Fromm, Albert Schweitzer, Shelley, Plato and St John Of The Cross to name but a few; and quotations from such great spiritual resources as the Talmud, the Bible and the Bhavagad-Gita.

There are also several poems by Rainer Maria Rilke, one of my favourite poets. If you read about Rilke you realise very quickly that both his life and his intensely felt poetry are inextricably entwined. His Sonnets To Orpheus and Duino Elegies are profound and idiosyncratic works revealing a very personal and mystical relationship with God.

This poem comes from his more accessible collection The Book Of Hours. It shows an unconventionally symbiotic relationship between Rilke and his God. It is as if God needs us more than we need Him. It is as if God is still growing - and he needs us in order to continue to grow.

What will you do, God, when I die?
When I, your picher, broken, lie?
When I, your drink, go stale or dry?
I am your garb, the trade you ply,
you lose your meaning, losing me.

Homeless without me, you will be
robbed of your welcome, warm and sweet.
I am your sandals: your tired feet
will wander bare for want of me.

Your mighty cloak will fall away.
Your glance that on my cheek was laid
and pillowed warm, will seek, dismayed,
the comfort that I offered once -
to lie, as sunset colours fade
in the cold lap of alien stones.

What will you do, God? I am afraid.


Daniel84 said...

Hey really enjoy your bog. Walked up Scafell pike las week and felt compelled to write these words, cheers:

Over hanging top lip toes painted red

lined up silent walks up high, lying

on shaved grass discussing the word


Red nosed antics

and face painted laughs. slicing through the length and breadth

of sun laden breath

And the mouse with holes can see now

sounds as rigid as an elastic band and all that is around it.

the devine.

and the tide of salty rust upon my legs and head

turns me orange and naked.

like spread ashes on a tarn of northern plateau

eats up rock locked in the

gaze of an iron triangle 3,000

feet above sea level.

Daniel84 said...

Also have been inspired by this quote by John Muir:

"On no subject are our ideas more warped and pitiable than on death...Let children walk with nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life, and that the grave has no victory, for it never fights. All is divine harmony."

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for your comment. That poem is extraordinarily imaginative and origninal. As for the Muir, it's certainly inspiring - but, as I often find with Muir, it leaves one feeling slightly inadequate and unable to live up to his high thoughts and ideals!

Daniel84 said...

Hey also saw you were into european cinema thought you night be interested in my blog on the guardian website.



The Solitary Walker said...

Great blog. Godard's 'Weekend' impressed me when I first saw it - but 'One Plus One' left me cold when it was re-run on Sky recently. I used to love all those French New-Wave films (and still do) - especially Truffaut. Hearing about that film festival almost made me wish I lived in London again. Then after a few seconds I regained my senses.

I was interested in your observations on the uneasy relationship between revolutionary politics and art/film. Denise Levertov broaches this very theme (politics and poetry) several times in her 'New & Selected Essays' which I've just been discussing on this blog. Some of her poems are about El Salvador, the Gulf War etc.

I used to love Brecht when I studied his work a long time ago - but the plays only become truly great when they transcend the theoretical Marxist limitations Brecht puts upon them.