bobby1933 (bobby1933) wrote,

Thomas Merton: "ELIAS – Variations On A Theme (Fragment)


Under the blunt pine
I who am not sent
Remain. The pathway dies,
The journey has begun.
Here the bird abides
And sings on top of the forgotten
Storm. The ground is warm.
He sings no particular message.
His hymn has one pattern, no more planned,
No less perfectly planned
And no more arbitrary
Than the pattern in the seed, the salt,
The snow, the cell, the drop of rain.

  ELIAS – Variations on a theme | louie, louie 2 .

I love this fragment!  I love the poem, but this fragment especially speaks to me.  It is a poem about calls and waiting and patience and birdsong and nature. and probably (since its by Merton) about contemplation.  Is it also about Elijah (Elias)?

Elijah is addressed by God.  Prophecy is mentioned,(but it is "false" prophecy.) A chariot of fire is there. but it morphs into an old trailer, probably up on blocks.  But was not Elijah a prophet of God?  Was he not "sent?"  Oh yeah, there was that tree (blunt pine? juniper? easy to mix up) where Elijah wished to die before he went to that cave where he heard the voice of God as "a still, small voice" (or as a "delicate silence.")

We meet Elijah the Tishbite* when he shows up in Samaria to confront King Ahab over the issue of idolatry.  That's it, he shows up; no suggestion that he  was sent.  Idolatry had been in full swing since the reign of King Solomon more than fifty years earlier.  (All those foreign women messing with the hearts and minds of Hebrew men, Jezabel was just the last of many.)  I wonder that even a vengeful, jealous, One and Only God would pick idolatry as a core issue.  Certainly Amos who flourished about the same time period thought abuse of the weak by the strong to be a more central issue.  Having once involved himself in God's business, then stepping away when things got hot, God did tell Elijah to go back and finish the job.  Despite all this, Elijah is the most important prophet (after Moses?) in Judaism.  He will return to introduce the Messiah. His is the chair left empty at the Sedar meal.

Whether or  not the poem is about Elijah does not matter.   I read it and it speaks to me so i want to know what it means.  For me the key is those first few lines in Part IV/  The journey begins where the sidewalk ends.  It may not be a journey of miles or even one of activity.  Yes, i do believe in pilgrimage and i do believe in good works, but i have not been signed that either of these is the path for me.  Like Brother Laurence,i think i am supposed to stay  in  the house and cheerfully and prayerfully take care of day to day chores.

Since the path has no identifiable beginning and no identifiable ending and few, random, and indecipherable markers along the way, i just put one physical or mental or spiritual foot in front of the other and maybe stand there oor moooove sloooooowly.

*Tishbite - means "From Tishbe (in  Galilee) maybe, or "sojourner," or "stranger" (alien).
Tags: meditation, nature mysticism, sacred poetry, the pathless path
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