Note to My Readers: from mid-June to mid-August (6/18 - 8/20), I will be taking a summer break from posting new articles for my Thursday and Friday slots. This will only affect my Thursday series on the global growth of Christianity, and my Friday series, the "Theological Bestiary" of birds, both of which will resume in late August. During the summer, I'll be dusting off some of my best essays from the first few years of this blog (a decade ago), as well as my verse play "Thus Ends the World," and re-posting them in the Thursday and Friday slots. All other weekdays will continue to feature new material throughout the summer.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Ancient Way

This is what the Lord says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths; ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls." - Jeremiah 6:16


I stood upon a sunlit hill,
And watched the sea grow wildly still.
The waves themselves refused to play
Against the languor of the day.
The question cried upon my brain,
And nothing could my shout restrain.
I asked the world what they had found,
Chasing love in endless round,
I asked the world what they had found,
But everyone just looked away.
Lost in noise, they looked away.

I walked the busy city streets;
The passersby I did entreat,
To see if fifty men remained
Who walked along the ancient way.
Or if not fifty, forty-five,
Or forty who remained alive.
Or thirty, then, if I could find,
Thirty men of noble mind;
Perhaps just twenty hold the line;
Ten who boldly face the day.
But no one walks the ancient way.

These lands I love are slipping fast
Within the dusk to darkness’ grasp.
I weep for words our fathers say,
For mem’ries of the passing day.
Our wealth and comfort bind us tight,
They blind us to the waning light.
Hail Novelty, our fairest god;
Or bow to Entertainment’s rod;
But both these effervescent gods
Their homage to the Self must pay—
This is our trinity today.

Now I raise my head up high,
Against the black’ning of the sky;
And I remember darkly, yea,
The greatness of a former day
When virtue caused men’s faith to rise,
When val’rous hearts embraced the skies.
But virtue is a quaint idea—
Old, and out of style here.
We’ve moved beyond it, have no fear;
We’ve summoned now another day,
With virtue’s greatness cast away.

Return again, O bright and fair!
Return yourselves to virtue’s care!
Our comforts have become our grave,
Till we can neither see nor say
What trouble vexes heart and mind,
Or what has made us deaf and blind.
Desire has become our king,
And, stupefied to everything,
We have lost the will to sing,
To think again on brighter days,
To flee back to the ancient way.

Justice rises with the dawn;
Embrace it, friend, and be reborn;
Prudence now her song will raise
Within the breaking of the day;
And temperance now, with fiercer shout,
Returns to fight its final bout
Against the vagaries of lust,
Against the excesses we trust;
And now, with all our strength we must
Call on fortitude, “Allay!
The bleakness of our darkening day.”

Faith is deeper, wider still,
Its rushing depths can cleanse our will.
And hope will rise upon the day
And push the darkest clouds away.
Hope for glory, hope for light,
Hope for God’s unending right.
But now the greatest of them all
Will rise against the fading pall
And raise the dead with one clear call—
Charity will save the day,
For this love is the ancient way.

Greatness is not found in wealth,
Nor in pleasure, nor in health,
But only in a heart made brave
With virtues of another age.
We were made for noble souls,
So follow God, and be made whole.
There is no other way, my friend,
To grasp your awesome, awestruck end,
To find the peace of life’s ascent.
I have but one last word to say:
Believe, and walk the ancient way.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bravo! I like it. I couldn't have put it better myself, and that's saying something. :)

You might want to drop a syllable in the last line of the penultimate stanza: something like "For this love's the ancient way." That's not great grammar, but I trip over it a little the other way, and it's an important line.

JOB