I've heard it said
That some birds, fleet and swift-feathered,
Have wings of such unspeakable genius
That, standing in a mistral wind,
All they must do is spread their wings
And up they rise, like dazzled pieces of the sky,
Without a flap, a cry, a slight exertion.
Lord, sometimes I feel
That that was me, in the wild romance
Of youthful faith, with all its breathless zeal--
A prayer, a thought, a single moment,
Could launch me whirling straight into joy,
The region of Thy glory, ineffable, immense,
Without a doubt, a labor, a spark of heartache.
But there are other birds, too--
Incarnations of earth and lake and tree,
Who take to the sky with thunderous work,
The torment of a hundred wingbeats
Raking the wind with fierce assaults
Until it lifts them up, grudging in submission,
To bear them to a better clime.
Today, sweet Lord, I am the second bird--
Where prayer, contentment, mystic bliss,
Seem like a strange and foreign element,
Wherein I can gain a momentary access
By herculean labors of ascetic toil alone;
And even then, I know I'm destined down--
Back down to earth from which I toiled to rise.
But I know that earth, that lake, that tree,
I know it better than I ever knew before:
The exultations of youthful faith had wings,
But knew not whence its flight made rise;
The consolations of ungrounded bliss,
While sweet, could not fly endlessly so high
Without the solid strength of a launching-place.
Now I stand, firm on the ancient, gracious rock,
And know that I am a thing of earth,
Of water, stone, and tree...but still:
A thing designed to ride the lofty skies.
I know that I must learn to fly,
Upborne by grace, by toil, by discipline,
Until I ride the zephyr winds to Thee.