Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Learning to Fly

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.

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