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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger
Isn't this a wonderful poem given to us by Merton? It's worth going back and reading it again with a sense of inner stillness. (Go ahead, I'll wait...)
The way this poem opens is fascinating --
When no one listens
To the quiet trees
When no one notices
The sun in the pool.
Where no one feels
The first drop of rain
Or sees the last star
The "no one" here is you and me, Merton himself, the speaker of the poem. We encounter the real magic and mystery of the world when we can witness it as "no one." That's "Where peace begins / And rages end" -- when there is no ego-self to assert its right to be the central focus of everything.
That's when things unfold and reveal themselves to be deeply and utterly themselves:
One bird sits still
Watching the work of God:
One turning leaf,
Two falling blossoms,
Ten circles upon the pond.
(Love those lines. The witness is so still, almost non-existent, and we are left selfless amidst the "work of God.")
And then we have the "stranger" of the poem's title--
Closer and clearer
Than any wordy master,
Thou inward Stranger
Whom I have never seen,
Deeper and cleaner
Than the clamorous ocean,
Seize up my silence
Hold me in Thy Hand!
There's that vast, silent Self within, almost unknown to us, a stranger, yet there nonetheless, seated in wordless immensity. "Seize up my silence / Hold me in Thy Hand!" That's the way. Fierce and trembling, the mystic calls out to be grabbed whole by that unknown, oh-so-intimate one.
Look, the vast Light stands still
Our cleanest Light is One!
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M. Granger's original poetry, stories and commentaries are Copyright ©
2002 - 2011 by Ivan M. Granger.
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