Apr 18 2014

Thomas Merton – The Sowing of Meanings

Published by at 8:52 am under Poetry

The Sowing of Meanings
by Thomas Merton

See the high birds! Is their’s the song
That dies among the wood-light
Wounding the listener with such bright arrows?
Or do they play in wheeling silences
Defining in the perfect sky
The bounds of (here below) our solitude,

Where spring has generated lights of green
To glow in clouds upon the sombre branches?
Ponds full of sky and stillnesses
What heavy summer songs still sleep
Under the tawny rushes at your brim?

More than a season will be born here, nature,
In your world of gravid mirrors!
The quiet air awaits one note,
One light, one ray and it will be the angels’ spring:
One flash, one glance upon the shiny pond, and then
Asperges me! sweet wilderness, and lo! we are redeemed!

For, like a grain of fire
Smouldering in the heart of every living essence
God plants His undivided power –
Buries His thought too vast for worlds
In seed and root and blade and flower,

Until, in the amazing light of April,
Surcharging the religious silence of the spring,
Creation finds the pressure of His everlasting secret
Too terrible to bear.

Then every way we look, lo! rocks and trees
Pastures and hills and streams and birds and firmament
And our own souls within us flash, and shower us with light,
While the wild countryside, unknown, unvisited of men,
Bears sheaves of clean, transforming fire.

And then, oh then the written image, schooled in sacrifice,
The deep united threeness printed in our being,
Shot by the brilliant syllable of such an intuition, turns within,
And plants that light far down into the heart of darkness and oblivion,
Dives after, and discovers flame.

— from Selected Poems of Thomas Merton, by Thomas Merton


/ Photo by NemanjaJ /

Where I live in Colorado we finally feel spring awakening, eager to awaken. The reviving world calls me to step out my front door, too stroll…

Ponds full of sky and stillnesses

…to see what is secretly waiting to blossom…

For, like a grain of fire
Smouldering in the heart of every living essence
God plants His undivided power –
Buries His thought too vast for worlds
In seed and root and blade and flower,

The question often comes up: What does that line about “asperges” mean? “Asperges” is a reference to the Catholic rite of sprinkling holy water on the congregation, especially associated with Easter mass. It comes from the first word (in Latin) of Psalms 51:9, which is traditionally chanted in Catholic masses during Easter. So Merton is making a reference to anointing, sanctification, purification, and Easter…

I hope you find a way to step into the awakening world this Easter weekend.

Then every way we look, lo! rocks and trees
Pastures and hills and streams and birds and firmament
And our own souls within us flash, and shower us with light…

Thomas Merton, Thomas Merton poetry, Christian poetry Thomas Merton

US (1915 – 1968) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

Thomas Merton was a Catholic monk and mystic who, perhaps more than anyone else in the 20th century, is associated with opening up a dialog between the spiritual traditions of East and West. He himself studied many Eastern spiritual practices deeply, from Zen meditation to Hindu yogic philosophy.

He is best known today for his essays on the spiritual life, especially his first book, The Seven Storey Mountain. He was also a gifted poet.

More poetry by Thomas Merton

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Thomas Merton – The Sowing of Meanings”

  1. Claudiaon 18 Apr 2014 at 7:00 pm

    Thank you for posting this poem by Thomas Merton.
    It is perfect for this Easter week in Kentucky as well…
    I can visualize the outdoor images as I just returned from a short retreat at the Abbey where Thomas Merton lived.
    His poetry is difficult to understand and your assistance is appreciated.

    The abbey was a place where Merton grew spiritually and intellectually and this poem reflects the deep thinking he had time for in the Silence.

    Thank you again.

  2. Claudiaon 18 Apr 2014 at 7:05 pm

    “While the wild countryside, unknown, unvisited of men,
    Bears sheaves of clean, transforming fire.”

    I just remembered seeing tall grasses in some fields that were tall
    and were an orange color with the ground around a yellow color…
    and could be described as “sheaves of transforming fire..”

    Quite an interesting sight to see to one with an artist’s eye…
    Merton was also a visual artist as were both of his parents..
    and drew cartoons for his college newspaper/magazine…

    Thank you again!
    I had not previously read this poem.