Jul 12 2019

Thomas Merton – Song for Nobody

Published by at 7:15 am under Poetry

Song for Nobody
by Thomas Merton

A yellow flower
(Light and spirit)
Sings by itself
For nobody.

A golden spirit
(Light and emptiness)
Sings without a word
By itself.

Let no one touch this gentle sun
In whose dark eye
Someone is awake.

(No light, no gold, no name, no color
And no thought:
O, wide awake!)


A golden heaven
Sings by itself
A song to nobody.

— from Selected Poems of Thomas Merton, by Thomas Merton


/ Image by Jonathan Thorne /

Let us sing a song… for nobody.

A yellow flower
(Light and spirit)
Sings by itself
For nobody.

I imagine Thomas Merton on a morning walk through a dawn-lit field where nothing much is happening. Just some damp grasses and a few bright flowers waking to the sun. Those flowers stand there unnoticed, unseen until now, yet they carry such bold life, bright yellow petals radiant in the morning sun. They are an embodiment of light and spirit.

All of life, all of existence sings — but for whom?

The world dances with a golden light. Who is the real audience for this performance?

Perhaps the intended audience is God. Perhaps the flowers array themselves for their own private delight. But Merton says this song of light and spirit is for nobody because it is clearly not for him. He is utterly inconsequential to the scene. The flowers don’t care about him. They don’t adjust themselves to his presence. In fact, he is the one who is unnoticed, not the flowers.

(No light, no gold, no name, no color
And no thought:
O, wide awake!)

Enraptured by this moment of beauty, to which he is a non-entity, Merton disappears. Thought ceases, the mind quiets and brings to a halt its endless naming and categorizing. There is just stillness and the moment witnessed. That is when the ecstatic moment of awakening occurs — O, wide awake!

A golden heaven
Sings by itself
A song to nobody.

In this state of no-mind and no-self, we, along with Merton, are somehow profoundly alive! Awake, we see the world, perhaps for the first time, as it truly is — a golden heaven. And that heaven sings all around us, all the time! For whom? For no one in particular. Life sings to life. Spirit sings because it is spirit. The nature of being is song and light and life. When we quiet the busy mind and drop our own self-importance, we too join in that living symphony.

Have a beautiful day!


Recommended Books: Thomas Merton

Selected Poems of Thomas Merton The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton A Thomas Merton Reader The Strange Islands: Poems by Thomas Merton Thomas Merton Monk & Poet: A Critical Study


Thomas Merton, Thomas Merton poetry, Christian poetry Thomas Merton

US (1915 – 1968) Timeline
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Thomas Merton was a hugely influential Catholic monk and mystic of the 20th century who wrote with great insight and inspiration on the spiritual journey and the quest for meaning and inner silence within the modern world. He was an important voice in 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.

More poetry by Thomas Merton

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4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Thomas Merton – Song for Nobody”

  1. Carol Burnson 12 Jul 2019 at 7:52 am

    Good morning Ivan,

    I am home by accident and found Merton’s poem. I do love Merton’s writing and
    this poem is one of my favorites. Our day is beautiful and a promise of 84, much
    nicer than the heat we have been having – so this poem is perfect.

    Thank you so much for Poetry Chaikhana and the wide variety of poems you bring us.

  2. Harryon 13 Jul 2019 at 3:19 am

    I’m very curious about this part?:

    Let no one touch this gentle sun
    In whose dark eye
    Someone is awake.

    It seems rather cryptic to me. It is a warning, a request, or both?
    In whose dark eye
    Someone is awake

    It is a poem of statements and truths…
    But picks up on consequences. But the gentle sun is effected by the dark eye… our karma is played out by actions…
    I feel there is irony in this context. Sweet observation, dark eye… Does it point the finger at the reader, bring in confrontation, perhaps accusation at this point? Or is it simply a warning of actions and thoughts by someone who is awake? I wonder what ‘awake’ means?
    -Kind regards, Harry.

  3. Elaon 13 Jul 2019 at 8:11 am

    when we are
    human beings not
    human doings

    when we remain happy
    while doing every task
    without waiting for the
    end product

    we feel independent
    we feel love and peace inside
    our hearts produce an inner music
    a sweet song emerges
    all of a sudden
    from our lips on its own

  4. Bob C. (Corbin)on 19 Jul 2019 at 9:24 pm

    I am reminded of the spiritual significance of “nobody” in Emily Dickinson, The Sufis. and medieval Christian mysticism. “God. whose love and care are everywhere, can’t visit you unless you are not there.” Then the other elements of the poem seem to to fall into place, and the result is beautiful.

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