Wednesday, May 12, 2010

“Praise” (A Few Words for Wednesday)

I searched all evening for a poem with which to celebrate the Ascension. I found nothing worth publishing. But deep into the last chapter of a book I am writing about Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston (which is making my posts here both few and far between), I find myself thinking every day about science and faith, about intelligent design, and even about the AIDS virus. And so, wouldn't you know it, I came across a poem that blends all of these themes. It is by R.S. Thomas (1913–2000) (left), and it is called simply “Praise.”

A Welshman like Dylan Thomas, he was also an Anglican, like John Henry Newman before conversion. A pretty good combination and, I think you'll agree, a pretty good poet too. 

I praise you because
you are artist and scientist
in one. When I am somewhat
fearful of your power,
your ability to work miracles
with a set-square, I hear
you murmuring to yourself
in a notation Beethoven
dreamed of but never achieved.
You run off scales of
rain water and sea water, play
the chords of the morning
and evening light, sculpture
with shadow, join together leaf
by leaf, when spring
comes, the stanzas of
an immense poem. You speak
all languages and none,
answering our most complex
prayers with the simplicity
of a flower, confronting
us, when we would domesticate you
to our uses, with the rioting
viruses under our lens.

Meanwhile, can anyone come up with a good Ascension-themed poem?