Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
It’s Times Like This We Need the Poets
…who bid us follow them
beneath the tides,
to sunken treasures
and ancient krakens
(lest we forget)
below the hollow drumbeats
and crashing cymbals
on charred streets
where the lost
raise their fists to God
or their own gods–
in cracked riverbeds
littered with busted altars.
It’s times like this
we need the poems.
For example: in these prophetically significant days as we prepare on many levels for the next events, spiritual preparedness includes an invitation to clear the conscience.
The follow excerpt from the fourteenth-century classic Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, translated by J. R. R. Tolkien, illustrates the joy we experience when we step away from the sometimes treacherous, often tempting, mortal quest, to repent, confess, and make ourselves right with God.
The resultant .joy is our strength–and a light in the darkness.
To the castle’s chapel then he came,
Approached a priest in private, and he prayed him
To hear how he had lived and better lead him
To save his soul when he returned his journey.
With fair intent there he confessed [*] his faults,
His sins both great and small, and sought God’s mercy
And asked for absolution of that man.
And he absolved and cleansed him so securely
The next day should have been the day of doom.
Afterwards he entertained the ladies,
Scintillating so with song and story,
HIgh in sprits, as he’s seldom done there since his stay.
When daytime drew to night
They felt it fair to say
He’d never shone so bright
As he had shone that day.
Here is another poem in lyric form on the reason for that same joy:
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear [revere] him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; (Psalm 103:11-13)
Note: in the fourteenth-century Middle-English religious culture confession was to a Catholic priest. For believers of all centuries, here is the biblical protocol.