POETRY: Two States Of Prayer, by Thomas Merton

Two States Of Prayer, by Thomas Merton

In wild October when the low hills lie
With open eye
And own the land like lions,

Our prayer is like the thousands in the far, forgotten stadiums,
Building its exultation like a tower of fire,
Until the marvelous woods spring to their feet
And raid the skies with their red-headed shout:

This is the way our hearts take flame
And burn us down, on pyres of prayer, with too much glory.

But when the trees have all torn up their programs,
Scattering the pathos of immense migrations to the open-handed winds,
Clouding and saddening the dusky valley,
Sorrow begins to bully the bare bars
Of those forsaken cages
As thought lies slaughtered in the broken doors.

But by the light of our December mornings,
Though words stand frozen in the voice’s well
And all the country pumps are dumb,
Look where the landscape, like a white Cistercian,
Puts on the ample winter like a cowl
And so conceals, beneath the drifts as deep as quietude,
The ragged fences and the ravaged field.

The hills lie still, the woods their Sabbath keep.
The farms, half buried in their winter coats
Are warm as sheep.
When was there ever greater than this penitential peace
Outshining all the songs of June with radiant silences?

November analyzed our bankruptcies, but now
His observations lie knee-deep beneath our Christmas mercies,
While folded in the buried seed
The virtual summer lives and sleeps;
And every acre keeps its treasure like a kingly secret.

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