Readers are baptized in the Jordan River of his (Robert Frost’s) poetry, where they drink and feel ‘whole again beyond confusion.’ This is, in my view, sacramental poetry of a high order.”
— Poet and author Jay Pirini.
Your thought for the day, in the form of a question, on Day 10 of the 40 days of Lent.
Also here below . . .
an excerpt from a piece about the great American poet Robert Frost from the Catholic magazine “America” (online edition).
Or, click here to read the whole interesting article about Frost, who had a large “shadow side” that haunted and depressed him.
And we all have that dark, Jungian “shadow side” we can’t shake, which Carl Jung described so well in his incisive work in psychology. Great art–which can be defined in one way as truth, powerfully rendered– bubbles up from a lot of gifted but tortured artists.
In fact, a lot of gifted but tortured artists had a hand in writing the Holy Bible, which is pretty dark and heavy stuff all in all. But it is, after all, the ultimate in truth, powerfully rendered.
There’s scores upon scores of “self-improvement books” out there, some good and some so awful as to be awfully profitable.
But for self-improvement, a good question to ask ourselves every day might be, “Why was I born?”
This is a practice that can lead to a whole lot of deeper self awareness; that is, awareness of our faults, flaws, conceits, weaknesses. But it also can awaken us to our very reason for being–our purpose or calling or mission in life–or give us greater clarity of purpose for the benefit of self-improvement.
Mulling on the question “Why was I born?” is a good practice for Lent since Lent is a time very much about stripping ourselves down, “emptying our trash,” ridding ourselves of the “baggage” that drags us down, and getting clarity on things that really matter.
Here’s the excerpt from the fine piece about Frost from writer Jay Pirini who has a biography of Frost coming out–and is a fine writer I discovered in reading the Catholic “America” journal. Pirini nails the art of Frost, whose poetry I’ve read a lot since we studied him in seventh grade, when he writes: “Readers are baptized in the Jordan River of his poetry, where they drink and feel ‘whole again beyond confusion.’”
I love the idea of salvation being our restoration to wholeness and health and balance and harmony, rendered in the healing power of Christ, of course.
“Frost spent a lot of time reading Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great American essayist, who remains for me a core religious writer. Like Swedenborg, whom he read closely throughout his life, Emerson believed in deep correspondence between the natural world and the spiritual world. “Nature is the symbol of spirit,” he wrote in his essay “Nature,” one of the central texts of American religious thinking. Frost never lost interest in Emerson, and he returned to his essays throughout his life, rereading them, allowing Emerson’s philosophy of life to seep into his poetry.
“Speaking to his friend Lawrance Thompson in 1948, Frost commented on his poetry in relation to God: “It might be an expression of the hope I have that my offering of verse on the altar may be acceptable in His sight Whoever He is. Tell them I Am, Jehovah said.” There was, indeed, a sacramental aura in his work from beginning to end, and one cannot read a poem like “Directive,” his last great poem, without noting his allusion to St. Mark near the end. In it, the poet wanders into the woods to seek revelation—a typical scenario in a Frost poem. In this instance, he happens upon the ruins of an old farmhouse, with a stream—”Too lofty and original to rage”—running nearby. There he finds a children’s playhouse, with a little goblet that reminds him of the Holy Grail. Frost describes the goblet as like one “Under a spell so the wrong ones can’t find it,/ So can’t get saved, as Saint Mark says they mustn’t./ Here are your waters and your watering place./ Drink and be whole again beyond confusion.”
“St. Mark was commenting on the fact that Jesus spoke in parables, which had the effect of keeping out those, in some instances, who had yet to believe. Faith, in other words, was essential for understanding. One believes in order to understand, as Augustine (and Anselm) suggested, not the other way around.
“Frost’s own poetry was “too lofty and original to rage.” Readers are baptized in the Jordan River of his poetry, where they drink and feel “whole again beyond confusion.” This is, in my view, sacramental poetry of a high order. It is beautiful and true, but it is also complicated, even thorny. The faith of Robert Frost was nothing straightforward. He was not a simple Christian, but his faith was real, it was profound, and pointed readers in directions where they might find solace as well as understanding, where they would find their beliefs challenged, where they find answers as well as questions.”