Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

A Summer’s Night

Lonely WalkA Summer’s Night
Matthew Arnold

In the deserted, moon-blanched street,
How lonely rings the echo of my feet!
Those windows, which I gaze at, frown,
Silent and white, unopening down,
Repellent as the world,–but see,
A break between the housetops shows
The moon! and lost behind her, fading dim
Into the dewy dark obscurity
Down at the far horizon’s rim,
Doth a whole tract of heaven disclose!

And to my mind the thought
Is on a sudden brought
Of a past night, and a far different scene:
Headlands stood out into the moonlit deep
As clearly as at noon;
The spring-tide’s brimming flow
Heaved dazzlingly between;
Houses, with long wide sweep,
Girdled the glistening bay;
Behind, through the soft air,
The blue haze-cradled mountains spread away.
That night was far more fair–
But the same restless pacings to and fro,
And the same vainly throbbing heart was there,
And the same bright, calm moon.

And the calm moonlight seems to say:–
Hast thou then still the old unquiet breast,
Which neither deadens into rest,
Nor ever feels the fiery glow
That whirls the spirit from itself away,
But fluctuates to and fro,
Never by passion quite possessed
And never quite benumbed by the world’s sway?–
And I, I know not if to pray
Still to be what I am, or yield, and be
Like all the other men I see.

For most men in a brazen prison live,
Where, in the sun’s hot eye,
With heads bent o’er their toil, they languidly
Their lives to some unmeaning taskwork give,
Dreaming of naught beyond their prison wall.
And as, year after year,
Fresh products of their barren labor fall
From their tired hands, and rest
Never yet comes more near,
Gloom settles slowly down over their breast.
And while they try to stem
The waves of mournful thought by which they are prest,
Death in their prison reaches them,
Unfreed, having seen nothing, still unblest

And the rest, a few,
Escape their prison and depart
On the wide ocean of life anew.
There the freed prisoner, where’er his heart
Listeth will sail;
Nor doth he know how there prevail,
Despotic on that sea.
Trade-winds which cross it from eternity:
Awhile he holds some false way, undebarred
By thwarting signs, and braves
The freshening wind and blackening waves.
And then the tempest strikes him; and between
The lightning bursts is seen
Only a driving wreck,
And the pale master on his spar-strewn deck
With anguished face and flying hair
Grasping the rudder hard,
Still bent to make some port he knows not where,
Still standing for some false, impossible shore.
And sterner comes the roar
Of sea and wind, and through the deepening gloom
Fainter and fainter wreck and helmsman loom,
And he too disappears, and comes no more.

Is there no life, but these alone?

Madman or slave, must man be one?
Plainness and clearness without shadow of stain!
Clearness divine!
Ye heavens, whose pure dark regions have no sign
Of languor, though so calm, and though so great
Are yet untroubled and unpassionate;
Who, though so noble, share in the world’s toil,
And, though so tasked, keep free from dust and soil!
I will not say that your mild deeps retain
A tinge, it may be, of their silent pain
Who have longed deeply once, and longed in vain–
But I will rather say that you remain

A world above man’s head, to let him see
How boundless might his soul’s horizons be,
How vast, yet of what clear transparency!
How it were good to live there, and breathe free;
How fair a lot to fill
Is left to each man still!

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August 11, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Good Days and Loud Thoughts

man-and-the-moonlightDear Darling,

I’m back on the homestead tonight, managing by myself. It’s a full moon, and probably the first one in months whose light I can walk in, quietly and undisturbed. But like a head that keeps spinning after the ride has stopped, a swirling mist of thoughts still impede the calm I’m seeking. It would take a World Detox to restore the full potency of the moon’s calming effect.

It’s not that I lack peace, or am deeply troubled by these thoughts. It’s only that the ringing of ears and whooshing of thoughts doesn’t slow just because my pace has. And anyway, the pace the last few days has still been crazy.

I fear my prayers are falling into something of a cycle any more. I’m rising before the sun five days a week now, and often eating the morning meal while preparing the afternoon meal. Thus, the Word falls by the wayside, and while I’m making up for it by listening to its preaching, I know I need to be more diligent about carving off my own slices when I can. I’m mostly praying for friends, family and my own horizons. (And, of course, you.) But the slain saints in Iraq? The oppressed in Russia? The grieving in Nigeria, the laboring in Haiti, the political struggles and ever-diminishing freedoms of my own people? The patients I see at the hospital? Not often enough.

Here we find two conundrums of the Christian’s walk. The first, forgetfulness of neglect or forgetfulness of repetition. The Lord repeatedly admonished His people on ways to remember, because we humans are prone to forget. He carved these traditions deep into the minds of His people, lest we forget. But then, how many times have we said a token prayer before a meal because it’s ingrained in our mind to pray and we sent not the slightest emotion of true gratitude heavenward?

The second, the balance of living in the world while not being of it. You want to find some degree of comfort and rhythm to this life, but not finding a place in the world so much that it finds a place in you.

That’s where I am right now. I’ve had several good days recently. The weather has changed, and kept on changing, bringing with it the sunshine’s thaw and then winter’s freeze, sometimes under the same sunrise. I just don’t want to drift afoul of God’s will.

So these thoughts continue to swirl along as I walk. The robins in the pine trees protest my presence, and I’m pretty sure that’s a rabbit I hear bounding away in fright. Maybe my thoughts are too loud for them. And unless I’m mistaken, that’s the first spider-web of the season caught on my forehead.

I like a good quiet walk…but I like a mad pace too. Yesterday I wrapped a class, ran some errands and then returned to swim a personal best distance of six and a half furlongs, on top of a mile run. This morning I ran a race with a classmate and his brother-in-law, and we unexpectedly took second ranking in the whole city.

I previewed the miracle of birth this past week, my dear. Three tiny lives newly-begun in the world. I couldn’t stop smiling. It’s such a privilege to be at the forefront of such pivotal moments in life, spending time with the laboring mothers or the nursery with the infants. Once again, it will put me ahead of the curve for when our time comes.

Looks like I’m moving this weekend. Although I do believe the Lord opened up the opportunity at the time, I came home the other night and am fairly certain my roommate had engaged the services of a hired woman to share his bed. He isn’t the sort I estimated conducting such business at all, and my judgment may be far askance. However vague the nature of the transaction, the process was abundantly obvious. I believe I even heard the muffled exclamations. Such things were thoroughly lacking throughout my upbringing. So, yes. Time to move on. It tends to keep one imbalanced when “home” changes so much, you know.

Also, I hope you’re not particularly attached to television. Mind you, the point is inconsequential. I simply find that if I sit down to watch it, the hours while away in idleness and I’m ill-at-ease when I rise and see how much time is wasted with nothing done.

Ah, but these have been some good days of late. I’m laying by some promising plans for the summer, and it’s only another handful of weeks before that begins.

I hope your mind is bathed in serenity and your hair bathed in moonlight tonight. Rest well, love. Pleasant dreams.

-Beren

March 16, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment