Many years ago I was tutored by Fr. Hugh Maycock, who was probably one of the most interesting and intriguing people I have ever met. One day, he gave me two pieces of Basildon Bond azure paper on which were typed two poems.
One, which I have called Robes won by dying, is about the way autumn leaves change colour and an explanation of why they must. (You can read this as my blog for September 25th)
The second poem I lost long ago but, oddly, it came to light recently amongst some old papers. It deserves to be read by others so I publish it below.
Both poems have an interesting, if brief, story behind them.
Father Hugh told me that they were written by a young man he knew who had been diagnosed with an incurable illness. In his physical and spiritual pain he had two battles to endure and engage with. One, of course, was the battle with the bodily and mental pain of his illness. The other was with the test of his faith and the making sense of what was happening to him. No doubt, like many in that position, there was a sense of ‘Why Me?’ and ‘Why is God allowing me to suffer?’
Father Hugh told me that the poems where born out of that struggle. In the Sea, The Sea, he is wrestling with his faith whilst enduring pain and, more importantly, his coming death. After struggle, the poem ends at a point where faith has been answered by love. Father Hugh told me that the young man died peacefully.
I think he gave me the poems at a point when my own faith was being tested but I also like to think that, in some way, he thought I might preserve them for others. I have often reproduced the other poem. It is now time for me to do my duty towards this one.
The Sea, The Sea
White foam splashes over bow of soul
lying storm-tossed in the waves of life,
unable to find that safe anchor
which breathes of peace and tranquillity.
Cast adrift, facing furious headwinds
of uncertainty, pain and doubt,
the boat of the soul plunges deep,
is cast high on crest of storm,
blind to that land where love
dwells waiting to hold still.
Is all lost? Will hell’s fury
stake her claim on all that is you?
Frozen by white horses ripping
over surface of cold, deep water.
You think so, yet in that moment
when ending seems to come
and mariner abandons all of hope,
there – walking on the water, radiant,
bright, He comes whom wind and wave obey
and fury spent spreads calm.
In that sweet moment of stillness
Following storm, through your eyes
he looks and says, What faith have you
that makes you fear and doubt?
You, suddenly becalmed and safe from storm
sink instead, into those arms
that hold you fast and look through eyes
that see no storm but glorious sunrise
shimmering over gentle waves,
sparkling with a new found love.