How many things do I know by heart? The alphabet. My babies’ names. My address when in sixth grade (319 Birdsong Lane). This poem by Henry Vaughn~
Awake, glad heart! Get up and sing,
It is the Birth Day of thy King!
The Sun doth shake
Light from his locks and all the way
Breathing perfumes, doth spice the day!
Awake! Hark how the woods ring!
Winds whisper and the busy springs
A consort make.
Man is their high priest and should rise
To offer up the sacrifice.
I would I were some bird or star
Fluttering through woods or lifted far
Above this inn
And roar of sin,
Then either star or bird would be
Shining or singing still to thee.
Because these words have taken root in my heart, they will often rise unbidden, tripping over my tongue when my heart lifts, shining or singing.
I have learned lately though that the poem I know lacks two concluding stanzas and that the words of the third stanza are properly “road of sin” not “roar of sin.”
But. How flat that “road.” How much better “roar” — the hubbub and carouse of that saloon out on the border where we lose so much of our time. My heart cannot assent to giving up the “roar of sin” –
Which is why Vaughn goes on without me, for I cannot agree whole-heartedly, knowing what I do of the fecundity in good manure for the most beautiful flowering:
I would I had in my best part
Fit rooms for thee! Or that my heart
Were so clean as
Thy manger was.
But I am all filth, and obscene,
Yet, if thou wilt, thou canst make clean.
Sweet Jesu! will then. Let no more
This leper haunt and soil Thy door!
Cure him, ease him,
O release him!
And let once more, by mystic birth,
The Lord of life be born in earth.
I cannot pretend there is no good in any earthly thing. I cannot wish for sterility in the place of vitality. I cannot turn my back like Vaughan does on that lion-like Sun shaking a mighty mane, breathing fragrant life into the waking world. Instead of striding out to meet that Day, Vaughn strings up the danger line right at the border, denying any entry into that ringing wood.
Danger? My stubborn heart goes on warbling what I will, what I would, how I want to be a bird. Or a star.