Monday, November 05, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle died...

and I only just found out. She passed away in September. Most people know her best for this book,

and perhaps this one.


but she wrote many other things and her thoughts about science, art, and faith have resonated with me in a way few other authors or poets ever have. She said all good art is Christian, though not all Christian art is good. She said this because she believed that the creative spark and impulse was, in the most literal sense, mankind displaying the image of a creative supreme being.

Here is a quote from her, “Bad art is bad religion, no matter how pious the subject.”

Anyway, here is one of her poems that I really like.

Pharaoh's Cross

It would be easier to be an atheist; it is the simple way out.
But each time I turn toward that wide and welcoming door
it slams in my face, and I- like my forbears- Adam, Eve--
am left outside the garden of reason and limited, chill science
and the arguments of intellect.
Who is this wild cherubim who whirls the flaming sword
'twixt the door to the house of atheism and me?

Sometime in the groping dark of my not knowing
I am exhausted with the struggle to believe in you, O God.
Your ways are not our ways. Your ways are extraordinary.
You sent evil angels to the Egyptians and killed;
you killed countless babes in order that Pharaoh,
whose heart was hardened by you (that worries me, Lord)
might be slow to let the Hebrew children go.
You turned back the waters of the Red Sea
and your Chosen People went through on dry land
and the Egyptians were drowned, men with wives and children,
young men with mothers and fathers (your ways are not our ways)
and there was much rejoicing at all this death,
and the angels laughed and sang, and you stopped then, saying,
"How can you sing when my children are drowning?"

When your people reached Mount Sinai you warned Moses
not to let any of them near you lest you break forth
on them with death in your hand.

You are Love, and you command us to love,
and yet you yourself turn men's hearts to evil,
and you wipe out nations with one sweep of the hand-
the Amorites and the Hittities and the Peruzzites-
gone, all gone. It seems that any means will do, and yet-
all these things are but stories told about you by fallen man,
part of the story (for your ways are not our ways)
but not the whole story. You are our author,
and we try to listen and set down what you say,
but we suffer from faulty hearing and loss of language
and we get the words wrong.
Listen: you came as one of us
and lived with us and died for us and descended into hell for us
and burst out into life for us:

Do you now hold Pharaoh in your arms?

8 comments:

G said...

Thank you for the reminder because apparently I read all the wrong books as a child and none of hers. Bah, I don't mean that - no wrong books.

wreckless said...

powerful poem. It made me wrestle with old demons of doubt.
I read that book to my 5th and 6th graders long ago. Good Book. Thanks for the additional info.

lime said...

now there is an honest poem. thank you. i needed that.

VE said...

Wait just a minute...that poem didn't rhyme at all!

Gillian @ Indigo Blue said...

That poem takes the religion out of God.
I loved it.
xo
Gillian

tsduff said...

I loved "A Wrinkle in Time" - they were almost to hard to read for a while but then I grew a little bit older. (Big words you know, like "tesser"). She added a special element to our world.

cathy said...

You can be spiritual,
or religious.
only a saint
or an idiot
can be both...

...stands to reason.

Candace said...

Wow, that is a powerful poem. Her books rock!