For ignorance, my G-d, I cannot pray:
I never have observed
that is its bliss;
too many have made me and others pay
the toll of truths they were resolved to miss.
is not happiness, but pain;
it is not victory, but fleeing fear;
surely whoever severs soul from brain
wedge into the highest sphere.
I pray instead for greater light to see
more of your grace, beyond where griefs contend,
bear inaction with serenity
and only act, and only speak, to mend:
O take this little wisp that veils my sight,
in the moment I may see to do aright.
The world reflects itself in every soul,
a far disturbance
agitates the near,
within the body of the cosmic whole
oast, future and remote are now and here.
so those who live
at ease are prey to fear,
the quiet feel the stirrings of a rage
that racks the antipodes; a distant tear
the heart of happiness away.
Yet if there's no retreat from the world's fray,
there's no one without power to repair:
portion of the world's good, every day,
is mine to aid or hinder, slay or spare;
the orb of empire and the healing wand
conscience keeps its seat, are in your hand.
|Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966) "Contemplation"
© by Esther Cameron
If it were possible to summon aid
from others, I would
do it in a flash:
so many appear competent and staid
whereas I am driven, shaken, gauche.
But the result has proved,
time and again,
that these do not own all the strength they show,
but hold it from the corporate sovereign
quickly can recall all that they owe
at the first sign of alien loyalty.
To stand upon a freely-chosen ground
given to few; and how my liberty
is founded, and to what conditions bound
I know. So my apportioned strength is all,
G-d aid, where with to stand or fall.
In my mind's eye I saw a perfect sphere
that seemed all
made of love and pure delight
over which as I watched, a loathsome blight
appeared to spread with color sick and drear.
over the horizon, in sun's stead,
arose the frowning face of domination,
whose shadow touched pity, and it fell dead,
hope and wisdom fled in consternation.
Yet brighter in that shadow showed the gleam
of truth and loyal memory, scarcely
by those who in the first unbroken dream
remained unknowing and forever blest.
A little good may from great
to cherish this, the only balm we know.
So many wires leading to every quarter,
so many calls
tempting me out to try
from my allotted thimble to supply
Infinite wants; and then at every border,
at every gate,
a sentinel or porter
who has not heard that he must let me by,
and at the goal, often as not, the dry
smirk of a
clerk who never placed the order.
So are my strength, substance and soul dispersed
outward flow, which I must wish reversed,
for gifts are multipled through friends alone.
May I at least find wisdom
to stand firm,
accept the limits set me as a form
which yet may speak of all that is undone.
Note: These sonnets were written in the fall of 1995,
a few months after I had taken on myself the discipline of writing a sonnet every day, except on the Sabbath, for a year.
This soon became a way of sorting out thoughts on various matters, and of keeping spiritual accounts. A topic would surface
and work itself out over several days, and then another topic would arise. In the fall a number of sonnets were devoted
to the embattled position of Israel; then my Muse turned to the struggle of the individual toward moral clarity and right
action. With a sense of the relation between these two struggles, I have combined some of the sonnets on each topic into this