WORD Becoming, Spiritual Reflections by Fr Roderick Salazar Jr, SVD (Philippines)
He was asked by President John F. Kennedy
to deliver a poem at his inauguration in 1960.
So he prepared a poem titled DEDICATION.
But when it was time for him to read his poem
the sun was so bright that he could not read his script.
Without creating any fuss, without any hesitation
Robert Frost then recited a poem from memory.
Composed in 1936, and published in 1942, he delivered
THE GIFT OUTRIGHT.
It is a poem about the history of the USA.
First settled by people from England
it took time before the settlers declared independence
after a revolutionary war, and with the whole land
so vast, it took time, a long time for the settlers
to feel they were one people.
Simple but powerful lines in the poem:
“The land was ours before we were the land’s.
she was our land more than a hundred years
before we were her people.
She was ours in Massachusetts, in Virginia,
but we were England’s , still colonials,
possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
until we found it was ourselves
we were withholding from our land of living
and forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were, we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
to the land vaguely realizing westward
but still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.”
When I first read the poem, the lines that grabbed
my attention were
“Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found it was OURSELVES we were WITHHOLDING
from our land of living and forthwith found
SALVATION IN SURRENDER.”
This phrase contrasts strongly
with Tennyson’s ULYSSIS aging now
but still adventurous who declared proudly,
“Tho’ much is taken, much abides
And tho’ we are not now that strength
which in old days moved earth and heaven,
that which we are, we are:
one equal temper of heroic hearts,
made weak by time and fate, but STRONG IN WILL
to strive, to seek, to find, AND NOT TO YIELD.”
NOT TO YIELD versus SALVATION IN SURRENDER.
Different circumstances of course.
But what is my will: To Yield or not to yield
(sorry to Hamlet’s To be or Not to be.)
I should not yield to the bad and the ugly
I should surrender to the good.
I should not give up my will to strive, to seek, to find
The true, the good, and the beautiful
And yet I must also remember one greater than
Frost or Tennyson, Hamlet or Ulyssis,
One who said, “whoever wants to save his life
will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake
will find it. (Matthew 16, 25)
When to yield, when not to yield.
Frost’s insight penetrates:
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found it was OURSELVES we were withholding
From our land of living
And found SALVATION IN SURRENDER.
The first settlers possessed the land
But were not possessed by the land
They forgot differences and united.
When one state and then another,
while keeping their individual identity
SURRENDERED to the bigger principle
of oneness, then was born, and only then
the United States of America.
SALVATION as a nation was found
when SURRENDER by individuals states was effected.
As with nations, so with you and me.
Something we are withholding makes us weak
until we realize that if it is ourselves we are withholding
we shall find SALVATION only when we SURRENDER
to Someone bigger than ourselves individually
or ourselves as the whole of humanity: OUR GOD.
In the meantime, I was happy to have found
the author of a short poem I have loved so much
since I first read it, as it speaks of the same surrender
in the form of the Soliloquy of a Seed.
It was, after all, Edward Gloeggler who wrote it.
In 1976, Volume 35, Number 2 of Review for Religious
he wrote the first short poem about a seed
being asked to yield to its death in the earth
so it would grow into a tree.
The language is not as smooth as the poem that followed.
The first was called YIELDING SEED
A lot is asked of a lowly seed
aspiring to be a tree:
would you give up all that you are
for what you may some day be,
and fear no more the dark of earth
– to be buried with the dead –
and with your aim up in the sky
dig down in the earth itself?”
A year later, in Volume 36, Number 2 of the same periodical,
Edward Gloeggler returns to the same image of a seed.
This time, the style is smoother, tighter, and has a crisper taste:
SOLILOQUY OF A SEED
Something tells me to surrender
all that I am and hope to be
and to descend the dark of earth
to be transformed into a tree;
but to go up, dare I go down
and think a tree can fit
Dare I give up, surrender, yield my present me
to become a better me? The me You want me to be?
O Lord, my Gift Outright of myself to You
is but a response to the Outright Gift
that You are and that I am because of You.
By Your Grace, too,
is my SALVATION,
in my SURRENDER — to You.