Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A poem by Thomas Merton

The trouble I have with Father Richard Rohr is that he loves to preach too much! Perhaps I have a little bit of that in my own personality, because I find it irritating to be preached to.

Rohr ended his book, "Falling Up," with a beautiful poem by Thomas Merton. Merton, like me, is an Enneagram type 4, i.e., a hopeless romantic who is never, never ordinary. We'd rather die than ever be ordinary, we type 4's.

Rohr read the poem and then -- he just couldn't resist -- proceeded to ride rather rough-shod over its delicate pathos with long-winded explanations of what it meant! As a lover of poetry, I have to say that poetry must find its meaning with each reader, individually. It's the closest thing that writing has to compare with music, that it speaks directly to the soul, no translations needed.

However, I must also say a most whole-hearted thanks to Father Rohr for his great wisdom, for introducing me to this poem, and for his insights into many other lovely and profound ideas.

Without further ado:

When in the soul of the serene disciple
Thomas Merton, Thomas Merton poetry, Christian, Christian poetry, Catholic poetry, [TRADITION SUB2] poetry,  poetryby Thomas Merton
(1915 - 1968) Timeline
Original LanguageEnglish

When in the soul of the serene disciple
With no more Fathers to imitate
Poverty is a success,
It is a small thing to say the roof is gone:
He has not even a house.

Stars, as well as friends,
Are angry with the noble ruin.
Saints depart in several directions.

Be still:
There is no longer any need of comment.
It was a lucky wind
That blew away his halo with his cares,
A lucky sea that drowned his reputation.

Here you will find
Neither a proverb nor a memorandum.
There are no ways,
No methods to admire
Where poverty is no achievement.
His God lives in his emptiness like an affliction.

What choice remains?
Well, to be ordinary is not a choice:
It is the usual freedom
Of men without visions.


  1. So, how was this book? I downloaded a sample on my Kindle a while ago and it just didn't suck me in like I'd hoped it would. Did I give up too soon?

    1. I just completed it. It's one of those reads that need the right moments..right 'time" to tread. I felt much of it uplifting in my situation!

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  3. Are you talking about "Falling Up"? I listened to it while driving to work, which makes it a lot harder to give up on a book! Inertia takes over and I can get through most anything. Parts of the book were very enlightening, other parts too repetitive and preachy. Thomas Merton's "Seven-Storey Mountain" was also hard to get through, kind of like climbing the mountain, but was worth it. I'm now reading a Joseph Campbell book. Next I need to look at Martin Buber's "I and Thou." These are authors that other spiritual authorities quote all the time. I'm going to get through these books (I say confidently) because I think they are worth the trouble.

  4. Funny, I was introduced to Merton's poem via email meditations from Rohr sent the past two days. Rohr's explanation sits in the middle of Merton's poem -- in italics! -- to help guide the clueless through Merton's stanzas. It is SO heavy-handed and annoying that I searched the web for Merton's original text. Thank you.


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