O Sing Now, Muse

Thomas Wolfe Kohler, “O Sing Now, Muse,” in Selections from the Religious Education Student Symposium 2003 (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2003), 131–145.

O Sing Now, Muse

Thomas Wolfe Kohler

 

O sing now, muse, and through me make truth shine

With all the ancient gleam of holy light

That is the herald of thy God-sent task

To comfort fallen man and guide his path.

Make sacred now my song as when of old

You did give strength to speech of men that they

Could cast the very demons out to heal;

Or make my voice a roaring trump to sound

Great calls so all the pagan walls collapse,

Because of all of Adam’s seed am I

The least, and worst equipped to sing of how

The grace of God gave shape to starry skies,

And Sun, and Moon, in their concentric spheres,

To light a world to house what He in His

Own image and of lowly dust did forge.

Make quick my tongue to move by verse the world

Lest truth become so lost in myth that we

Forget our place and how we came to it

By nothing less than the pure love of God.

The Earth was without form, as all must be

That know the hand of God to give them shape

And mold them to a grander scheme than they

Alone could dream or hope to be, in all

The lengthy nighttime of their lightless sleep.

Almighty God, whose smallest whim is law,

Sent forth His Spirit out upon the dark

Chaotic Void to gently waken it

From torment’s sleep. Then, in such might and in

All of the majesty that such as it

Could stand, God went to win it for His work.

It oozed into a spongy slime beneath

His shine and trembled there. All fearful and

Voluminous, its many squinting eyes

And gnashing teeth much sooner would have crept

Away than face its Lord. In misery,

But unable to know its wretched state,

The Void cried out confused, “How be it that

You come all armed in might to take from me

My ease with your perfection? I, who yet

Have never known the burden you call wrong

Nor ever felt the freedom you call right,

Have little cause to speak with you and would

Have less.” Then spoke the mighty Lord of All,

“Have peace, and still thy corpulence from its

Unbridled shaking. I come armed alone

With pleasant speech and words to show thee how

Thy place in paradise might be acquired.”

Thus pacified in part, its shaking ceased.

Yet still inside the churning madness of

Its mind it feared, for well it knew the strength

And might the simplest word of God possessed.

“But how can you, who claim to know all things,

Believe that I can be convinced to leave

My endless, free existence in exchange

For anything that you could have to give?”

“I come as ever I have come,” said God,

“To heal what would be healed and nothing more.

I make no secret of my task because

By it shall glories come, such as surpass

Thy will to be without.” God spoke again,

His heart filled with compassion for the Void

And said, “Behold this suffering, which thou

Wouldst have me deem a life, is nothing more

Than the continuance of timeless pain,

And hurtful beyond every waste it is,

For while one half of thee consumes itself

The other in an endless birthing is,

And naught is ever gained by this but pain.”

“But also nothing ever has been lost,”

The many sounding voices hissed and spat.

God then replied, “Thinkst thou that even in

Thy greatest times thy very best attempts

Could ever bring thee more than can mine own?

Be still and know that if thou heed’st my word

I can and will cleanse thee of all thy pains

This foul disease will make thee mad no more

And I will take the disarray that is

Thy weave and then, upon my very word,

I will bestow on thee the purest light.

Behold, the new God-tailored robes I would

Array thee with and learn the scope of this

Presented covenant.” God blessed the Void.

His purity stretched far and wrapped the horde

Resplendently. His power beamed upon

The gloom until no remnant of the dark

Remained. Though still the Void lay order-less;

Such was the nature of that purest light

That, by reflection, even Chaos could

Become a thing of beauty and of worth.

And as is yet the case, though many lives

Of man have passed since this event occurred,

Where God’s great light takes root, it washes way

Rebellion by its gentleness. The pain

Soon ceased, and Chaos then did taste

The sweetness of its Lord. Its heart was freed

From age-old bondage, and it finally saw

The seeds of faith: “If thou canst see in me

A worth that merits such a blessed shine,

Then teach it to me that, through thee, I may

Know it forever more and not despair.

For even now, I know that if I loose

From off me this Thy gift, then I will feel

More keenly all the pains of all these years

When I, unknowingly, have been without

Thy guide to give me course to tread and thy

Dear light to be my ever-present road.”

Thus penitent and pleadingly the Void

Did speak to God, for it had felt the joy

That ever will be the reward of those

Who set aside their foolish pride and, in

Exchange, desire to covenant with Him.

“Accept my service, Sovereign Mine, and in

Return I plead that thou wilt do with me

As best becomes thy will. For now I know

That surely as my darkness has been turned

To light by thee, so too shall all you touch

Be turned unto a greater good if it

Will be but thine to mend and thine to heal.”

“Then come,” said God, “accept this baptism

Of light that now you bear to be a sign

Between us that as thou shalt strive to do

My will so, too, shalt thou receive of me

This healing which is called the mercy of

Forgiveness.”

Behold the mercy and the gentleness

Of Him to whom belong both Earth and Heav’n.

Though powers past the measure of man’s mind

Are His, God ever has decreed that there

Be choice; and though He gives the world his law

He will not force his subjects to be saved.

Instead He brings to pass His will by show

Of purity and matchless love without

An end that has forever been His joy.

Thus, having freed the blackness of its sloth

And disorder, the Mighty King of All

Was pleased, for now he knew it would obey.

And then, O muse, He spoke, His voice the Sound

Of rushing wind, and said, “Let there be Light.”

And thus it was and it was good, for He

From whom all good has sprung had willed it so.

As when, by prophet’s word, the Red Sea swept

In twain and so was split as He desired,

So too did darkness and the light break free

Of one another that they might receive

Their given names; for light, the Day, and for

The darkness, Night. Then the angelic hosts

In union gathered ‘round their King to do

Him honor as befit their place and His.

Then on the morrow God and angels both

With firmament the young and foaming sea

Did gird, to make a gulf between the top

And water, which was down beneath. All through

The day they toiled and when the work was done

God then, with His all-piercing eye, looked out

Upon that work of morning, noon, and eve.

And “Heaven” was the name that God ascribed

To that day’s toil as all passed into night.

The waters then they made submit to land,

As from the briny depths they brought land forth.

The mighty Lord of Hosts inspection made,

And all who worked did pause to give Him praise.

Of Seraphim, a little one was sore

Amazed by all the toil and knew not why

So many worked to raise that mass of rock

And mud from where it hid its formlessness,

So went he to the foot of his great God

To seek for wisdom that, in perfect faith,

He knew to there reside. In reverent

And prayer-like way he told his loving God

His heart and, smiling all his fears away,

God then began to sing, so sweet that each

And every note a miracle of range

And harmony became, as would the song

Most mean if lips of Him most high were heard

To sing it. As He sang, the Earth bore fruit;

And grass and living herbs and seeds sprang up.

Then, laughing with the joy and beauty of

This sight and song, that young seraph flew down

And with the members of his belov’d host

Went through the fields and orchards and made sport

Of singing snatches of God’s song to see

What fruit or vegetable they might perhaps

Coax out of void—of nothingness—to life.

Twas thus that the more homely plants took shape,

for though the Seraphim lack not for good,

Their singing best becomes the choirs of heaven

When greater orders sing the harmony,

And Michael, with his careful glance, can keep

God’s little ones’ attention on the words

And on the rhythm of the song, or else

With ease they may forget and improvise

Their own; and though in all angelic choirs

No discord sounds, the higher harmonies

Are lost when Seraphim are left to sing

Unbound. God, still amused, pronounced the name

Of this new land as “Earth.” And water down

Beneath the firmament He gave the name

Of “Seas.” Then took He time to go and see

The plants, from the most mighty tree down to

The merest of the shrubs. The Seraphim

Each stood beside the foliage that they loved

The best, and God gave praise to each as though

The weeds had been the work of His own hand,

Despite the shape and stature they achieved.

And thus it was that the third day passed by,

With all the populace most pure, as stars

Beholding from on high the walk of God

Upon the earth. Now, if He ever lacked

For inspiration, one could see how that

Assembled throng alone could well have served

As model for the stars and moon and sun

That next he made. But since the end is known

To Him at the beginning, He is not,

As mortals are, in doubt and blind as to

The step to follow step. So with such sight

As God’s, inspired thought, it seems, must be

An ever-present flow without an end

And with no need for outside sparks or seeds.

Mankind can taste divinity at times

In those rare glimpses that are brief as they

Are beautiful; and men, in ignorance,

Have ever claimed that genius for their own

Which chases doubt or darkness from their minds.

Men ever have forgotten that it is

The Lord who brings to Void, or beast, or them

Whatever light they find within themselves.

But God alone deals knowledge to the Earth

And from within His vast omniscient mind

Stems forth everything that has ever been

And ever will be worth the matter or

The thought it was or will be fashioned with.

It is the doom of men that they forget

The Lord and think themselves to be more than

The dust from which God made their mortal flesh.

It is the gift of God that men be brought

To know Him once Again. But who could hope

To justify the ways of God to men?

So of God’s own devising were the stars

To mark the many passages of time,

And shine for signs and seasons, days and years,

And keep a perfect count as though instead

Of stars they were celestial sands inside

An hourglass that turns around the Earth.

The Sun, the greater light, to rule the day,

And Moon, the lesser light, to rule the night,

He did direct to form; and then some twelve

Archangels brought both orbs into their skies.

The Sun and Moon then both shone down on Earth

For though both had dominion in their spheres,

They were both glad to be ruled by their God

And shine upon Him as with all His hosts

He stood upon the beach and taught those hosts

To form the beasts and give to each one life.

They watched in awe and eagerness as He

The shining scales of a small fish did form.

And gently, as He knit them into shape,

He made the eyes and gills and last the tail.

It rested in His hand and felt the bliss

That only can be felt by those who know

Themselves to blamelessly be in God’s palm.

And then, with that tiny creation done,

He lowered it into the surf. And soon

Beneath his watchful eye each angel, too,

Was crafting fish to fill the sea. And each

Aquatic masterpiece portrayed the joy

Of those who, by God’s power, gave them life.

The angels all began by doing what

Their God had done. In all exactness they

Formed fish in image and in likeness of

The one He first had made. But soon, at His

Insistence, They began to make all sorts

Of colors, forms, and sizes that they could

Conceive of and put, resting, in the sea.

And God encouraged then, as He does now,

That all use inspiration, which He gives

To work the miracles that He would work.

And as the angels worked the will of God

None thought to take the credit for their own,

But even as their hands did toil they cheered

And gave all praise and all the glory to

Their God alone, whose instruments they were;

For well they knew their place in His great plan

And had no thought save their desire to serve

Him and be swallowed up inside his love.

And thus it was with all who that day stood

Upon the very shores of Earth and forged

The fish until their pure white robes and hands

Took on that smell that so distinctive is

Among the swimming beasts and fishes who

Without parents were born into the sea.

The morning passed, and every hand took part

As best it could until the seas did teem

With every class of fish and beast that God

In all His wisdom did desire to form.

God was contented by the joy both of

The creations and the creators for

The gift of life in truth ennobled all,

Both those who gave and also who received.

And that dear gift that has been breathed so sweet

Upon us all who walk this earth or swim

Within its seas, is marvelous alone.

But so great is the love of God our Lord

That He gives out this marvel free to all;

And then, He gives to all their lives again,

As they are sure to misuse and misplace

Them while they walk this world and lean upon

Their will in place of His more knowing guide.

Now, Muse, convey through me a part of the

Great joy felt so complete by all of those

Who were the first to stir the seas with fins

And tails, and who, upon that day of their

Most bloodless birth, united in a song

Of praise to God, a song such as cannot

Be taught or learned but yet is known to all,

Unrecognized. God descended to them,

And when the song came to a close He said,

“This day into the waters of my world

You are all born, and each of you now has

A precious gift. And with that gift, a task.

And with that task, the joy of salvation.”

So God began to tell the sea beasts all

Their many varied natures, and then He

Asked each if they, in gratitude for life,

Would fill the roles that He, to each, prescribed.

And all the beasts made oath to do their best.

Then God declared, “How pleased am I in this

Day’s work and how content. I have beheld

You all, and you are Good and full of all

The promise I require that you display.

Come learn of me how best you can fulfill

Your many tasks, for never shall I give

To you a labor to perform, save I

Shall first prepare a way for your success.

‘Mid seas and currents I will be thy guide,

And of the arts of movement through the waves,

I your instructor shall become, that you

May know that I am God in sea as well

As in my heavens high above this deep.”

And then, the Lord of Hosts walked out upon

The surging frothy waves, and they were stilled

To welcome His most gentle footstep’s tread.

And leaping from the water’s top, the Lord,

Swanlike, dove down into the sea, and all

The creatures of the deep observed His ways

Within the waters, and from Him they learned

To swim and ride the seas with utmost grace.

And all the angels joined the fish and swam

Together with those beasts which they, at God’s

Command, had woven from the willing void

And given blessed breath of life and light.

Then, warmed by the first fruits of sun and moon,

God called His angels and they gathered round:

“This day has work in it as yet, my flock.

So as the sun dries brine from each of us,

And turns salt waters into rains to come,

Let now our eyes and hands be turned to sky.”

The angels looked upon the vastness of

The bright horizon as they heard His word.

And of the clay and light and wind and song

God folded into life a bird and eased

It into empty sky, where it and all

Of airborne kind would ever haven find

And salvation from dangers and from woes

Of Earth, which woes would spring of Earth’s foreseen

And ever-destined fall from God’s good grace.

How similar to man were made the fowl,

For birds escape the blinding dust of Earth

With labor into flight. Yet once Earth’s pull

Is overcome, then masters of the sky

Are they who have strength enough to reach it.

Beyond mortal capacity to count

Were the birds made that day that sifted through

The winds. A symphony of calls frescoed

The still-wet plaster of creation as

Their wings did lift them into circles and

To forms as intricately beautiful

As are the stars. They, too, of God, received

Commissions and, in thanks to Him, gave oaths

To fill the skies with flight and song and spend

Their days in all the works that yet they do,

Still keeping faith with Him who gave them life.

The next day brought the conjure of the beasts.

The dawning of that morn found all God’s hosts

Contesting, not as mortals do, with one

Raging against the other, but instead

They locked in competition with themselves

To each do better than each yet had done.

Each angel’s prize became the doing of

A greater work and masterpiece than he

Or she had yet preformed for God and by

Internal effort overcome what once

Had been their best. The creeping things were first

To heed the angel’s call and to begin

Their land-bound lives.

The creeping things then saw

As hoofed and hornéd beast were made and as

The angels taught them how to walk and move.

For angels ever shepherds were. And so

The angels expertly guided the beasts

Into their many herds, where always they’ve

Found safety from the godless dangers of

The world, after the fall of man brought down

God’s curse for men’s own sakes, making this life

The crucible of souls to sear away

The dross and try the metal of mankind.

That done, the angels, moved by God, began

To craft the beasts that yet remained unformed,

And God beheld these wonders of the world

And said, “Your diverse majesty is great,

And I have laws for you and for your kinds.”

The beasts all heard God’s laws and knelt down low

Before Him. And when they had each received

Instruction from the God of days and dreams,

They ran in haste to go and do His work.

Then God went down and walked upon the Earth,

And God created man out of the dust;

And since that act it often seems that God

Belittled dust by making men of it;

Because, unlike the dust, men heed not God.

But truly it is man who by that sin

Belittles dust. For God exalted dust

When in His image and in likeness of

Himself He made the man, and him endowed

With every attribute of Godliness

By resting in the dusty frame of Man

An angel’s soul, that men might be above

The beasts and learn to live up to God’s gifts.

Except that God withheld the knowledge of

Both good and evil; for divine nature

Could not remain in perfect form if it

Were by God’s hand that evil found its lair—

Foreseen but not condoned—inside Men’s hearts.

Yet, good must be discerned from evil else

All things of worth would ever be unknown.

If ever should God’s children hope to reach

Their long-proclaimed inheritance then they

Must learn to choose the good and right. So God

Allowed Adam to fall, as all men know

By having lived within this fallen world

So long, just as He lets all men today

Walk blind except for faith to find their way

(Which God-ward fumblings of the human heart

Can be more sure and more direct than all

Of sight and touch and smell combined can be)

And God explained to them the world and showed

To them the beauty of the beasts and skies

And seas. He gave to them commandments and

They walked with Him as the cool evening breeze

A vigil kept as did all of the world

That it forever could recall this act,

This crowning act and true beginning of

What true creation might achieve. “Behold,”

Said God, “I give to you this Earth I love,

And it is yours to do with as you wish.

It is to me a glory and a joy

And so I would that it should now be yours.”

“How merit we so great a gift as life

And all the world?” asked Adam to his God.

“My little ones, fear not, for you may yet

Deserve much more. These gifts I bless you with

Since they are mine to give. For now, let it

Suffice that I give this to you because

Far greater than the angels you may soon

Become. For, gaining choice and knowledge, you

May learn of me to choose the better part.”

There was so much that man and woman both

Still did not know, just as yet is the case

With men and women now who look upon

The world, not with the infant eyes of their

First parents, but instead see darkly through

A glass, and not in full. And so God gave

To them their agency and His commands

And left them in His garden to themselves

To tend and care for it and learn to fall.

And when the Fall did come, brought by the one

Who’d learned to fall the farthest, then this world

A time became to prove that men would do

God’s will while far away from Him. A time

To learn repentance and to show that though

They far from Eden are, they see and know

And recognize their faults and trust that He

Can heal and make them whole again through Christ.

As God returned again unto His throne

The newly ordered Void cried out in praise.

And said, “No glory ever can compare

To this, for beyond any dream it is.

Hosanna! Thanks and praise be thine, O Lord,

Forevermore.” God smiled but knew that this

Was but the start of greater things. And as

The angels and creation all rejoiced

God rested knowing all the while that He

Had laid the foundation for man’s long fall,

And that the Fall of man must be before

Adam and Eve could learn to choose between

The bitterness of sin and sweetnesses

Of God. And from that Fall till now and well

Beyond, the course of man is set; for though

There seem to be as many roads as men

Can make, when life is seen in full there is

Only a single choice, a single way,

A single path: To live again with God

Or die, lost from His light forevermore.