I found these beauties on my run this evening.
They reminded me of a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, one I love for its turn of phrase, and one whose deep yearning I understand even as I push back against its hopelessness.
To what purpose, April, do you return again?Beauty is not enough.You can no longer quiet me with the rednessOf little leaves opening stickily.I know what I know.The sun is hot on my neck as I observeThe spikes of the crocus.The smell of the earth is good.It is apparent that there is no death.But what does that signify?Not only under ground are the brains of menEaten by maggots.Life in itselfIs nothing,An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,AprilComes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.Edna St. Vincent Millay
Perhaps the poet herself did not really mean it; perhaps she saw life as “an empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs” only in the shadow of some personal sorrow.
I hope so.
Maybe she couldn’t see it, but her poetry was a kind of ostentatiously excessive strewing of beauty not that much unlike the flowers of April. I like to think that of the gifts God has given me. They are not particularly useful, in the way the crafting of houses is useful, or the growing of food, or the engineering of technology, or the education of children are useful. I craft words. I create images. You cannot eat them. You cannot live in them.
Sometimes it’s easy to think these things are less important. Maybe this beauty is not enough. Maybe it’s a lot of babbling like an idiot.
But in my sanest, clearest moments, I know this is where I differ with St. Vincent Millay. I know for sure that beauty, where we find it, isn’t meaningless.
It’s a promise that one day all things will be renewed.
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
Revelation 21:5, ESV