“What are you doing, you old man
With eyes of deepest blue,
The sea is rough, the wind is high,
What do you strain to view?”
The old man turned his eyes to me
With a deep, penetrating stare
And even before he began to speak
I felt my soul stripped bare.
He began a story that was so strange
And yet it seemed so true
And the words he told me on that day
I now recount to you.
“When I was young I heedless plunged
Into a rip both swift and strong.
It was youth’s folly that sucked me out
Into chaos deep and long.
In that glossy, trackless deep
All seemed so bright and new
But as I gazed in wonder around
The land slid from my view.
Then black despair formed in my heart
As thick darkness gathered round
And the lapping, growling, roaring wave
Drowned out every other sound.
I struggled hard against the flow
In that surge of deepest black
Until at last I understood
There was no turning back.
As I swept along in the swirl
My eyes accustomed to the night;
I saw others drifting as if in joy,
Oblivious to their plight.
But beneath the windswept roar
I could hear a distant sound
As the tumult inexorably sank
In whirlpool underground.
Soon a huge and towering wave
Loomed out of darkest night
And as I surged up to its crest
I saw a distant light.
Into the dark and pitiless night
Poured forth my urgent cry
And as I prayed to reach that light
A plank came floating by.
It lifted me above the surge;
I held with all my strength
And as it rose and then it fell
I climbed upon its length.
And presently it calmly drifted
Into a smoother, gentler sea
Where from the savage undertow
I was at last set free.
Soon there was a scraping sound
As it came upon the land
And with grateful but exhausted heart
I fell down on the sand.
But presently I raised my head
And there beyond the beach
The light shone clear upon
A narrow path within easy reach.
On it I walked and with every step,
The blaze much brighter grew
It beckoned through lustrous light
To promises deep and true.
It called me to its light
With promises deep and true
Whispering that even if whirlpool prevailed
All could arise anew.
From a high and hilly place
I could see the rip run clear
See swimmers caught in its flow,
See the whirlpool drawing near.
I saw fellow travellers at the place
Where the land meets waterside
Throwing long ropes out into the deep
Or launching planks into the tide.
And as the safety floated by
Too few were those who grasped;
Most spurned both rope and plank
And wilfully swept past.
Sad, too sad to see them sink
In the wild and whirling foam;
Sad, too sad to hear their cries,
To hear those last deep groans.”
“Strange friend,” I cried, “If this is true
Why are you standing here?
Why are you on this windswept beach
With the storm clouds racing near?”
“I cast planks and ropes into the tide
When I hear a swimmer cry
To see if any will reach out
Before they all sweep by.
For all must into the tumult sink,
Even travellers on this road
And into its murky silent depth
Cast off their mortal load.
So with every passing day
The whirlpool is drawing near
But you can face its murky depths
Without the slightest fear.
Just carry in your heart the hope
Of those promises deep and true
Then even though whirlpool prevails
You too can arise anew.
The newness that is promised
Is totally unlike the old
But enlightened, free, undying,
Pure like burnished gold. “
With that he turned and walked away
And beckoned me to follow
But I hesitated and pondered
If his story was true or hollow.
But I do hear approaching near
That howl of swirling night
And hope to rise up on a swell
And see a distant light
Hope that all can certain be,
Hope that it will draw me near,
Hope that from that swirling pool
It will hold my head well clear,
Hope that by that light of life
I can great treasure hold,
Hope that my life can be changed
To glow like burnished gold.
Hope that all this dark, dark world
Can be consumed with light,
Hope that all those I love
Can be rescued from the night,
Hope that all that in this world is dark
Can into the whirlpool pass,
Hope that only things good and bright
Are the things that forever last.
So out I reach to grab a plank
With hope now stirring bright
And as I rise up on the swell
I glimpse that distant light.