Friday, November 2, 2012

Contrasting Supplications


“As long a time as it shall be God's will.
Not even Death, alas! my life will take;
Thus restless I my wretched way must make,
And on the ground, which is my mother's gate,
I knock with my staff early, aye, and late,
And cry: 'O my dear mother, let me in!
Lo, how I'm wasted, flesh and blood and skin!
Alas! When shall my bones come to their rest?” ……….Geoffrey Chaucer “Pardoner’s Tale”

“Then will I headlong run into the earth:
Earth, gape!  O, no, it will not harbour me!
You stars that reign'd at my nativity,
Whose influence hath allotted death and hell,
Now draw up Faustus, like a foggy mist.
Into the entrails of yon labouring cloud[s],
That, when you vomit forth into the air,
My limbs may issue from your smoky mouths,
So that my soul may but ascend to heaven!” ……………..Christopher Marlowe “Doctor Faustus”

Today we celebrate “All Souls Day” in the Christian calendar. I was reading Chaucer a few days back and in his poem “Pardoner’s Tale” the above passage struck me as a contrast to another supplication from another great Drama, namely; “Doctor Faustus”.

Typically these two scenarios are what most of us go through on a very practical level.

When we are faced with the difficulties that life throw at us, whether it be ill-health, financial or emotional upheaval or old age, as in the case of the old man in Chaucer’s poem, we pray and plead for a quick exit. Chaucer wrote in the fourteenth century when England was still not exposed to the philosophical mindset as the rest of Europe. This is the reason that his escape from the present life is rooted to the Earth. Chaucer was the first prolific writer in English literature.
There is a deep message in Chaucer’s poetry. Not even one’s mother, who was interned before nor mother earth can respond to our pleading as there is a destined time and purpose in God’s creation, life giving sustenance and finally the transformation at death. The Divine purpose is the author of our entire existence.

In the second scenario, I have taken from the famous work of Marlowe “Doctor Faustus”. Here we read of another type of supplication. This is the torment that we go through if we spend our lives in the lap of luxury and learning, but never aspire to devote our time and energy to our spiritual grooming. Faustus selling his soul means precisely this approach to our life on earth, namely; a life of physical, material and mental mastery and the power we derive from such activity.
The true purpose of life is spiritual ascendancy and all earthly comforts, beauty and knowledge are to be used as supportive tools for this higher purpose.
The despondency of Faustus illustrates the neglected true craving which is the ascendancy of the soul to heaven.
 This message we can take to heart on this day of remembrance and pray with grateful hearts for a life of hope, love and charity which will nourish our soul in this terrestrial journey.

Love to you all.

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