I am a student of history, particularly Ancient History. A lot of people don’t understand that, or think it boring. Yet many of the same people, when I read them a poem or monologue which delves into the historical character will say, “Wow, that comes alive. I never realised that.”
History speaks to us when we allow ourselves to consider that the people who made history, were just like us, many with the same fears, self-doubt, arrogance, bravado, whatever….
It’s the same as the rest of our lives: when we look at the facts, we make judgements through our own filters. When we consider the motives of an individual, or more to the point, the factors that might influence someone to do what they do, then not only do we become more tolerant and caring, but their journey has the opportunity of meaning something to us.
Here is a poem about Abraham, the “father of the Jews”, who was also, of course, the “father of the Arabs”. Be that as it may, he was a man whose journey is chronicled because he happened to believe a promise from God, that God would bless him and make him a blessing, that his descendants would outnumber the grains of sand, the stars in the sky.
The poem is set at the end of his life and there are references to events that, if you wish to explore, you can find in the book of Genesis, Chapters 12 – 25. It is full of the mysterious, bizarre and difficult to believe – like many of our lives.
Abraham at Sunset
On this mount
I sacrificed my will
Yet fought to subdue it
Al my life since.
Through these branches.
Rays pierce my eye’s colour,
Depth and purpose, pure and unfettered
Where once struggled God’s provision.
And this broken altar’s long shadow
Separates me from the fractures
Of my past:
Vague pillars and rash, rogue words
In the deepening twilight behind.
Though ancient by any reckoning but his,
I feel my youth here,
This air, driven by his breath: my lungs
Fill with promise afresh,
And that which I believe –
My credit, my glory –
Is dwarfed by he who is faithful.
The golden light scans
And finds me flawed but looking
Full-face into its beauty,
For I do not know see life as
A struggle for superlatives by which
I may be known,
But it is to serve well,
Walk in peace,
Strive for fidelity of heart,
Doubt with integrity,
Think no other beneath you,
Cling to the one
Who calls you to greatness,
Yet never think yourself great.
But a maxim without a heartbeat
Is a sword without a champion.
So I would that those who follow
Not just be my flesh, my blood,
For generations hence, in name,
In tribe and in nation;
But spirit, wisdom, grace
And power incarnate that would grow
Beyond what I have learned and lived,
And so, make the promise a blessing unending.
Stars renew his vow
As this day’s last light drains
And i, with upturned face
Will close my eyes without fear.