Here’s a little outtake from Lanier Ivester’s wonderful post over at The Rabbit Room, Two Trees.
“The affair in the Garden was not about keeping rules or breaking them so much as choosing the Desire of our souls or choosing His counterfeit. At the heart of this poem lies that ancient choice, as terrible today as it was when God first granted it in the Garden: heaven or hell? Life or death? Not only for all eternity but for this very moment snared in time. ‘Gaze on this,’ the poet pleads, ‘not on that.’ Love and long for—in other words, submit to and believe—the ecstasy of the Life offered you. Take faith to turn from the ruin of your own heart and fix your eyes on something that is truer than all the sorrow of the world put together.
“It has been said that for every look at self we must take ten looks at Christ. I find that truth expressed with such magnificent beauty in this poem. For while the accepted interpretation—and for all I know, the original intent—of these lines may uphold an inward search for goodness apart from Christ, as a Christian I take great delight in the freedom I have to celebrate the gleaming flashes of truth that glitter and sparkle with such inexorable joy in the world around me. We’re miners, really, we servants of the true King, plunging through a darkened world in enemy territory to retrieve the scattered bits of Eden that were made to flame in the light of the sun. For though far-flung and often couched amid the hard crust of error and inaccuracy, they are there all the same. As C.S. Lewis recounted in Surprised by Joy, longings that disclose eternal realities may be mediated to us by ‘the water-colour world of Morris, the leafy recesses of Malory, the twilight of Yeats…’ That is just the wonder of poetry—or of anything beautiful, for that matter. They bear the opportunity of communicating spiritual truth, these remnants of a lost paradise with which our tired earth is endowed like veins of living gold, and give us courage to hope in a Redemptive Plan that is steadily, patiently, unrelentingly working to restore all things to their original purpose.”
I recommend the entire piece, which includes the poem, The Two Trees, by Yeats. Lanier and her husband, Philip, live in a farmhouse in Georgia. I was privileged to meet them at Hutchmoot 2010. She is a wonderful, careful and thoughtful writer.