26 May, 2008

For all the Worker Bees

This poem is not Christian. In fact, it allegorizes a Christian event to make a point that almost seems anti-Christian. In my opinion, it's just a beautiful, beautiful point and it applies equally to Christian and secular and family spheres.

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The Sons of Martha

Rudyard Kipling 1907

The sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited
  that good part;
But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the
 careful soul and the troubled heart.
And because she lost her temper once, and because she
 was rude to the Lord her Guest,
Her Sons must wait upon Mary's Sons, world without
 end, reprieve, or rest.
It is their care in all the ages to take the buffet and
 cushion the shock.
It is their care that the gear engages; it is their care that
 the switches lock.
It is their care that the wheels run truly; it is their care
 to embark and entrain,
Tally, transport, and deliver duly the Sons of Mary by
 land and main.

They say to mountains, "Be ye removed." They say to
 the lesser floods, "Be dry."
Under their rods are the rocks reproved-they are not
 afraid of that which is high.
Then do the hill-tops shake to the summit-then is the
 bed of the deep laid bare,
That the Sons of Mary may overcome it, pleasantly
 sleeping and unaware.
They finger death at their gloves' end where they piece
 and repiece the living wires.
He rears against the gates they tend: they feed him hungry
 behind their fires.
Early at dawn, ere men see clear, they stumble into
 his terrible stall,
And hale him forth a haltered steer, and goad and turn
 him till evenfall.
To these from birth is Belief forbidden; from these till
 death is Relief afar.
They are concerned with matters hidden - under the
 earthline their altars are-
The secret fountains to follow up, waters withdrawn to
 restore to the mouth,
And gather the floods as in a cup, and pour them again
 at a city's drouth.

They do not preach that their God will rouse them a
 little before the nuts work loose.
They do not teach that His Pity allows them to drop
 their job when they dam'-well choose.
As in the thronged and the lighted ways, so in the dark
 and the desert they stand,
Wary and watchful all their days that their brethren's
 day may be long in the land.

Raise ye the stone or cleave the wood to make a path
 more fair or flat -
Lo, it is black already with blood some Son of Martha
 spilled for that!
Not as a ladder from earth to Heaven, not as a witness
 to any creed,
But simple service simply given to his own kind in their
 common need.

And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessed - they
 know the Angels are on their side.
They know in them is the Grace confessed, and for
 them are the Mercies multiplied.
They sit at the Feet - they hear the Word - they see
 how truly the Promise runs.
They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and - the
 Lord He lays it on Martha's Sons!

3 comments:

Bill said...

Up late and only time to skim the top and bottom, but how true. Ha! Amen!

It reminds me, too: Jesus didn't fuss at Martha for what she had chosen, and he only said anything at all after Martha did the fussing.

I feel like a Martha these days. But if Martha had been a Mary, who would have made dinner?

Still, I wish I was "Mary" just a bit more often... Hmm. Maybe it's time to 'do' something about that, too.

Missy said...

Dear Lord! I did not need to read this today...

or did I?

I'm a listening-at-the-feet-let- someone-else-do-the-work kind of person. Now you've gone and taken my perfectly sound biblical excuse away. Durn Kipling. It's an excellent poem and a timely lesson.

Lynne said...

I'm with Missy, much more at home with the listening and the thinking than the doing. But I've lived all my life amongst practical folk, and always felt inadequate (and guilty) alongside them. maybe one day I'll find out what the balance is supposed to look like .. (but hey, I do cook dinner!)