Sunday, September 22, 2013

Prayers from the Ark

    have been listening to the crickets sing their love songs at night, and it reminds me of a treasured poem. The poems I like the best, the ones I understand the most are usually the ones that define my own experience in sharper images and more perceptive words than I could muster myself. I reverence the way the mind of a good poet works. Sometimes I use lines of poetry as prayer. The Prayer of the Cricket is one that often falls from my lips when I have been shabby or small.

                    O God,
                    I am little and very black,
                    but I thank You
                    for having shed
                    Your warm sun
                    and the quivering of Your golden corn
                    on my humble life.
                    Then take—but be forbearing, Lord—
                    this little impulse of my love:
                    this note of music
                    You have set thrilling in my heart.


     For me, the images in this poem are their plain selves, unfussy and straightforward: a humble cricket, a thankful heart, a song of praise; but they are something broader too, encompassing all of me at my worst and best, all of the common and specific graces of Providence and my own modest yet earnest responses to them.

 Many years ago for our nineteenth anniversary, my husband gave me this slim volume of poetry: Prayers From the Ark by Carmen Bernos De Gasztold translated from the French by Rumer Godden. The poems are simple but sage, and I recognize myself in many of them, as in the prayers of the cricket, lark, butterfly, glow worm and ox...while there are others I can only aspire to. Oh, to be a dog or a bee! It is an often read, beloved book and the only thing that could improve it for me would be to possess the ability to read the poems in the original French…je suis tout petit et très noir…


  1. Oh, do you sometimes feel shabby or small? I'll remember this the next time I feel shabby and small of spirit and action. Yours is a humble prayer from a humble creature that I like very much--although he can drive me crazy when I turn off my bed light and he begins to chirp his heart out right under my bed.

    I'm not familiar with this book but if Rumer Godden loved it enough to translate it then I know I would love it too.

    Oh, the grace of His forbearance!

  2. I never knew that Rumer Godden was a translator. I have read so many of her books and the ones about the Japanese dolls were my favourites as a child. Thank you for your comment. So many unfamiliar berries!