That “fine invention,” faith (as Emily Dickinson humorously tagged it in another poem) is discussed in her “Faith – is the Pierless Bridge” in a way that reminds me of a truly modern type of faith.

Faith – is the Pierless Bridge
Supporting what We see
Unto the Scene that We do not –
Too slender for the eye

It bears the Soul as bold
As it were rocked in Steel
With Arms of Steel at either side –
It joins – behind the Veil

To what, could We presume
The Bridge would cease to be
To Our far, vacillating Feet
A first Necessity.

Nowadays, the majority of my friends and family share a new type of faith. No, we haven’t started some oddball church, nor claim rights to a new religion. Our relatively new belief system “is the Pierless Bridge” of search engines like Yahoo, Google and others. Whether this new faith is justified is quite another matter. Before computers were a gleam in the eye of engineer types, Dickinson’s examination of the ignorance that yawns between fact and fiction led to some fascinating ideas about what goes into that chasm.

A real bridge must exist with piers to support it. No mystery. Dickinson’s poem goes outside the realm of religion when identifying faith as that of pier. For, she claims, we do, in fact, see: “Supporting what We see”. So, faith is both the bridge and the pier.  (If we are to take the capitalized “We” as more important, here, than the lowercase “see,” then, as with the internet, or real-life victors and conquerors in the form of heroes and mentors, it is the communal experience that gives weight to that which is visible – anticipating our Twitter and Facebook culture.)

Modern tendencies that do not to rely so much on religious faith to dinghy us “Unto the Scene that We do not -” may indicate a simple shift of our impulses.  Our frustration about knowing of, but not understanding, all manner of topics, not the least of which may be ourselves, has not dulled aspirations that are “Too slender for the eye”. We stream our faith, just as our beliefs have turned up digitally.

Faith is as modern as ever. Morphed, perhaps. “It bears the Soul as bold/As it were rocked in Steel”. When I was young I wondered and worried about the so-called native-in-Africa, or tiny community in some obscure corner of the world who could not have religion as I knew it. A church building being one of those man-made things, “With Arms of Steel at either side -” that temporarily defined faith for me.

If I remove the clause in the last stanza, I get a critique, of sorts, of my evolving faith: “It joins – behind the Veil / To what, … vacillating Feet / A first Necessity.” Our youth depends entirely on – necessitates – the perception that stability, reliability and enduring love is absolute. That is, if the vacillating, ambivalent feet of tiny humans are to develop effectively. Believing as a young person that my mother is flawless, or that my father defines the world, is exactly what I need. What I must see, if you will.

Like bridges from our youth to our adulthood, “…could We presume / The Bridge would cease to be / To Our far” mature life, then the disastrous effect on our tender welfare would exceed the demise of all things digital.

Imagine!

Ponder A Poem A Day – Accept What Comes Your Way

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I am not one of those who enjoys a fundamental psychological equilibrium. Perhaps that is why Emily Dickinson’s “The feet of people walking home – ” is like a sanctuary. The poem uses many contrasts between feeling and fact to coach, or illuminate, the balance I need to be effective. The poem thinks with great emotional sensitivity, but persists with logical processes.

The feet of people walking home –
With gayer sandals go –
The Crocus, till she rises
The Vassal of the snow –

The lips at Hallelujah
Long years of practise bore –
Til bye and bye these Bargemen
Walked singing on the shore.

Pearls are the Diver’s farthings –
Extorted from the sea –
Pinions – the Seraph’s wagon –
Pedestrian once – as we –

Night is the morning’s Canvas
Larceny – Legacy.
Death, but our rapt attention
To Immortality.

My figures fail to tell me
How far the Village lies
Whose Peasants are the angels –
Whose Cantons dot the skies –

My Classics veil their faces –
My faith that dark adores –
Which from it’s solemn abbeys
Such Resurrection pours.

Dickinson gives us an easy example at first in describing the lilt in one’s step when on the way home, as opposed to the implied contrast in having to walk somewhere less congenial. Every verse is a repeat of this kind of contrast.

It’s almost comical to make a metaphor of “… these Bargemen” to trigger positive regard for church choirs whose “.. lips at Hallelujah/Long years of practice bore -”.

Could any words be more concise and precise than “Pearls are the Diver’s farthings – /Extorted from the sea -”.  In that single poetic stroke we are prompted to compare the pearl, forced from its seabed, with the diver’s expedition. Premium booty, to be sure. The point is, regardless of the evident disharmony between the amount of time and energy it takes to retrieve the prize and the prize itself; balance is established by the pearl’s profits.

Each example in its turn, “Night is the morning’s Canvas”, demonstrates that the contrast itself is the great equalizer. Equilibrium is refusing to be deceived by darkness, for though darkness seems to steal the light from us, night is what gives balance to light: “Larceny – Legacy.”

Death is what balances our anticipation of immortality and interrupts our concept of living forever. Death, in this poem, prevents our becoming too hubristic and defiant of consequences: “Death, but our rapt attention/To Immortality.”

While it recognizes the psychological tension most people feel, the poem counsels not to become imbalanced over the mysteries, “My figures fail to tell me/How far the Village lies

Perhaps in the final verse, the poet’s reverence for My Classics… implies their status as utmost champion. And, to see their veiled faces, her premium reward. Meanwhile, the solemn abbeys” of faith help to define that which “Such Resurrection pours.”

Ponder A Poem A Day – Accept What Comes Your Way