I was looking for a poem about the beach, because we're going on our staff retreat this weekend at the beach. But at the same time I was feeling despondent about what I've been reading since last Saturday about the carnage in Kenya, the violence interrupting a beautiful Saturday morning, the shoppers gunned down, and who knows why. Kenya is the place where I first knew beaches, when we drove or took the train to Mombasa, spoiling me forever with the wide, white, expanses of sand and the warm Indian Ocean. Kenya is the place where I first knew many things. It was a beautiful, wonderful place to grow up, and I will always love it. And it hurts to watch the suffering there right now.
This poem by Rabindranath Tagore perfectly captures the combination of the beauty and the pain, the children heedlessly playing on the beach, unaware of the potential of even those waves to bring death. I'm thinking of the child in Westgate Mall who said to the killer with a huge gun, "You are a bad man." And in response the murderer gave the child a chocolate bar and let him go.
"Death is abroad and children play." As the Book of Common Prayer says, "In the middle of life, we are in death."
After the Tagore poem, I'm including the Kenyan national anthem, which is the least bellicose national anthem I've ever heard. It's really a prayer. You can read the words below the video.
On the Seashore
By Rabindranath Tagore
On the seashore of endless worlds children meet.
The infinite sky is motionless overhead and the restless water is boisterous. On the seashore of endless worlds the children meet with shouts and dances.
They build their houses with sand, and they play with empty shells. With withered leaves they weave their boats and smilingly float them on the vast deep. Children have their play on the seashore of worlds.
They know not how to swim, they know not how to cast nets. Pearl-fishers dive for pearls, merchants sail in their ships, while children gather pebbles and scatter them again. They seek not for hidden treasures, they know not how to cast nets.
The sea surges up with laughter, and pale gleams the smile of the sea-beach. Death-dealing waves sing meaningless ballads to the children, even like a mother while rocking her baby's cradle. The sea plays with children, and pale gleams the smile of the sea-beach.
On the seashore of endless worlds children meet. Tempest roams in the pathless sky, ships are wrecked in the trackless water, death is abroad and children play. On the seashore of endless worlds is the great meeting of children.
O God of all creation
Bless this our land and nation
Justice be our shield and defender
May we dwell in unity
Peace and liberty
Plenty be found within our borders.
Let one and all arise
With hearts both strong and true
Service be our earnest endeavour
And our homeland of Kenya
Heritage of splendour
Firm may we stand to defend.
Let all with one accord
In common bond united
Build this our nation together
And the glory of Kenya
The fruit of our labour
Fill every heart with thanksgiving.
Amy has today's roundup here, at the Poem Farm.
32 minutes ago