Friday, September 27, 2013

Poetry Friday: The Beach and Violence

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.


Liz Steinglass said...

Thank you for responding to an event that seems so overwhelming it is hard to know how to respond. Thank you for knowing a poem and a song to share.

Janet said...

A sad, beautiful, perfect choice for today, Ruth.

Andromeda Jazmon said...

I had never read either of these before. The Tagore poem is particularly beautiful. I am glad to know the Kenyan anthem. Thank you much for posting this. My prayers are with Kenya.

Tabatha said...

Thank you, Ruth.

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

The child who stood up to the "bad man" gave me chills, the national anthem brought tears, and the poem gave me hope. Thank you for all of it, Ruth.

Linda B said...

I'm sorry for your loss, too, Ruth. When our memories are good it is hard to have them change. Thank you for the beautiful poem of innocence, and for sharing Kenya's anthem. I have a former student who, with her 'now' husband has started a school for girls in the slum of Kibera, so when I heard the news I was so sad for them too. I hope you have a nice time at your retreat!

GatheringBooks said...

What a very moving post, Ruth. Lots to think about and reflect upon. Tagore is one of my absolute favorite poets. I attended a full-day session on just his poetry at the National University of Singapore - a gathering of minds to talk about one of the greatest poets of all time.

Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

Thank you Ruth - you managed to speak to the event with insight and honesty, and in such a beautiful way.

BJ Lee said...

A deeply touching post, Ruth! I loved Tagore's poem and thanks for sharing the national anthem.

Amy LV said...

"On the seashore of endless worlds is the great meeting of children."
Oh, may it be so. My thoughts are with you, Ruth. And with Kenya.

Liz Steinglass said...

Might I invite you to participate in the Mortimer Blog Hop?
Here's Irene Latham's example:
I think I will post this Friday.

Author Amok said...

Hi, Ruth. Thank you for the beautiful post. I especially liked your point about the Kenyan national anthem being like a prayer for peace.